Can I Give My Dog Brown Rice?
One of our defining characteristics as humans is our love of all things carbohydrate-laden. Though everyone loves donuts, pizza, and cake, most of us try to get most of our carbohydrates in the form of complex carbs. For carb-lovers who are looking out for their fitness and their overall health, staples include foods like whole grain pasta, potatoes, and quinoa. One of the most popular (and most affordable) sources of complex carbohydrates, however, is brown rice. Brown rice is cheap, easy to prepare in bulk, and extremely versatile, so many people prepare it in big batches and use it as a base for meals throughout the week. Rice also has the benefit of being easy to digest, which makes it perfect for even the pickiest of stomachs.
So, since we’re up to our necks in good-for-you brown rice, there’s a pretty good chance that it will eventually wind up in our dog’s dish—especially if our furry friend has a cold. Is this really such a good idea? Though we fed the family pet unwanted table scraps pretty indiscriminately as children, we have since learned that some foods can be dangerous for dogs. Is a health food nut’s favorite carb source one of these foods? Can dogs have brown rice?
The answer is yes, dogs can eat brown rice in moderation. In fact, there is an excellent chance that your canine companion is already eating rice on a daily basis! Many higher-quality brands of dog food use brown rice as a source of complex carbohydrates and protein. Rice contains tiny quantities of a toxic substance called arsenic, but the amount of arsenic found in a grain of rice is so small that your dog would have a difficult time eating enough to experience any effects of poisoning. As long as the brown rice is properly prepared and fed to your dog in moderation (as a part of an overall balanced diet), there shouldn’t be any problems.
Active dogs are the ones who are most likely to benefit from eating brown rice regularly—quality brown rice is a great way to add complex carbohydrates and small quantities of protein into your dog’s diet without giving them too much fat. In addition to being low in fat, brown rice contains far more nutrition than white rice. By opting for brown rice, you increase the amount of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals your dog is eating.
Veterinarians often suggest feeding sick dogs steamed, unflavored brown rice until their symptoms pass. This can be a good option for dogs dealing with colds, stomach bugs, surgical recovery, or other stressful situations that make it difficult for them to tolerate dog food.
Because brown rice is higher in fiber, it can be a great way to gently ease constipation. Dogs are much more sensitive to fiber than humans are. If your pet struggles with constipation, fresh fruit is often a powerful remedy. For some dogs, however, eating a lot of fresh fruit turns out to be too powerful—canines who eat a lot of fruit almost inevitably develop diarrhea. Brown rice is a little bit lower in fiber and water, which may relieve constipation more gently.
Brown rice can be a digestive aid, but it is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you think your dog has a serious digestive issue, make sure to have them examined by a veterinarian before you make any big changes to their diet. Some digestive problems, including constipation, are symptoms of more serious underlying conditions that need veterinary care.
Things to Consider
If your dog is dealing with severe digestive upset, brown rice may not be the best option. While the higher protein and fiber content is an asset in most situations, for dogs who are having a difficulty keeping food down, it can be a hindrance. White rice is less nutrient-dense than brown rice, but it can also be easier to digest. If your dog is having diarrhea, or is struggling to get enough calories while their stomach is upset, it may be better to feed them plain white rice. During short-term illnesses, it’s better to give them easy-to-digest calories than it is to opt for marginally more nutritious foods that are tougher on the stomach.
It’s also important to avoid giving your dog brown rice too frequently. Even if it’s relatively healthy, brown rice is still pretty high in carbohydrates and calories, which can add up quickly. Feeding your dog rice too often can result in weight gain (which may result in obesity and other health problems) and nutritional deficiencies. Rice can be part of your dog’s diet, but it should not make up a significant part of their daily caloric intake.
Overall, brown rice is safe for dogs—it is nontoxic and easy on the stomach, and it contains moderate amounts of fiber and protein. Just remember that rice is rather high in carbohydrates and rather low in many key nutrients. It is not a suitable staple for your dog!