Food has gotten kind of complicated lately.
With so many diet options on the market — keto, paleo, gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free, carb-free, lectin-free, meat-free — we’re all finding ourselves adding on restrictions in an attempt to reduce food choices. This process of narrowing down the “right” dietary lifestyle as a curated part of one’s everyday identity is not just happening to people; it’s affecting our pets, too.
Even though you may have discovered newfound freedom from not eating grains, gluten, sugar and [insert 1000 other ingredients], that doesn’t mean your dog requires the same for optimal health and living (yes, we know that they need to stay alive for the next 100 years!).
So, what about feeding your dog rice? This simple grain, which has been around for thousands of years, has been up for grabs in the pet world in regards to whether rice is good for dogs.
With almost 50% of dog food brands using feed-grade rice in their kibble — which is rice that has been specifically prepared for animal consumption — many dog owners are not sure if they should be feeding their dog rice, or the right way to include it if they do. Brown, white, cooked or kibble-d, we’ll break down what you need to know when standing face-to-face with this tiny grain and your dog’s health.
Can Dogs Eat White Rice?
Yes, dogs can eat white rice without much harm. Like when humans have an upset stomach, cooked white rice is an excellent go-to when dogs are experiencing loose stool or diarrhea. Why, you ask? Because white rice is quick to prepare, low in fiber, and easy to digest, helping bind the stool when things get dicey.
You might be wondering, but I thought more fiber meant more nutrition and better health. Although we hear, “EAT MORE FIBER FOR BETTER DIGESTION” from doctors and TV commercials everywhere in our daily lives, too much fiber can actually cause or increase stomach upset for dogs and people alike when the digestive system is already having a hard time. White rice is a simple carbohydrate, having had its bran layer removed, making it very easy to pass through a dog’s gut and a great source of natural energy.
If you’re adding cooked white rice to your dog’s grain-free kibble, or you’re feeding your dog a bland diet to help reset their gut, look for high-quality, organic white rice that is free of toxins and arsenic. Because white rice is more processed (and cheaper) than brown rice, it can be contaminated with chemicals and preservatives.
Preparing it for your pup to eat is no different than you’d prepare it for yourself. Start off by soaking one cup of rice for 5-10 minutes to get rid of any excess starch content. Then boil the rice in four cups of water for 20-30 minutes. Spices and seasonings are never necessary!
Can Dogs Eat Brown Rice?
Brown rice is for dog parents who care about the product as much as the process. Compared to white rice, brown rice is higher on the cost scale and the nutrition scale, with more fiber and protein (remember that bran layer we were talking about?).
Because of brown rice’s rich fiber and nutrient content, it is digested more slowly in the gut, preventing your dog’s blood sugar from spiking. Not only does brown rice have high amounts of insoluble fiber, but it is also low in sodium, making it a really great option for dogs with high blood pressure or diarrhea.
Depending on the breed or the state of your dog’s digestive system, giving your dog some brown rice to eat is the preferred, unprocessed way to go.
What are the Benefits of Rice For Dogs?
Rice is a great source of nutrition for your dog. As a whole grain, rice is an incredible energy source and can be a nutritious addition to a balanced diet for your pet. Rice helps brain function and promotes a diverse microbiome that can help your dog’s overall immune system with nutrients like:
Even with all of the benefits of rice, dog owners should proceed mindfully. The qualities that make white rice easy to digest also make it spike your dog’s blood sugar faster. White rice has a pretty high-glycemic index score, meaning it can lead to type 2 diabetes if not properly (and proportionally) fed to your pup over a long period of time. Cue: brown rice, which can actually help decrease your dog’s chances of type 2 diabetes.
How Much Rice Can You Give Your Dog?
A balanced dog’s diet comes down to six elements: water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. Dog food is almost always formulated to provide all essential nutrients to your dogs in a balanced ratio, which means your desire to “futz” with your dog’s food may or may not be necessary.
Unlike human-grade rice, dog food relies on feed-grade rice that is tailored to your dog’s digestion process.
Although tempting, adding macro ingredients into your dog’s everyday diet can be too much of a good thing.
If you are considering adding rice into the mix, make sure it accounts for 20-30% of their overall meal two-to-three times a week. While rice can be a helpful addition, it can also just become added carbohydrates if not balanced properly with your dog’s other food, making them prone to weight gain and chronic health conditions like diabetes.
Do Dogs Need Rice in Their Diet?
Unless your dog has specific food allergies or intolerances to grains, excluding them for their diet can actually hinder long-term health in your furry best friend. Grains have been shown to improve gut health in both human beings and animals by encouraging good bacteria in the digestive system. A healthy microbiome means a fortified immune system, meaning better overall health.
In fact, many grain-free kibbles have been linked to possibly causing heart disease in dogs, thanks to the heavy usage of peas, potatoes, and other starches and legumes as fillers in dog food.
Whether you’re looking to treat your pup with rice every now and then, or you want to commit to incorporating this small-but-nutritious grain into their everyday diets, seek out brands using high-quality, organic rice.
When it comes to figuring out the best food to feed your dog, it’s simple: focus on what’s essential.
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