Hands up if you have been told to feed your poorly dog chicken and rice? Hands up if you did?
We think it's safe to say 99% of dog owners have been in this situation.
But should you really feed your dog, chicken and rice? We’re going to share our thoughts.
That’s the short answer, but there are many nuances to this question so let’s take a look at chicken, and rice and why they aren’t the best choice for your poorly pooch.
Many dogs sadly struggle with this protein. It tops the list as one of the most common sensitivities.
We have to wonder if this is due to how chickens are raised.
As the saying goes, you are what you eat, well your dog is what he eats and chickens are often raised in huge farms, lacking sunlight, hygienic conditions and are largely fed a processed diet of corn.
Chickens raised on pasture however, will feed on grasses, insects, and anything else they can get their beaks on! To this end, pasture-raised chicken meat tends to be higher in iron, higher in Omega 3, have a lower Omega 6:3 ratio, and be higher in antioxidants (Vitamin E, for example). Pasture-raised eggs therefore have higher Omega 3s, a lower Omega 6:3 ratio, increased vitamin D, and more antioxidants.
Farmed chickens, fed diets high in corn tend to be higher in omega 6 which influences inflammatory processes.
There are additional concerns around antibiotic use in broiler chickens.
Antibiotics in poultry are generally administered to the entire flock and are used for the treatment of disease (therapy), disease prevention (methaphylaxis), and growth promotion.
Antibiotic growth promoters were banned in the EU in 2006, in the US in 2017 but are currently allowed in Brazil and China.
A recent study concluded that the high levels of antibiotic use in poultry has contributed to antibiotic resistance in many countries.
Other studies further elucidated the quantitative and qualitative relationships between the practice of in-feed antimicrobials for animals and the mounting problem of hard-to-treat, drug-resistant bacterial infections in humans.
If bacterial communities are key to the development of immune function in both humans and animals, but dysbiosis is present through the administration of antibiotics, could this influence an individual’s tolerance and therefore pave the way for sensitivities?
When we are working with a dog suffering from digestive issues, we often run an elimination diet. The first things we eliminate are those common proteins like chicken and beef and we opt for novel proteins. So, chicken and rice is certainly off the list of meals!
Rice is touted for its blandness when supporting a poorly dog, but when we look a little closer, you’d be amazed at what’s found in these little grains!
We’re not debating that dogs can eat rice - physiologically they are capable of digesting it, the question is more, should they eat it?
And our answer is, probably not.
When grains are refined and processed, like white rice, they become a calorie-rich but nutrient poor food.
Refined grains are milled, a process that strips out both the bran and germ to give them a finer texture and longer shelf life. The refining process also removes many nutrients, including fibre.
Whole grains on the other hand haven't had their bran and germ removed by milling; therefore, all of the nutrients remain intact. Whole grains are sources of fibre and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium, and magnesium. Whole grains include millet, bulgur, buckwheat, barley, and oats (we’re not completely against some of these grains, check back soon for our take on them).
Grains are naturally a source of carbohydrates and as we know, when carbohydrates are ingested, without naturally occurring fibre, they are digested very quickly, and pass into the bloodstream. This results in a spike in blood sugar, calling for insulin to come and manage the situation.
This is why refined grains are regularly linked to metabolic disease in humans.
And metabolic disease has significant inflammatory underpinnings - which we think you’ll agree isn't something we want to promote!
Arsenic, which is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, is water-soluble - so it accumulates in rice, which is grown in flooded fields more than other cereals. Arsenic exposure affects almost every organ in the body.
Rice is known to accumulate around ten times as much arsenic as other cereals. In rice grains arsenic is concentrated in the outer bran layer surrounding the endosperm. This means that brown rice, (unmilled or unpolished rice that retains its bran) contains more arsenic than white rice.
Half of the rice consumed in the UK exceeds European Commission regulations for levels of arsenic in rice meant for the consumption for infants or young children.
Studies have attempted to find a way to reduce the arsenic content of rice and to date, the most effective method involves parboiling the rice in pre-boiled water for five minutes before draining and refreshing the water, then cooking it on a lower heat to absorb all the water. But then, we do also find arsenic in tap water too.
Arsenic exposure is associated with alterations in gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, haematological, pulmonary, neurological, immunological, and reproductive/developmental function.
Mycotoxin contamination in rice is usually lower than wheat or corn, but there are still reports that rice has been contaminated with mycotoxins such as aflatoxins.
Aflatoxins are found in cereals, grains, and nuts and we can head back to 1952 to understand the true risk of them.
In 1952, an outbreak of fatal liver disease in dogs occurred in the southeastern United States. The disease, termed hepatitis X, was characterised by icterus, lethargy, anorexia, petechiae, epistaxis, and hematemesis.
Affected dogs died one to 14 days after clinical presentation. The postmortem findings of hepatitis X were noted to be similar to those in swine and cattle after ingestion of mouldy corn and it was deemed aflatoxins were to blame.
Data has shown that rice may also be contaminated with a range of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Whilst these do pose a risk to health, food processing treatments such as milling, parboiling and storage can lead to a reduction of pesticide residue.
Lectins are carbohydrate binding proteins present in most plants, especially seeds and tubers like cereals, potatoes, and beans. Their original purpose was protection. They would produce an inflammatory response in the animal that ate them – so they wouldn’t eat them again. Humans and Dogs are largely unable to digest them, but friendly bacteria in the gut can lend a hand.
At high dietary levels, it is thought that lectins cause damage to the structure of the brush borders of the small intestine. In lectin fed rodents, the mucosal membrane in the small intestine was stripped, compromising the gut integrity. This compromise has also been linked to abnormal bacterial proliferation.
In spite of the far taxonomic distance between rice and wheat, their respective lectins are immunologically related, suggesting that although we tend to think of wheat lectins as problematic, rice lectins may also pose a challenge to gut integrity.
Whilst chicken and rice is a popular recommendation for the poorly pooch, we’re suggesting there are better, more nutrient rich options to support your dog on their healing journey.
Suggestions may include:
If you would like nutritional support for your dog, check out our services to see how we can help.
Thanks for reading,