How Important is Lycopene in a Dog's Diet?

Papayas are rich in lycopene. Images

Antioxidants are beneficial for humans and dogs alike in minimizing the dangers of free radicals. It isn't rare to see antioxidants as ingredients in commercial dog foods, with lycopene as a single example. The crimson pigment is associated with many health advantages in dogs, including those related to the eyes.

Not an Essential Nutrient

Although lycopene is frequently seen as a dog food ingredient, it's not classified as an essential nutrient for canines by the Association of American Feed Control Officials -- oversees product labeling for dog foods -- nor is it mandatory for dog food companies to put it in their foods. That doesn't mean the antioxidant isn't linked to many important health pluses in canines, because it is. The pigment is found in red food items; tomatoes, pink grapefruit, guava and watermelons are all strong sources of lycopene. Tomatoes in particular have especially high levels of lycopene, and cooking doesn't eliminate the antioxidants, either.

Cancer Prevention

Lycopene is thought to reduce the possibility of cancer in dogs. It's thought to decrease the risk of various types of cancers in human beings, too, notably prostate cancer. Pets are often fixed, which is why prostate cancer is uncommon for them, however. The pigment is believed to stop cancer cell expansion, according to author Lola Ball. Other forms of cancers that lycopene can be beneficial for are those of the lungs, esophagus and larynx.

Vision Help

Lycopene also can be good for canine vision. Research has shown that the antioxidant, along with various other key nutrients, might slow down the acceleration of eyesight issues in elderly canines, notes author Steve Brown. Some of the other nutrients that are thought to help with doggie eyesight are vitamin E, vitamin D, zeaxanthin, taurine and zinc.

Other Common Antioxidants

Lycopene isn't the only antioxidant that frequently makes appearances in dog foods. Other oft-seen antioxidants in the canine food world are selenium, alpha-lipoic acid, lutein and beta-carotene, among others. As far as antioxidant strength goes, lycopene is roughly two times as potent as beta-carotene, which is found in apricots, carrots, peaches and squash, to start. Lycopene and beta-carotene are part of the carotenoid family, which is made up of organic pigments. Many concerned dog owners look for antioxidants in their pet foods as they're linked to a broad assortment of health positives beyond just those of lycopene. Antioxidants are thought to help maintain canine fur and skin, for one. They're also thought to help prevent arthritis and heart disease.