Why 'Chicken & Rice' is one of the worse things to feed a sick dog
It’s a stock standard line ingrained into our brain when we have a sick dog suffering any form of digestive upset.
If we look a little closer at these two seemingly ‘bland foods’ our oblivious veterinarians advice may just be the last thing we should follow.
First, let’s take a look at rice.
Rice is a grain. It is inherently inflammatory. Dogs do no not digest rice too well. It takes a lot of work for the body to break down. Rice is a carbohydrate and we know dogs have little nutritional requirement for carbohydrates in their diet. White rice has a high glycemic index, meaning it will cause a rapid spike in blood glucose levels. White rice is far too starchy to be part of any dogs daily diet, let alone when it is suffering GI tract inflammation.
Chicken is one of the two most common protein intolerances or sensitivities to many dogs. Now there’s two main theories for this. The first that most people are feeding factory farmed rather than organic chicken. Intensively farmed chicken is fed grains (often GMO grains), pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics and vaccinated 3 times in its 30 day lifespan. No wonder our dogs have a problem with chicken. I have known some dogs to be fine with organic chicken.
The second and more compelling theory is canine vaccines (more about this in my next blog).
This aside (of course not all dogs have a problem with chicken), chicken in Chinese medicine is considered a ‘hot food’. We certainly don’t want to be feeding our sick dog a ‘hot’ food, but rather ‘cooling foods’ that will help clear heat and toxins and cool and calm the blood.
So, what should we feed a sick dog?
According to Dr Karen Becker - boiled fat-free ground turkey or turkey breast and cooked or canned pumpkin;
Why I Recommend Pumpkin Over Rice as the Foundation of a Bland Diet
Canned pumpkin (100%) provides about 80 calories and 7 grams of soluble fiber per cup, compared to 1.2 grams of fiber in a cup of cooked white rice. Pumpkin is especially rich in soluble fiber (the type that dissolves in water to form a viscous gel, which also coats and soothes irritated bowels). Soluble fiber delays gastric emptying, slowing down GI transit times (and the number of episodes of diarrhea).
When animals have diarrhea, they can lose important electrolytes, including potassium, which puts them at risk of dehydration. Hypokalemia, or low potassium levels, can result in cramping, fatigue, weakness, and heart rate irregularities. Pumpkin happens to be an excellent source of potassium, with 505 milligrams of naturally occurring potassium per cup. Pumpkin is also safer for diabetic patients. Unlike rice, which is a grain, and will ultimately break down into sugar, pumpkin extracts may actually restore beta cell function – beta cells are the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas.6
Rice is a bland source of fiber, but in my opinion, it isn't the most species-appropriate choice for a recovery diet for carnivores. First, it's an unnecessary food. Dogs and cats don't have a nutritional requirement for grain, so feeding pets a pro-inflammatory food when they're already having GI upset seems counter-intuitive to me. Additionally, the FDA has issued a potential warning about arsenic loads in white rice.7
I have many new client visits that occur when a pet's diarrhea was supposed to clear up with a local vet's recommendations, but didn't. I've had many people tell me that although the stools were slightly improved on a homemade diet of cooked rice and hamburger, the rice would often be passed out whole in the stool, giving rise to the question of how much digestion and absorption of this carbohydrate was actually taking place. (Becker 2014)
Dr Karen Becker, 1st Sep 2014, Health Pets Mercola (http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2014/09/01/pumpkin-dietary-fiber.aspx accessed 05.04.17)