Should I feed my pet chicken and rice when they have diarrhoea?

It is common knowledge to offer your pet a ‘bland’ diet when they develop signs of gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting or diarrhoea. The thought behind this is to simply give their gut a ‘break’ and reduce workload by eating easily digestible foods instead. Traditionally, the go-to bland diet has been boiled chicken and rice.

At My Vet Animal Hospital, we often see pets with acute gastrointestinal issues that are managed through dietary modifications. Nutrition is pivotal in the management of gastrointestinal problems as well as the overall health and development of your pet. Although ‘chicken and rice’ smells and tastes amazing, we have started to trend away from a home-cooked bland diet and instead recommend you trial better alternatives first. Just because ‘chicken and rice’ is common, doesn’t mean it’s the best for your pet!

Here are some of the pitfalls and reasons why you should look beyond the traditional ‘chicken and rice’ bland diet:

1. Not complete and balanced nutrition, and not suitable for long-term use or growing pets
Just feeding ‘chicken and rice’ is simply not a complete and balanced diet as it is lacking in certain nutrients, vitamins, amino acids and minerals that are important for your pet’s health. If fed for more than three days or longer-term, your pet may start to have multiple nutritional deficiencies that can develop into serious health concerns. We regularly see puppies and kittens for gastrointestinal issues as they often have more sensitive stomachs than adult pets as their immune system continues to develop. Growing puppies and kittens have special nutritional requirements and being on an unbalanced diet, even very briefly, may be detrimental to their health and development.

2. Low energy dense nutrition, inconvenient, higher risk of contamination
A 10kg dog requires around 470 kilocalories a day which approximately equates to around 2 chicken breasts and 1.5 cups of rice. Many pets with gastrointestinal issues often have a reduced appetite and are in a negative energy balance state so it is difficult to ensure they eat enough to maintain their daily caloric intake. Although it may appear to be a lot of food (which is already an added challenge for an upset gut to digest), because of the low energy density of ‘chicken and rice’, you may still actually be underfeeding your pet. Additionally, ‘chicken and rice’ should be cooked fresh every time during feeding to reduce risk of contamination. Despite daily effort to prepare ‘chicken and rice’, as mentioned above, it isn’t even nutritionally complete and balanced!

3. Does not replace lost electrolytes and vitamins
Gastrointestinal issues often cause vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Besides falling short of meeting your pet’s daily maintenance requirements, a ‘chicken and rice’ diet does not contain additional electrolytes and vitamins to replenish any losses that may have occurred with vomiting and diarrhoea.

4. Lacks prebiotics & probiotics to support the gastrointestinal microbiome
Gastrointestinal issues are often caused by or are the result of an imbalanced gut microbiome. Compared to better alternative gastrointestinal diets, a ‘chicken and rice’ diet contributes very little to correcting these imbalances to support the gastrointestinal system. Simply put, the gut microbiome is a dynamic population of microorganisms, mostly bacteria, that play a key role in the digestion, synthesis and absorption of nutrients. Probiotics are live microorganisms which provide health benefits when consumed and are often called ‘good’ bacteria. Prebiotics are types of dietary fibre that feed the ‘good’ bacteria in your gut and allow them to flourish. The addition of prebiotics and probiotics can help restore any imbalances and promote a well-function gut microbiome.

At My Vet Animal Hospital, an alternative to ‘chicken and rice’ that we often recommend is the Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d (Digestive Care) range as it is a complete and balanced, high-energy dense nutritious diet, that is conveniently pre-made and contains prebiotics and probiotics. It also exceeds the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutrition standards and also has a 100% money-back guarantee for quality, consistency and taste.

If your pet develops any vomiting or diarrhoea, please call My Vet Animal Hospital on (02) 8484 2020 for an appointment and consider better alternative diet options before cooking up some homemade chicken and rice.

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