It can be difficult, can’t it? Choosing a good quality dog food only to find that one of the ingredients is a carbohydrate that according to some reports shouldn’t be part of a dog’s diet.
There is so much confusion about whether dogs should eat carbs like rice, wheat, corn and barley that many of us stay clear of dog food brands that contain them. But do we need to avoid them altogether or do grains offer useful nutritional benefits for our dogs?
Can we provide a healthy and balanced diet for our dogs while still including carbohydrates? Here’s the lowdown on brown rice for dogs and the benefits it can bring.
What’s the deal with carbohydrates?
The problem with carbs is that they would not naturally form part of a dogs diet. Although dogs are scavengers, their natural diet is primarily meat with a small percentage of fruit and veg.
Most commercially available dog food, especially kibble has a minimum of thirty percent carbohydrate content which can be made up of various sources like rice, corn, sweet potato etc.
Just like us, our dogs struggle with too much carbohydrate, and it can lead to health problems including obesity and maldigestion.
However, dog’s are very adaptable and can usually tolerate carbs well. They process carbohydrates and protein in a similar way and convert them into energy.
This allows the carbohydrate content in commercial foods to provide energy and fibre at a fraction of the cost that the equivalent meat content would cost.
Brown rice for dogs
Brown rice is an excellent choice of carbohydrate, it’s full of fibre, supporting optimal bowel function and is rich in essential minerals;
- Vitamins B2, B3 and B6
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin E
- Fatty acids
Not only that but as a whole grain, brown rice provides slow release energy helping to stabilise blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of heart disease as well as high cholesterol.
What’s more, brown rice is rich in anti-oxidants and is easy to digest.
The uses of brown rice for dogs
Although brown rice is found in many dog food brands already, there are times when a bowl of plain brown rice can benefit your dog.
As it is somewhat bland on its own and is easily digestible rice is really useful for;
- Upset stomach – easily digestible and provides energy
- Older dogs – gentle on an older dog’s digestive system
- Underweight dogs – rice can help with weight gain
- Constipation – brown rice is full of fibre and can help keep bowels moving
Brown rice versus white rice
So if dogs can eat brown rice can a dog eat white rice too? The quick answer is yes, but you may want to stick to brown.
Because although both white and brown rice is high in carbohydrates, brown rice is more nutritious.
Despite white rice beginning its life as brown rice, the milling process removes the outer layers of husk, bran and germ. While this increases its shelf life, it does reduce its nutritional profile.
Because the primary nutrients are stripped out of the white rice by the milling process, synthetic versions are added back in.
So brown rice is much more natural and the better option to include in your dog’s food.
The risks of brown rice for dogs
Although a bowl of brown rice is useful when your dog is not feeling well, it should always be fed in moderation.
Too many carbohydrates are just not healthy for our dogs. Their primary source of nutrition should be from good quality meat.
However as already mentioned, many commercial dog foods include some form of carbohydrate and brown rice is a good option because of its nutritional profile and its ease of digestion.
Just with any new food, however, when feeding your dog brown rice for the first time always start small. While rice isn’t a common allergen in dogs it is possible that your dog will have a reaction to it so watch out for;
- Itchy skin
- Ear infections
And if you notice any of these symptoms stop giving your dog rice immediately.
There is also concern that rice contains significant amounts of arsenic. Although arsenic is naturally present in the environment and so gets into our food anyway, rice absorbs more than other cereal crops.
The concern is enough for the food standards agency to recommend that children under 5 not be given rice milk as an alternative to breast milk.
However, pre-soaking rice can reduce the arsenic content dramatically.
How to serve brown rice
Never serve uncooked rice, wash it well first, pre-soak it if possible and boil it for at least 25 minutes. If your dog is already eating a commercial dog food that includes carbohydrates adjust their diet to cope with the additional calories.
As a guideline, a dog’s food should be at least seventy per cent meat with the remaining thirty percent carbohydrates or vegetables.
As part of a balanced diet, brown rice can be a nutritious addition in moderation. Not only is it packed full of fibre but it is a useful source of minerals and vitamins.
Commercially rice is often used because it is a cost-effective way of meeting a dogs energy and fibre needs. And it can be an economical way of adding to a meat based diet when feeding raw.
While our dogs would not usually eat carbohydrates like rice, they are well tolerated and provide a useful source of energy.
Although not suitable for all dogs, in particular dogs with diabetes or obesity, brown rice is an excellent choice when cooked properly, and most dogs enjoy it.