Dioxins are lipophilic compounds with a small molecular weight and are highly persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic. Dioxin detoxification is associated with an increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). In physiological conditions the body is protected against ROS and their toxic products by a wide range of antioxidant systems. We hypothesize that the imbalance between ROS production, associated with dioxin exposure, and the antioxidant defence capacity, may lead to oxidative stress, with consequent increased consumption of antioxidants and accumulation of toxic compounds in blood and tissues. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of exposure to dioxins on the plasma redox status of lactating buffalo cows. To this aim, the major liposoluble (retinol and α-tocopherol) and water-soluble (ascorbate) antioxidants, the superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activity, the total antioxidant capacity (TAC), as well as specific protein oxidation markers (protein bound carbonyls and nitro-tyrosine) and lipid oxidation markers (hydroperoxides), were chosen as indices of blood redox status. The concentration of antioxidants, protein-bound carbonyls (PC), nitro-tyrosine (N-Tyr), and hydroperoxides (LPO), the SOD and GPx activity, and the TAC were measured in plasma samples obtained from buffalo cows exposed to environmental levels of dioxins higher (n=21, group A) or lower (n=29; group B) than those permitted. Plasma titres of antioxidants, as measured by HPLC, and the total antioxidant capacity, as measured by trolox equivalents capacity, were higher in group B than in A. Similarly, SOD and GPx activities were higher in group B than in A. Conversely, plasma levels of PC, N-Tyr and LPO, as measured by ELISA, were higher in group A than in B. Our results suggest that exposure to dioxins impairs the plasma antioxidant defence system of lactating buffalo cows, and that metabolic processes associated with dioxin detoxification might induce or enhance oxidation of protein and lipids. This adverse effect on blood redox status might have negative implications for animal health and reproduction, and might compromise animal welfare.