Vision and eye health in dogs has become the talk of the town. There’s more and more discussion about eye disease in canines, including macular degeneration, cataracts, uveitis and glaucoma.
Many people have written to me, asking if there are any particular foods they could consider including in their dogs’ diets to foster good vision and perhaps help prevent or stave off eye problems.
Here’s a top ten list of foods that contain some all-important eye-worthy buzz words like anthocyanins, beta-carotene, carotenoids, glutathione, Omega-3 essential fatty acids, lycopene, phytonutrients – and the very special partnership of lutein and zeaxanthin, sometimes referred to as sunscreen for the eyes.
1. Blueberries contain two very important eye healthy carotenoids – lutein and zeaxanthin. They also contain anthocyanins, eye-nourishing phytonutrients that are shown to support night vision. Flavonoids, like rutin, resveratrol and quercetin, are also found in blueberries, and may help prevent macular degeneration. Blueberries also contain selenium and zinc, which further support vision. Eating blueberries has even been associated with the reduction of eye fatigue.
2. Broccoli Besides its anti-cancer benefits, broccoli is also recognized as one of the best vegetables for eye health.It is a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin and is also packed with beta-carotene. Try parboiling a few broccoli florets by simply dropping them into boiling water and timing for two minutes; cool and serve for a power-packed side dish. Don’t leave the leaves behind, because they contain even more beta-carotene than the stems and florets.Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have been found to protect the retina from free radical damage. This may be due to a compound called sulphuraphane, which boosts the body’s defense system against free radicals.
3. Carrots are among the kingpins of the vegetable patch. There are over 100 varieties, from the deepest purple and white to the brilliant orange we are most accustomed to seeing. Each is a storehouse of nutrient power. Carrots contain pro-vitamin A, betacarotene, vitamins B, C, D, E and K, and riboflavin, niacin, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, iron, magnesium, manganese, sulphur, copper and iodine. The old axiom that carrots are good for the eyes is not just a myth. Carrots also contain lycopene and lutein, protective phytonutrients that protect the eye from UVB radiation and damage from free radicals.
4. Cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, cod, haddock and sardines are rich in Omega-3 essential fatty acids. Fish is especially high in EPA and DHA, two Omega-3s important to cellular health. DHA makes up 30% of the fatty acids that comprise the retina. The particularly high levels of Omega-3 in sardines provide some protection against macular degeneration.
5. Eggs are rich in cycteine and sulphur, two components of glutathione. This may explain why sulphur-containing compounds have been found to protect eyes from cataract formation. Egg yolks contain lutein, and diets high in lutein may lead to a reduced risk of developing macular degeneration. The zeaxanthin found in eggs is also beneficial to eye health. A study published by the University of Massachusetts in 2006 found that eating an egg a day raised levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in the blood, helping reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration. The study further found that while serum lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations in the blood were significantly increased, serum lipids and lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations were not.
6. Garlic Sulphur-rich garlic is important for the production of glutathione, an important protein that acts as an antioxidant for the lens of the eye. Glutathione is found to be instrumental in the prevention of some visual problems.
7. Kale is an excellent source of lutein and zeaxanthin. The American Optometric Association says these special antioxidants act like “internal sunglasses”. add beta-carotene to the mix and you have the perfect food to help to protect against oxidative stress.
8. Pumpkin The beautiful bright orange is a sure sign that pumpkins are packed with carotenoids such as beta-carotene, which help neutralize free radicals. The lutein and zeaxanthin found in pumpkin also promotes eye health and makes it yet another whole food that protects against macular generation. Even pumpkin seeds carry lots of benefi ts, including Omega-3, zinc and phytosterols to enhance your dog’s immune response.
9. Sweet Potatoes have so much to offer. They are one of the world’s healthiest foods. They are loaded with beta-carotene, making them the perfect choice to protect eye health. steaming sweet potatoes for just seven minutes actually maximizes their potential to support canine health. sweet potatoes are packed with anthocyanins that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
10. Tomatoes are known as a super food. They contain two eye-healthy nutrients – lycopene and lutein. lycopene is a carotenoid and phytonutrient found in red fruits and vegetables. it is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect against macular degeneration. Lycopene has been well documented as effective in cancer prevention, and its antioxidant properties act to protect the eyes from sun damage. Processed tomato products contain higher levels of lycopene than raw tomatoes. in fact, lycopene is even more bioavailable when tomatoes are cooked with a little first-pressed extra virgin olive oil, increasing the body’s ability to absorb and utilize this very important eye support. Pass the tomato sauce!
Audi Donamor has been successfully creating special needs diets for companion animals for two decades. She founded the University of Guelph’s Smiling Blue Skies® Cancer Fund and Smiling Blue Skies® Fund for Innovative Research. She is the proud recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and was honored with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, for her work in cancer, from the University of Guelph/Ontario Veterinary College. The Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund is also the recipient of the “Pets + Us” Community Outreach Champion Award.