Written by: Allison Shalla, Dogly Wellness Advocate & Canine Nutritionist
While rice was once a ubiquitous ingredient in many commercial pet foods, the “grain-free” trend in the dog food industry saw a shift away from including grains like rice in more recent years. Not all grains are nutritionally the same, and some are more healthy than others. White rice is a refined grain, meaning that the bran and the germ have been removed. This process strips away much of the fiber and nutrients. Some of these nutrients —including B vitamins and iron — are added back to "enriched" white rice, but the fiber is not added back. Because of this, it is a highly digestible carbohydrate, often prescribed to pet owners when their pet is experiencing diarrhea.
While white rice is mainly devoid of nutrients, it is much lower in arsenic than brown, making it safer to use. That said, if grains are adequately prepared, the risk of arsenic levels can be drastically reduced. See the bottom of this article for instructions on minimizing this risk.
As mentioned, the way white rice is processed removes many nutrients. You may not want to give your dog white rice regularly, but rather when your pup requires a bland diet due to upset.
Pet owners may have heard statements like, “but dogs are carnivores, and carnivores don’t need grains.” However, while dogs may have descended from wolves, they have been domesticated over the last 100+ years, and so their digestive systems have evolved too. Fact: in the wild, one of the first parts of a prey animal that a wolf will eat is the stomach, which includes pre-digested fruits, seeds, and grains. Dogs can digest grains if appropriately prepared and provided in the proper amounts. Dogs are considered omnivores or “preferential carnivores,” meaning while their primary energy source comes from fats and protein, they can still utilize the nutrients and phytonutrients provided by fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Pet parents may also have heard that rice is a “filler” ingredient in commercial pet foods. While white rice may not provide much in the way of nutrients, it can still have a proper place in a dog’s diet, which we will discuss more below.
Let's look at some of the health benefits of rice for dogs.
White rice is lower in calories, protein, fat, and fiber than brown rice, but it is higher in calcium and iron. Enriched white rice is also a good source of folate. White rice is not a significant source of vitamins and minerals; unlike its counterpart, brown rice is very dense in many vitamins and minerals.
White rice has a higher glycemic index than brown rice, so white rice may cause your dog's blood sugar levels to rise and fall more than brown rice.
Its main benefit to your dog’s health is in providing relief from diarrhea as needed by giving starch in the form of highly digestible carbohydrates.
Any time you introduce new foods to your dog’s diet, it is best to start slow. If you want to add grains as a source of carbohydrates, see our article on brown rice, which is much more nutrient-rich than white rice. If you are using white rice at the advice of your veterinarian to relieve diarrhea, then you can safely move straight to the 50/50 boiled white rice and boiled lean meat bland diet. In this case, it is best to feed small portions several times throughout the day, instead of 1 or 2 big meals. It is easy on the dog’s digestive system and combines things like lean turkey or chicken for a highly digestible bland diet.
*Note that too much white rice for too long can lead to constipation, so watch for signs of your pet straining and lack of bowel movements.
Many commercial dog foods already include rice. If your dog eats balanced dog food, adding large amounts of “extras,” even fresh foods, can throw off the balanced diet, particularly things like calcium and phosphorus. Excessive amounts of specific vitamins and minerals can lead to health problems.
A good guideline is to use a 20% rule for human foods as toppers to a commercially balanced diet. What that means is that fresh food “toppers” should not account for more than 20% of your dog’s diet. So, if you feed your dog 2 cups of commercial kibble, you can replace up to 20% of your dog’s meal - 0.4 cups or 3.2oz - with “people foods,” like cooked lean meats, eggs, fruits and veggies, and grains. Calories from rice should make up no more than 10% of your dog's daily caloric intake.*
*Note: the exception is when feeding white rice as part of a bland diet for a short period to relieve diarrhea.
**If your dog has food allergies to grains, you may want to avoid rice. That said, rice is gluten-free, so if your dog needs to avoid gluten, white rice will be OK. See our article for the best dog food for food allergies when you’re diagnosing food allergens.
When selecting rice, choose a high-quality, organic brand. Before you do anything, you should rinse all excess starch off the uncooked rice. Next, you want to soak the rice for a minimum of several hours (8-10 is ideal). Use 6 cups of water to 1 cup of rice when soaking. Start with hot tap water, and drain and rinse the rice several times throughout the soaking process. Once adequately rinsed, drained, and washed, cook it VERY well by boiling. Be sure to use at least two parts water to 1 part rice while boiling. Grains absorb water when soaking and cooking.
Once the rice is thoroughly cooked, you can mash it or even puree it for maximum digestibility. It should have a very mushy consistency (think “gruel”). Properly prepared white rice should “bind” the dog’s stool to prevent ongoing diarrhea.
For more wellness advice, join my Community on Dogly. You can ask questions and get 24/7 access to certified experts across nutrition, training & behavior, and wellness to give you and your dog your best life together.
If your dog could use some digestion help and you’re feeding a bland diet, try boosting it with Native Pet’s Probiotic, carefully created by their team of nutritionists and veterinarians.
Can my dog eat fresh rice?
It would help if you did not give your dog white rice regularly. But, you can give it to your pup as a bland diet when its stomach is upset.
Are there any health benefits if dogs eat white rice?
Yes, white rice is higher in calcium and iron. It also contains folate, which is good for your dog. It provides relief from diarrhea.
Can eating white rice lead to constipation?
Yes. Too much white rice can lead to constipation.
What type of rice is suitable for your dog?
Any organic brand of white rice is suitable for your dog.
Can I use white rice for puppies as food?
As mentioned earlier, white rice has no nutrients when cooked in the wrong way. Anyhow, you can sometimes use white rice for your puppies if they are suffering from diarrhea.
Can dogs eat white rice daily?
If you can keep a good balance of nutrients every day along with the rice, you can feed your dog white rice daily.
How much rice can I give my dog?
Rice is a high glycemic food. Therefore, you should always give your dog rice in moderate quantities. A quarter cup for larger breeds is sufficient. For smaller dogs, the maximum is two teaspoons.
Can white rice upset a dog's stomach?
White rice has a low nutritional value. You can safely use it as a bland diet when your dog's stomach is upset. However, don't use oil or butter. Use plain white rice, and it will be safe for your dog's stomach.
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