Can I Give My Dog Rice?
Today, a growing number of families are gravitating towards home-cooked, whole-food, plant-based meals. For the efficient, health-conscious, or budget-conscious folks, rice often becomes a staple as the weather cools and we crave starchy, filling foods that are versatile and easy to prepare. Rice is a favorite among even the pickiest of eaters, and it’s a great way to create filling, hearty dishes even for those who have dietary restrictions that may limit their grain options. Rice is also one of the few foods that regularly makes it into our cold and flu menus—when we’re forced to subsist on applesauce, bananas and toast, rice can feel like a treat.
Since rice is so easy on our bodies, many pet owners can’t help but wonder if it is a safe meal option for our pets. After all, we see dogs wolf down garbage can findings without batting an eyelash. Why wouldn’t rice be a safe option? Can dogs have rice? Is rice actually healthy for them, or is it doggy junk food?
The answer: Yes, dogs can eat rice—it is actually one of the safest people foods for our canine companions. Though rice does contain small amounts of arsenic (which is poisonous), the dose is so low that it would take extremely large quantities to cause poisoning. Assuming the rice you purchase is of high quality, feeding it to your dog in moderation may even provide some health benefits.
Health Benefits of Feeding Your Dog Rice
Feeding your dog high quality brown rice is a safe, canine-friendly way to add healthy carbohydrates to their diet. While white rice will not poison or harm your dog in any way, it’s better to go for more nutrient-heavy varieties, such as brown or wild rice. Brown rice in particular is higher in vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber than its more heavily-processed white counterpart, which makes it a healthier option overall.
Though brown rice makes an excellent staple food for people, it should not make up a large portion of your dog’s diet—though dogs are omnivores, they require more protein and lower carbohydrate than we do. Rice has a rather high carbohydrate-to-protein ratio, which means, as far as calories go, it is not a worthwhile food for our dogs. Put simply: with high-carb foods like rice, dogs do not get a whole lot of bang for their buck.
That does not mean that rice is off limits for your pup! If your dog is sick, underweight, elderly, or just deserves a treat, feeding them brown rice is an excellent way to go. Many veterinarians recommend steamed, unseasoned brown rice as a meal for dogs who are struggling with a cold, suffering from an upset stomach, or recovering from surgery or extreme stress.
When their dog is feeling under the weather, many pet owners break out the puppy flu classic: chicken and rice. Rice is one of the best foods that you can give your dog when their digestive system goes haywire, because it is simple, easy to digest, and full of the energy their bodies need to continue fighting whatever bug they’re dealing with. If your dog is having trouble keeping food down, white rice may actually be the superior option, because the lower fiber content makes it even easier to digest. If your dog is constipated, however, brown rice is the way to go, because the fiber will help get their digestive system moving.
Rice is also a great complex carbohydrate for dogs who need to pack on the pounds. Though its calorie-to-micro-nutrient content is not ideal for dogs who are overweight or maintaining a healthy weight, those who are underweight may benefit from this simple, healthful, easy to digest calorie source.
Things to Keep in Mind
If your dog is overweight, it is best to avoid feeding them rice—though healthy, it is not a weight loss food for your pooch. Rice is generally recognized as safe for us and for our dogs, but only if you are buying human grade rice. Human grade rice is safe for consumption, but feed grade rice is a highly-processed product made of leftovers and preservatives. Feed grade rice may also contain higher levels of pesticides, which can be hard on your dog’s body. To make matters worse, feed grade rice is far lower in the vitamins, minerals and fiber that makes human grade rice worth consuming.
High-quality, human grade brown rice can make an excellent addition to your dog’s diet. It contains protein, complex carbohydrates, and some of the vitamins and minerals that help them maintain health. It is an excellent option for sick, underweight or very active dogs, but if your dog is overweight, it’s better to pass on this high-energy snack. When feeding your dog rice, just remember to lay off the flavorings—your dog has no need for soy sauce or spices, which will likely upset their stomach!