Have you ever fed chicken and rice when your dog became ill? Did you get this advice from a friend, the internet, or a veterinarian? Feeding chicken and rice is widely viewed as a well-known and ageless remedy for digestive upset. However, it is not the method I prefer or ever recommend to clients with sick pets. This diet is especially not meant to be fed long-term either.
These are a few reasons why:
1) The diet is extremely unbalanced.
2) Chicken can increase inflammation in the body.
3) Rice is used as a filler to help solidify stool. It is a poor solution to "fix" the issue.
The Diet is Unbalanced
This first set of numbers below show the daily calorie amount
needed for a 50 pound dog with a low-medium activity level. 170 calories are missing a day based on feeding 1 cooked chicken breast and 2 cups of rice. This is the recommended amount found online when searching for how much chicken and rice to feed a sick dog.
"50% of required nutrients (fats, macro-minerals, micro-minerals, and vitamins) for a dog are severely lacking in a chicken and rice based diet."
The nutrients listed here, Fats, Macrominerals, Microminerals, Vitamins, and Protein, are what's required for dogs to ensure they are healthy. These are NRC (National Research Council) guidelines.
The yellow boxes show what is missing in a chicken and rice based diet.
The green boxes are the nutrients that are met for a 50 pound dog. As shown, there are a lot of nutrients that are lacking and only 50% of nutrients are met.
50% of required nutrients (fats, macro-minerals, micro-minerals, and vitamins) for a dog are severely lacking in a chicken and rice based diet.
These are not optional nutrients, these numbers need to be met in order to have a healthy dog.
Cats also have nutrient requirements that would be lacking on a chicken and rice based diet. However, cats require a different nutrient profile, and these numbers only represent a low-medium active dog. That does not take away from the fact that a feline would not benefit from this diet either.
The additional nutritional information for this recipe below shows the Calcium:Phosphorus ratio, EPA:DHA ratio, and LA:ALA ratio. The recipe serving amount, nutritional information, and name for each ingredient in the USDA database are also listed below. Large amounts of carbs in a carnivorous diet can lead to unwanted weight gain, bacterial overgrowth, gas, and more health concerns.
Macronutrients in percentages for this recipe are:
Inflammation and Other Health Concerns
I increased the image size of the circle graphs shown above so you can get a closer look at what I am referring to.
The first box is the Calcium:Phosphorus ratio. This needs to be 1.3:1 and should be in the green area. This recipe is lacking in calcium by 96.22%. This leads to growth deformities, weak teeth and bones, and other bone-related issues.
The second graph represents EPA:DHA which can be met by supplying your pet with fish or fish oil. Without meeting this requirement, inflammation occurs. This comes in the form of redness, hot spots, chewing of the paws, ear issues, dry skin, and much more. Omega-3 fatty acids (includes EPA and DHA) from fish oil are "required for brain function and retinal function" (Neuringer et al, 1984; Arbuckle and Innis, 1992). This recipe does not meet the EPA:DHA requirement as shown in the red.
The last circle graph is deeply in the red zone. LA:ALA are met by supplying your dog with omega-6 fatty acids which include LA (linoleic acid), y-linolenic acid, and arachidonic acid. As well as ALA from omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are required for growth and reproduction.
Alternatives to Help the Gut
There are a few healthier alternatives to help your pet's gut heal. The first step I recommend taking is to not feed your pet for 24 hours. If your pet is a young puppy, a recommend supplements listed below and limiting that time to less than 12-24 hours without food in their system. Think about this: when you are sick, (vomiting or an upset stomach) do you keep eating large amounts of food or even your normal meals? No. Do not force the same on your pet when they have digestive upset.
If this issue is reoccurring, there is a much larger issue at hand. This could be from having a food intolerance, transitioning to a new food too quickly, having an imbalance of nutrients, or poor gut health. Chicken and rice only masks this issue, it doesn't help cure the gut, it just fills it up.
This is why I recommend providing your pet with:
Prebiotics and/or Probitocs daily.
Prebitoics "are currently known as a selectivly fermented ingredietn that allows pecific changes in the composiion and/or activity in the GI flora that confers well being and health benefits to the host" (Gibson, 2004). Providing prebitocs to dogs and cats has also shown an improvement in fecal ordor.
Probiotics are "live or viable bacterial cell preparations that have beneficial effects on the health of the host" (Small Animal Clinical Nutrition).
Prebitiocs and probiotics combined are refereed to as Symbiotics. " A synbioic is "a mixture of probiotics and prebitoics that beneficially affects the host by improving the survival and implantation of live microbial dietary supplements in the GI (gastrointestinal) tract" (Gibson and Roberfroid, 1995). Therefore, you can feed both pre and probiotics to your pet. These come in several forms.
Probiotics can come in the form of raw goat milk from brands such as Answer's and Primal. To learn more about the benefits of raw goat milk and the probitoics it contains, click here.
Click here for online options for pre and probitoics.
Inflammation is a high possibility and can upset the gut even further even if this diet is fed on occasion, as shown and explained in the circle graphs above. If your pet is solely on a chicken and rice based diet because you want to feed your dog fresh food, but can't fully feed a balanced raw diet, I highly recommend feeding kibble instead. Dry pet food manufacturing companies have to meet a certain standard, AAFCO requirements, and your pets nutritional needs would better be met through kibble.
I always like to recommend pet owners to do their own additional research and find what works best for their pet. I hope by supplying you with the right tools and information that you are more aware of healthier alternatives and what your pet is eating if they are on a chicken and rice based diet. If you want to learn more about NRC guidelines and their studies, their book is found online. I do offer Recipe Analysis for home-made diets if you are interested to see what nutrients your pet may be lacking or have an excess of.
1) Gibson, 2004
2) Gibson and Roberfroid, 1995
3) Neuringer et al, 1984; Arbuckle and Innis, 1992
4) Small Animal Clinical Nutrition