Though your Boxer will not immediately keel over from eating rice, it should not form a major part of his food intake.
Dogs have no biological requirement for grains, which means rice has no place in a natural canine diet.
If you feed rice at all, make sure it is in very small amounts.
This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. I encourage readers to see my full disclaimer here.
Why Rice Is In So Many Dog Foods
Rice is popular with dog food manufacturers for one reason: because it is a cheap and readily available form of calories.
Rice forms a common base for home-prepared dog food recipes for largely the same reason …and because owners are under the mistaken impression that rice is fine to feed.
Why Rice Is Not Recommended For Your Boxer
In nature, dogs eat no rice whatsoever.
Of course they don’t — it’s inedible unless cooked and you don’t see a wolf firing up the stove to boil a pot of rice.
A 2013 study published in the journal Nature by Swedish researchers compared the DNA of the dog and the wolf.
They found that domestic dogs had many more copies of the gene for amylase, a digestive enzyme that breaks down starch in the intestine.
They concluded that, when dogs were domesticated somewhere between 13 000 and 17 000 years ago, natural selection favored those that could cope with the starchy diets commonly provided by human leftovers since the advent of agricultural societies.
But does that mean it’s a good idea to feed dogs food that dramatically departs from what nature intended? Or that we can do so without health consequences?
Dog food manufacturers would love to have you believe so.
But the evidence suggests not.
According to veteran Australian vet Dr Ian Billinghurst, dogs that eat grains like rice as a major part of their diets suffer:
- premature ageing
- pancreatic insufficiency
- skin problems
Dr Billinghurst says, “The vast majority of skin conditions are built on nothing less than a totally unsuitable diet. That is, a grain-based diet.”
He says most are not so much an “allergy” as a wide range of nutritional deficiencies and imbalances.
Sometimes these problems can be fixed by removing rice and feeding a raw meaty bone-based diet.
Other times “the nutritional insult” caused by the grain-based diet is so severe that it results in permanent damage.
Why Do Rice-Based Diets Cause Problems For Dogs?
Rice has very little to recommend it as a food for dogs.
Rice Is A Poor Source Of Protein
For a start, rice doesn’t contain enough protein to make up any significant proportion of a dog’s diet.
Rice contains six or seven per cent protein.
And what protein rice does contain, is poor quality.
Rice is deficient in the amino acid lysine which is the key building block in the formation of collagen.
Collagen is the major component of bone, cartilage and connective tissue including the skin.
Plant proteins are also poorly digested by dogs compared to animal proteins.
There’s also another problem created by feeding a lot of rice — it takes up room in the diet that is more properly occupied by raw meaty bones, thereby compounding the problem of not enough high quality protein.
Rice Doesn’t Contain Enough Fat
Most whole grains contain two per cent fat at most.
Dogs, particularly puppies, need much more fat than this to meet their fatty acid requirements.
Rice Has Imbalanced Minerals
Grains like rice are high in phosphorus and low in calcium, an imbalance that is not good for your dog’s bones, especially during puppyhood.
The high phosphorus content in rice is also bad for the kidneys of adult dogs.
Contrast this with raw meaty bones which contain both these minerals in perfect balance.
To make matters worse, grains like rice interfere with the absorption of calcium.
This happens in two ways.
Firstly, rice has no lysine which acts as a carrier for calcium, ensuring it’s absorbed from the gut and and transferred to where in the body it needs to go.
Secondly, rice contains compounds called phytates which bind to calcium, making the already low levels of this mineral even less bioavailable.
A dog fed on a rice-based diet will be calcium deficient.
Phytates also bind to other essential minerals including zinc, chromium, selenium, reducing their availability.
Zinc is essential for skin health, bone growth, general growth, immune system health and proper development of the reproductive organs.
Rice Lacks Vitamin C
Grain-based diets also lack Vitamin C, an essential nutrient in collagen.
Rice Is Cooked
The cooking process always results in a loss of vitamins, fiber, enzymes, antioxidants and other vaguely understood but health promoting factors that contribute to longevity.
Rice Can Cause Gas In Dogs
Grains like rice also tend to cause gas in dogs.
This is not something you want in deep chested breeds like Boxers, which are already prone to deadly bloat or gastric torsion.
How To Feed Rice To Your Boxer (If You Must)
If fed at all, rice must be severely limited.
Rice must also be given alongside other foods (like legumes) which compensate for its deficiencies.
Balancing the shortcomings of rice gets complicated, so it’s generally best to avoid it altogether.
There are far more appropriate foods to give a Boxer.
A Better Grain Than Rice
If you want to feed a grain to your Boxer, opt for a spouted grain.
You can buy the grains from health food stores and sprout them yourself at home.
Be sure to feed sprouted grains raw and crushed.
You can achieve this by putting them through a juicing machine.
This closely resembles the stomach contents of a grazing animal and is by far the healthiest way for a dog to consume grains.
This kind of grain is worth feeding.
Why Do Vets Recommend Chicken And Rice For An Upset Stomach?
This is a very good question.
It’s perplexing why so many vets recommend boiled chicken and rice as a bland diet for a sick dog.
Perhaps because it at least gives the dog’s system some relief from kibble?
Or maybe the suggestion stems from rice, as almost pure starch, being a source of instant energy.
(In fact, easily digested calories could be provided in a healthier form by feeding fruits like bananas, which are natural for dogs to eat and soothe the gut.)
In any case, fasting makes more sense than “chicken and rice” in response to digestive upset.
Diarrhea and vomiting are mechanisms the body employs to rapidly rid the stomach of its contents.
You do not want to counteract this by putting food right back in.
Give your Boxer’s gut a chance to reset by resting for at least 24 hours.
Just make sure fresh, clean water is always available.
If your Boxer is choosing not to eat, respect that.
Is Brown Rice Okay For Boxer Dogs?
Brown rice contains more vitamins and minerals than white rice but it doesn’t avoid the many other pitfalls, or change the fact that rice is sub-par nutrition for a dog.
But Don’t Grain-Free Diets Cause Heart Problems?
In recent years the US Food and Drug Administration made a link between grain-free dog foods and dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM.
This scare confused people.
Owners and vets alike came away with the message that grains were beneficial to dogs.
If grain-free foods were causing problems, grains must be necessary, right?
Wrong, according to prominent integrative veterinarian Dr Karen Becker.
Dr Becker says the association of health problems with grain-free foods has less to do with the absence of grain and more to do with a protein deficiency in those products, made by some of the biggest names in pet food including Royal Canin, Hill’s, Purina, Nutro, Evo and Blue Buffalo.
“Adding rice or grains back into your dog’s diet (which is what some veterinarians are recommending) is the worst thing you can do,” says Dr Becker.
“DCM is not caused by a rice or grain deficiency — in my opinion, it’s caused by an insufficient amount of high-quality, meat-derived protein in the diet.”
Feed a fresh, species-appropriate diet based on raw meaty bones and the problems inherent in all commercial dog food are completely avoided.
If you feed rice, or other grains, in any significant quantity, your Boxer’s diet will be nutritionally imbalanced.
Because dogs are scavengers by nature, and highly adaptable, they can survive for quite a while despite poor feeding.
But rice is not necessary in a dog’s diet and should never make more than a fleeting appearance.
Otherwise, it will have a serious impact on your pup’s health long term.