Nature is full of health-boosting substance that help your dog to feel his best. Astaxanthin for dogs is a powerful antioxidant that can help with many issues … from joint pain to cancer.
What Is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is a carotenoid (or an organic pigment). It occurs in microalgae called Haematococcus pluvialis and turns it a reddish color. It’s why salmon, lobster, shrimp and other seafood are pink in color. When they eat the algae, the astaxanthin changes their color.
More importantly, it’s also an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
Why Antioxidants Are Important
Antioxidants like astaxanthin help prevent oxidative stress. Oxidative stress happens when there are too many free radicals in your dog’s body. Free radicals develop when toxins get into your dog’s system, like …
- Antibiotics and vaccines
- X rays
- Air pollution
- Second-hand smoke
Free radicals are damaged cells that are missing a critical molecule. They steal that molecule from other cells … and that damages the DNA in those cells. This oxidative stress can cause many problems for your dog … from premature aging to chronic illness and disease.
How Astaxanthin Helps Your Dog
Experts believe astaxanthin is one of the strongest antioxidants found in nature. Its ability to fight free radicals is up to 6,000 times greater than vitamin C. Here are some of the ways astaxanthin can help your dog …
1. Joint Health
25% of dogs suffer from arthritis and 22% of those dogs are under one year of age … it’s no wonder so many dog owners want to find ways to help their dog’s joints.
While you could try vet prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) … they can actually make the problem worse.
A paper by Ross Hauser MD, published in the Journal of Prolotherapy (1), explains that one of the most serious side effects of NSAIDS is that …
“ they cause the breakdown of articular cartilage, thereby accelerating osteoarthritis, the very disease for which they are most commonly prescribed! The pathogenesis of osteoarthritis is accelerated by NSAIDs.”
Astaxanthin is a natural substance that can ease joint pain and inflammation. It blocks some of the chemicals that cause your dog to feel pain. These anti-inflammatory properties can also work long term to prevent chronic diseases.
2. Immune System
Your dog’s immune system is important to his long-term health. A healthy immune system helps protect your dog against disease and illness. But immune cells are more easily affected by oxidation. That’s why the antioxidative properties of astaxanthin help improve the immune response.
Astaxanthin not only boosts the production of antibodies … it’s more powerful than beta-carotene (2) in supporting the immune system. A 2014 study in Beagles (2) found that “… dietary astaxanthin heightened cell-mediated and humoral immune response and reduced DNA damage and inflammation in dogs.”
3. Eye Health
There’s a blood-retina barrier in the eye. It regulates the nutrients and other substances that can pass through to the retina. This prevents the free entry and exit of cells to protect the eye from inflammation that could damage the organ.
While few substances are able to pass through this barrier, astaxanthin can. It crosses the barrier to reduce damage to the cells of the eye (3).
It can also treat dry eye (4). Dry eye or Keratoconjunctivitis sicca is when the cornea and tissues swell from dryness. It’s often a side effect of conditions like hypothyroidism, autoimmune diseases, distemper or reactions to drugs.
4. Brain Health
Astaxanthin’s ability to prevent oxidative stress helps maintain healthy brain function. But research shows that astaxanthin does even more. Astaxanthin can also cross the blood-brain barrier to support your dog’s brain function (5)
That means antioxidative properties can interact with the brain’s nerve cells. And it can protect the brain against problems like dementia or other cognitive disorders.
5. Heart Health
When your dog’s body becomes inflamed he has a greater risk of heart disease.
Research shows astaxanthin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects can help prevent heart disease (6). Holistic veterinarian Dr Deva Khalsa VMD recommends astaxanthin over CoQ10 to support heart health.
Free radicals damage cells. When this happens, it can lead to cancer. Research shows that axtaxanthin has anti-cancer benefits via various mechanisms, and can help prevent and slow growth of tumors (7).
Research has also linked chronic inflammation to cancer (8). So the anti-inflammatory properties of astaxanthin provide another defense against cancer.
How To Add Astaxanthin To Your Dog’s Diet
You can add astaxanthin-rich food to your dog’s diet with a food like wild Pacific sockeye salmon. It contains a high level of astaxanthin at 4 to 40 mg/kg.
But there are some cautions. First, you want to be sure the salmon is wild. Farmed fish are usually fed synthetic astaxanthin. More importantly, there’s a risk of contamination from toxins in the ocean like …
- Heavy metals
- Dioxins and furans
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
- Radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident
This means an astaxanthin supplement can be a safer (and easier) way to give your dog the benefit of this carotenoid.
You can buy supplements with axtaxanthin for dogs, or use a human supplements. If you use a supplement made for pets, follow the label directions. If you use a human supplement, give 1 to 1.6 mg per 20 lbs daily.
When you source a supplement, make sure you buy one that’s naturally sourced. Like synthetic vitamins and minerals, synthetic astaxanthin isn’t as effective.
The Problem With Synthetic Astaxanthin
Synthetic astaxanthin has stereoisomers. They have the same molecular formula as natural astaxanthin … but they have a different atom arrangement. This may not sound like a huge issue but stereoisomers affect digestibility and absorbability. Research at Washington State University found that natural astaxanthin in the form of Haematococcus pluvialis had good uptake in dogs (9).
To be sure your dog gets the most from his astaxanthin … feed him seafood and supplements that use natural sources of astaxanthin. Then he can take advantage of the powerful benefits of this incredible antioxidant.
- Ross Hauser MD. The Acceleration of Articular Cartilage Degeneration in Osteoarthritis by Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs. The Journal Of Prolotherapy. February 2012.
- Chew BP, Mathison BD et al. Dietary astaxanthin enhances immune response in dogs. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2011 Apr 15;140(3-4):199-206.
- Nakajima Y, Inokuchi Y et al. Astaxanthin, a dietary carotenoid, protects retinal cells against oxidative stress in-vitro and in mice in-vivo. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2008 Oct;60(10):1365-74.
- Li H, Li J et al. The effect of astaxanthin on inflammation in hyperosmolarity of experimental dry eye model in vitro and in vivo. Exp Eye Res. 2020 Aug;197:108113.
- Galasso C, Orefice I, Pellone P, et al. On the Neuroprotective Role of Astaxanthin: New Perspectives? Mar Drugs. 2018;16(8):247. Published 2018 Jul 24.
- Fassett RG, Coombes JS. Astaxanthin, oxidative stress, inflammation and cardiovascular disease. Future Cardiol. 2009 Jul;5(4):333-42.
- Zhang L, Wang H. Multiple Mechanisms of Anti-Cancer Effects Exerted by Astaxanthin. Mar Drugs. 2015 Jul 14;13(7):4310-30.
- Singh N, Baby D et al. Inflammation and cancer. Ann Afr Med. 2019;18(3):121-126. doi:10.4103/aam.aam_56_18
- Park JS, Kim HW, Mathison BD, et al. Astaxanthin uptake in domestic dogs and cats. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010;7:52. Published 2010 Jun 21.