If there was a competition for names of new products that are crazy hard to pronounce … I’d vote to add Astaxanthin.
And by the end of this blog article, you’ll be asked to spell it and say it out loud ten times fast … and by then, I hope you will also know why this supplement needs to be part of your dog’s rotation.
Astaxanthin: A Powerful Antioxidant
When some algae are stressed, they release a powerful antioxidant called astaxanthin.
Astaxanthin belongs to a group of compounds called carotenoids.
Carotenoids are pigment colors that occur in nature. Another carotenoid example would be beta carotene. It’s the orange pigment that makes foods like orange peppers, well, orange.
Astaxanthin is a red pigment and it actually turns animals that eat it pink also. Salmon, shrimp, and flamingos wouldn’t be pink without astaxanthin in their diet.
In fact, it’s added to many goldfish foods to keep them a nice deep orange color. And flamingos are actually born with grey feathers. They don’t turn pink until they start eating their natural diet of algae and crustaceans.
But don’t worry … your dog won’t turn pink if he eats it. And there are plenty of good reasons to give your dog astaxanthin.
How Astaxanthin Works
Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are an important nutrient to fight against free radical damage.
Free radicals are unpaired electrons that accumulate in cells as a byproduct of metabolism. And the immune system sometimes uses them to fight viruses and bacteria.
They also form when your dog is exposed to toxins such as:
- Processed foods
Once free radicals form in cells, their single electron makes them very unstable. So they react quickly with other compounds to capture a second electron. Once they have the second electron they become stable again.
And they often just attack the closest stable molecule and steal its electron. So the damaged molecule with the missing electron becomes another free radical … and a chain reaction is set in motion.
This process is called oxidative stress.
This is what causes damage to the cells, proteins, and DNA in your dog’s body. And it’s why free radicals are associated with common diseases including cancer, and premature aging.
Astaxanthin For Cell Protection
Astaxanthin is designed perfectly to protect all parts of the cell. And it actually positions itself across the entire cell membrane. Which means it’s able to protect the entire cell.
Astaxanthin is also better for your dog than most other antioxidants such as vitamin E.
Why? Well, it’s able to control multiple free radicals at a time. Plus, astaxanthin forms an electron cloud around the molecule and absorbs free radicals as they pass.
Its antioxidant strength is up to 6,000 times more potent than vitamin C and 800 times stronger than CoQ10.
And unlike other antioxidants, it never becomes a pro-oxidant in the body. It’s not called the “king of carotenoids” for nothing.
So let’s look at some of the more important astaxanthin uses – ones I use for dogs in my practice.
1. Dry Eye And Retina Health
Keratoconjuctivitis sicca (KCS) is a condition that is referred to as “dry eye” in dogs. The medical term means inflammation of the cornea and surrounding tissues from dryness.
I like to use astaxanthin to treat dry eye. It works as an anti-inflammatory.
Dry eye is the result of inadequate production of the aqueous portion of the tear film. And this film protects a dog’s eye by the lacrimal gland (a gland of the third eyelid gland).
Conditions like hypothyroidism, autoimmune diseases, and reactions to sulfa drugs may cause dry eye. But the gland can rejuvenate with the proper holistic management.
And astaxanthin can cross the barrier to reach the retina, a barrier that few make it through.
I would also recommend astaxanthin for retinal detachment and eyesight in general. Although it’s relatively new on the scene, it’s an important one for eye health.
And it’s not hard for me to imagine that it would be very effective in preventing cataracts.
2. Joint Health
Astaxanthin is a serious anti-inflammatory … so it’s great for joint health too. Measure it against any other joint product you use for your dogs.
It actually blocks and handles several different chemicals that create pain. And it reduces inflammation in the body which always leads to chronic disease.
3. Heart Disease
Astaxanthin was found to reduce C-Reactive Protein (CRP) in the body. CRP is a key indicator of heart disease and lowering CRP can help prevent as well as treat heart problems.
I would recommend Astanxanthin before CoQ10 because it’s 800 times more powerful.
Astaxanthin is also great at supporting:
And these health benefits are likely just the tip of the iceberg as research continues.
But not all astaxanthin is the same …
Natural Sources Of Astaxanthin
The primary industrial source for natural astaxanthin is the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis. It seems to accumulate the highest levels of astaxanthin in nature.
Conveniently, these little folks naturally double their volume every week. Commercially, more than 40 g of astaxanthin can be obtained from one kg of dry biomass.
Phaffia rhodozyma, a yeast, also generates substantial amounts of astaxanthin. It can also be found in supplements but it’s often genetically modified … so check that your supplement is made from microalgae.
Beware Of Synthetic Astaxanthin
Commercial astaxanthin for aquaculture is produced synthetically and can be found selling at over $5,000 per kilo.
But, synthetic production of astaxanthin contains a mixture of stereoisomers. Stereoisomers are molecules with the same molecular formula … but are arranged differently in three-dimensional space.
Some of these stereoisomers affect digestibility and bioavailability. And this is why you need to avoid synthetic astaxanthin. Your dog needs to be able to absorb it to get health benefits.
So why would you want to give it to your dog?
Synthetic astaxanthin is also used in animal feeds, especially in the fish farming industry. So when you buy salmon, whether for you or your dog, make sure you always buy wild, not farmed salmon.
Astaxanthin Dosage For Dogs
Astaxanthin is a great protective antioxidant to add to your dog’s diet. Use a naturally sourced supplement.
If you buy an astaxanthin supplement made for pets, follow the label directions.
If you buy a product made for people, assume the dosage is for a 150 lb person and adjust for your dog’s weight.
For example, many human astaxanthin supplements recommend 8 mg to 12 mg per day. This means you can give your dog 1 mg to 1.6 mg daily per 20 lbs of bodyweight.
Food Sources Of Astaxanthin
If you want to feed astaxanthin-rich foods, the best is wild Pacific salmon. Because it contains the highest content ranging from 4 to 40 milligrams per kilogram.
But, don’t feed farmed fish as these have likely been fed synthetic astaxanthin. And remember that fish can contain toxins from the ocean so it might be best to use a microalgae source instead.
Like other carotenoids, astaxanthin has self-limited absorption orally. And it has low toxicity by mouth and no toxic syndrome is known. So it’s very safe for your dog.
Now, as I threatened, here’s the test: can you spell the A word? And say it really fast 10 times in a row?