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What's so bad about rice?

Updated: Jan 16, 2023




Rice is a grain and as such is not a natural food source for carnivorous pets despite its popularity in the commercial dog food arena[i].


Breaking it down

As a raw grain, rice is approximately 80% carbohydrate in the form of starch which converts into simple sugars in the gut. During the required cooking process these grains absorb a large amount of water with the final cooked grains comprising up to 70% water[ii]. Essentially this means you are feeding mostly sugar and water when you are feeding cooked rice to your pets, albeit with a few additional nutrients. Definitely not a natural food for dogs and cats and feeding in excessive amounts or over an extended period is likely to lead to sugar related health issues such as diabetes.


So why do so many recommend Rice?

Rice is commonly recommended as a bland, easily digested diet for those pets recovering form, or suffering mild, digestive upsets. Usually with cooked chicken or other meat added, this is not a balanced diet suitable for extended use, more a short term dietary solution until an issue is resolved and a normal diet can be resumed[iii].


There is some foundation to this thinking which goes beyond simply supplying the stressed pet with much needed energy and hydration, key in any recovery. The high resistant starch, or soluble fibre, content of rice helps to firm the stools by absorbing excess liquid in the digestive tract[iv]. It also increases butyrate, a short chain fatty acid, which nourishes the gut, reduces inflammation and provides essential energy to healthy bacteria such as colonocytes which line the walls of the colon [v]. Of course, rice is not the only option available to pet owners wishing to resolve their pet’s tummy issues as various fruits and vegetables fill this need very well without the negative aspects of an inappropriate food on the pet’s digestive health.


An alternative.

Bananas are a very versatile, easily accessible and highly palatable fruit which are an excellent choice for resolving a wide variety of tummy issues. They are a rich source of potassium, a valuable electrolyte as well as Pectin which absorbs excess water from stool enabling it to be absorbed and retained by the body, these two factors alone are valuable in maintaining water balance within the body when diarrhea is present. Often the mucosal layer of the digestive tract becomes inflamed or damaged with digestive upset, bananas are classed as a mucinogenic food, this means they produce mucins which can soothe and heal the damaged mucosal layer of the digestive tract. If this isn’t enough to convince you bananas are also a great source of a variety of nutrients including B-Vitamins and various anti-oxidants, all a useful addition to the diet of a pet suffering any form of digestive upset [vi]. Just a slice or two of ripe mashed banana is often sufficient for a medium sized dog but there are no specific dosage concerns as there would be with any medications.



 

Trusted Sources

[i] Billinghurst, I. (1993). Give Your Dog a Bone. Bathurst, New South Wales: Warrigal Publishing. [ii] Arnarson, A. (2020, May 14th). What to know about rice. Retrieved September 18, 2020, from Medical news today web site: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318699#white-vs-brown-rice [iii] Ralston, S. L. (1990). Nutrition. In McCurnin, Clinical textbook for veterinary technicians, 2nd ed. USA: WB Saunders company [iv] Gryzb, K. (2010). How to Stop Diarrhea in Dogs. Retrieved September 18th, 2020, from PetMD web site: https://www.petmd.com/dog/emergency/common-emergencies/e_dg_diarrhea. [v] Whorowski, T. (2020, June 5th). What foods can help increase your butyrate levels? Retrieved September 18th, 2020, from Body Bio web site: https://bodybio.com/blogs/blog/butyrate-in-foods. [vi] Ware, M. (2020). Benefits and health risks of bananas. Retrieved August 12th, 2020, from Medical News Today web site: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/271157#benefits.

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