Can Dogs Eat Rice? A Pet Nutrition Specialist Weighs In
Rice is a popular dish and a food that people frequently turn to when they're feeling sick. But can dogs eat rice too? Lots of human foods like chocolate and onions can be toxic to pets, so it's reasonable to wonder if rice is on that list. Read on to learn if rice is safe for your pooch to eat, and if so, which type is best.
Is Rice Good or Bad for Dogs?
Dogs can safely digest rice, says Ann Wortinger, a veterinary technician specialist in the field of nutrition. Like people, dogs have amylase, an enzyme that breaks down starches like rice. The enzyme is present in your dog's saliva, where the process of digestion begins, and in the large intestine.
Commercial dog foods sometimes include rice as a carbohydrate source. It's also often recommended in homemade bland diets for dogs who have digestion problems. The main concern in cooking rice for your dog at home is that you don't feed too much of it—since too many carbs can lead to weight gain or spike blood sugar—and that you only do it for two to three days or as recommended by your veterinarian.
How Much Rice Can Dogs Safely Eat?
A dog's diet needs to have the right mix of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. The portions of each macronutrient depend on a dog's age, sex, breed, and health, says Wortinger. "But in general, the amount of carbohydrate (rice) shouldn't exceed 30 to 50 percent of your dog's overall calories for the day."
A good rule when a bland diet is recommended by your vet is to serve your pooch one part protein (usually chicken) to two parts carbohydrates (rice). Offer your sick pup a couple of tablespoons of this mixture every few hours, according to VCA Animal Hospital. If your pet does well with this, you can increase the amount you feed. The goal is to gradually transition back to regular meals within two to three days.
What Kinds of Rice Can Dogs Eat?
Now that you know a little rice won't harm your dog, what kind should you cook up? There are multiple types of rice, from short- to long-grained as well as white and brown. Here's the lowdown on how each one affects your pup:
Brown rice is a whole grain that contains an outer layer of bran, which is what gives it color. It has more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than other types of rice. But that isn't necessarily a good thing when it comes to feeding it to a dog with tummy troubles. Brown rice is the hardest type of rice for your dog to digest, says Wortinger.
White rice is really brown rice that has undergone a process to remove parts of it, including the bran layer, to make it softer to chew. The more refined the rice, the easier it'll be to digest, says Wortinger. So stick to white rice for a sick dog. Easy-to-digest foods give an overtaxed gastrointestinal (GI) tract a break.
Jasmine and Basmati Rice
Long-grain rice like jasmine and basmati are usually white and have lengthier grains than other types of rice. Whether you choose a long-grain or shorter-grain rice doesn't matter as much as whether it's white or brown (with white having the easiest digestibility).
Technically, wild rice isn't rice but a seed from another species of plant. The nutrient profile of wild rice is similar to brown rice, says Wortinger, and it's safe for dogs to eat.
Rice cakes are gentle on dogs' digestion. You can use them as treats. But keep in mind that goodies like rice cakes or other extras shouldn't make up more than 10 percent of your pup's total daily calories, advises Wortinger.
You just ate Chinese food and your dog is begging for a taste of your fried rice. But, says Wortinger, feeding your pup fried rice is a no-no. That's because it includes onions, which destroy red blood cells in cats and dogs.
Rice Krispie Treats
Though it's tempting to share dessert with your four-legged friend, avoid giving dogs rice krispie treats. They're loaded with sugar from the marshmallows. Better to give Fido a dog biscuit as a treat instead.
Does Rice Help a Dog With Diarrhea?
People frequently turn to bland diets when they feel sick. Chicken and rice, or other bland foods, are often recommended for dogs who are having stomach distress too. Foods that are easy to digest are less likely to spark new tummy woes and give your dog's GI tract a rest.
Is your dog vomiting or do they have diarrhea? If so, contact your veterinarian first before feeding your pup something different. Those symptoms can indicate a number of health conditions, from minor to serious. Delaying treatment could be deadly if it ends up being an urgent condition, like pancreatitis (pancreas inflammation) or bloat (twisting of the stomach).
If your vet says homecare is OK at this point, continue feeding your dog, says Wortinger. "Food is important when an animal is sick, especially with diarrhea. Rather than homemade meals, I recommend pets eat a commercially available, therapeutic intestinal diet. These foods are developed for dogs with sensitive digestion. They provide not only all of the essential nutrients that a dog usually needs, but they also have extra vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that become deficient when a dog has diarrhea."
The bottom line: Rice won't hurt your dog if it's limited to three days or less and combined with a simple protein. But be sure to talk with your vet about your pup's symptoms and if a commercial dog food for GI problems would be a better choice than homemade meals. That way you can feel confident knowing you're doing all the right things to help your four-legged friend feel better fast.