Rice stands as a nutritional pillar for many cultures across the globe, spanning thousands of years.
However, it isn't a typical part of dogs' ancestral diet.
Indeed, the canine stomach can digest rice. But the question arises: just because dogs can digest rice, does it mean it's the best nutritional option for them?
Although rice can serve as a short-burst energy source, there are healthier alternatives that not only provide essential vitamins and minerals but also carry fewer health risks, such as arsenic poisoning or a drop in taurine levels.
Can Dogs Eat White Rice?
Relying on white rice as a staple in your dog's diet isn't ideal for their health.
White rice is a carbohydrate with very little nutrition. While dogs can digest carbohydrates in their diet, they are not essential, nor do they need them in large amounts. Overloading on carbs leads to unwanted weight gain and other issues affecting your dog's health. There are better choices of carbs than white rice.
Another concern is the glycemic index of white rice. It measures how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels. Foods that rank high on this index may cause a rapid increase in sugar levels—a problematic issue for dogs with diabetes. White rice has a higher glycemic index, making it an unhealthy choice for dogs that need to manage their blood sugar levels.
Can Dogs Eat Brown Rice?
Brown rice is often praised as a healthier alternative to white rice, but it's essential to recognize that it might not always be the best choice for our furry friends.
Brown Rice Packs More Nutrients Than White Rice
Brown rice packs a stronger nutritional punch compared to its white counterpart. It boasts fiber, manganese, a touch of iron, and essential B vitamins such as niacin.
However, brown rice loses its outer layers, bran, and germ during the milling process, stripping away a significant chunk of its fiber, iron, and niacin. This process transforms it into white rice, which has diminished nutrients.
Nutrients like folic acid, niacin, thiamine, and iron are later added to the white rice to compensate for this loss.
Manufacturers enrich brown rice with synthetic vitamins (for example, B vitamins) to compensate for the loss of nutrients after milling. There's no telling how your dog's body will react to these synthetic additions.
Rice Impacts Your Dog's Taurine Levels
In 2003, German researchers revealed that dogs fed with diets containing whole grain rice, rice bran, or barley had decreased blood taurine levels.
The most significant drop in taurine was observed in dogs consuming lamb or lamb meal and rice combinations.
Additionally, these dogs had reduced blood levels of methionine and cysteine when their diets included animal or turkey meals, along with whole grain rice, rice bran, or barley.
Both methionine, which dogs derive from their food, and cysteine play pivotal roles in various functions, including cellular activities and generating glutathione and taurine.
Taurine, a vital amino acid for dogs, aids in vision, reproduction, and, crucially, heart health.
What stood out in the research was that 15 out of 131 healthy dogs showcased taurine levels that matched or even went below the levels observed in a prior 2000 study where dogs were deliberately deprived of taurine.
The most relevant functions of taurine in a dog's body are:
- Supporting eye cell function
- Assisting in fat digestion
Brown Rice Helps Soothe an Upset Stomach
You may feed a dog with an upset stomach 100% brown rice for the breakfast meal during recovery. It is a pH-neutral grain with a sweet flavor. Rice helps soothe the stomach by expelling toxins from the system. You should only use rice for the time it takes to get the dog back into balance. (Volhard and Brown, 2000)
Can Dogs Eat Uncooked Rice?
Feeding a dog with raw rice is a big no-no. In nature, carnivores like dogs or wolves get their food directly from the prey, consuming the meat and partially digested contents of the prey's stomach, including bits of fruits, veggies, and leaves.
Untreated grains from farms like wheat, corn, barley, or rice are not on their menu unless they've been transformed into a more digestible form through milling, soaking, sprouting, or cooking.
These unprocessed grains possess a tough exterior, safeguarding the kernel inside. As a result, if ingested in this raw form, the nutrients inside remain inaccessible, and the grain exits the body pretty much the same way it entered, evident in the dog's droppings.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring toxic substance that rice tends to absorb more than other plants.
Arsenic poisoning causes a range of health issues for dogs. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and even more severe conditions if consumed in large amounts over time, such as:
- Impaired heart function
- High blood pressure
- Vascular disease
The signs of arsenic poisoning might not appear immediately, making it harder to link them to the rice.
Dogs Have a Harder Time Digesting Rice
The canine digestive system is designed to break down meat, not rice grains.
When a dog eats rice, the pancreas has to work harder than usual.
One of the enzymes the pancreas produces is called amylase. Its job is to break down carbohydrates, like those found in rice.
When a dog eats a lot of rice, the pancreas must produce extra amylase to handle all those carbohydrates, thus going into overdrive.
It's not a big deal if your dog eats rice occasionally—their pancreas can handle it. But if rice becomes a regular part of their diet, it will put a lot of stress on the pancreas, leading to health issues in the future.
As elevated blood lipids contribute to pancreatitis—and it's clear that carb-rich diets can boost these lipid levels—it's wise to reduce the high-carb intake for our pups. The situation becomes more concerning for dogs on dry food that get pancreatitis due to their carbohydrate-heavy meals. Once pancreatitis takes hold, it can lead to a shortfall in vitamin E.
The Risks of Feeding Rice to Dogs
A Higher Incidence of Diabetes
Think of the pancreas as a factory. It will get worn out if it has to produce amylase at a high rate for a long time. When the pancreas gets exhausted, it doesn't produce enough insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels. That is why feeding white rice to our dogs is akin to poking a dragon in a not-so-great way.
Rice Acts As a Filler in Many Commercial Dog Foods
Several dog food companies use rice in their products, but not always for the best nutritional reasons. Instead, rice often serves as a filler food.
While rice can offer energy to dogs due to its carbohydrate content, it doesn't provide not nearly as many nutrients as meat, vegetables, or other protein sources.
So, why do companies use rice? Because it's cost-effective and makes dog food more affordable for pet owners at the expense of giving dogs the rich, varied nutrition they deserve.
The Presence of Alpha-Fetoprotein
Rice may contain mycotoxins (byproducts of mold and fungus) such as AFP (alpha-fetoprotein), a natural carcinogen.
Some Rice Brands are GMO
Most rice is GMO, which destroys the good bacteria found in your dog's gut.
The Rice May Be Sprayed With Pesticides
Pesticides may be used on the rice crops designated for dog food.
Should I Feed My Dog Rice and Boiled Chicken for Diarrhea?
Rice and chicken are gentle on an upset stomach and may sometimes help your dog.
However, we recommend healthier options, such as pumpkin.
Pumpkin is a real game-changer for dogs with diarrhea because it's packed with fiber that helps firm up those loose stools.
Yes, Dogs Can Eat Rice, but Why Not Feed More Nutritious Food?
Although they can digest different types of rice, our dogs deserve better. Instead of this carbohydrate-rich food, we recommend enhancing your dog's diet with nutrient-rich, human-grade ingredients. Your dog might get a short energy boost, but it's not worth the health risks. For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!
Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!