Brown rice is a readily available, highly nutritious food that may help reduce the incidence of certain cancers.
- Dogs can eat brown rice (in fact, it’s good for them).
- You can feed your dog brown rice every day.
- Brown rice has more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and bioactive compounds than white rice.
Can Dogs Eat Brown Rice?
As one of the most widely consumed grains,1,2 rice is a staple food source for over half the world’s population.3,4 And if you wonder if you can use brown rice for dogs with cancer, the answer is yes.
Brown rice contains the complete kernel which includes the bran and germ layers.1 The presence of these layers makes brown rice a superior source of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and bioactive compounds compared to white rice.5
Brown rice can also be ‘sprouted’ or ‘germinated’ which further increases its nutritional value and bioactive compound content.5
Brown rice is readily available at most grocery stores.
Is Brown Rice Good for Dogs?
Potential benefits of consuming brown rice stem from both the increased fiber content as well as a plethora of bioactive compounds contained within the grain. These characteristics can help prevent the development of cancer as well as help slow the progression of existing tumors, with the majority of research currently being focused on colon, pancreatic, ovarian, breast, and prostate cancer.1,3,5-7
Additionally, brown rice may help decrease lipid (fat) levels in the blood, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.5
Diets high in fiber have been linked with lower incidences of colon1,6 and pre-menopausal breast cancer.1,3 Increased fiber can bulk up the stool and increase the rate of fecal transit through the digestive system which limits the amount of contact that potentially carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds have with the gastrointestinal tract.3,8
Dietary fiber can also help regulate certain hormones, including estrogen, which may contribute to a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.8 Additionally, the digestion of fiber by bacteria in the gut can produce helpful bioactive compounds which can decrease overall inflammation and even encourage apoptosis (death) of cancer cells.8
Brown rice contains a large number of bioactive compounds which can impact cancer development and progression.3,5-7,9
- Protease inhibitors can help stop the process that makes normal cells turn cancerous.6
- Phenols have been shown to interfere with the proliferation of breast and colon cancer cells.7
- Inositol has been shown to be able to help prevent colon cancer development as well as regulate the growth of many types of cancer cells.7,10
When to Not Give Dogs Brown Rice
Brown rice may not be appropriate for dogs with bladder or breast cancer. Rice accumulates arsenic when grown in water or soil with high arsenic levels.11 Most of the arsenic is contained in the outer layers of the kernel which means that brown rice, which leaves these layers intact, may have a higher arsenic level than white rice.1,11,12
As arsenic has been associated with the development of bladder cancer,1 brown rice may not be a good choice for dogs with existing bladder tumors. Additionally, a small increase in the risk of breast cancer has been documented in individuals with increased arsenic consumption through brown rice.13 Further research into the interaction between arsenic, brown rice, and cancer is necessary.
Germinated, or sprouted, brown rice contains higher levels of GABA—a naturally occurring compound commonly associated with producing feelings of calmness and relaxation—than regular brown rice.3,5,14 The relationship between GABA and cancer is currently under investigation.
Early research results suggest that GABA may have different effects depending on the type of tumor—helping slow the growth and spread of some tumor types9,14,16 while promoting the growth and spread of others.15,16 Some cancer cells may even use GABA to help decrease the body’s immune response to abnormal tissue.15,16
Due to the increased GABA content, germinated brown rice should potentially be avoided in dogs with existing cancer, especially those with colon or mammary tumors.
How to Prepare Brown Rice
Brown rice has a relatively short shelf-life of only about six months after purchase. Beyond that timeframe, the oils in the kernel will begin to turn rancid.3 You can freeze or refrigerate brown rice, if desired, to help extend the product’s shelf-life.3
Brown rice is often parboiled in an attempt to preserve the rice for longer periods, however this significantly decreases its nutritional value and should be avoided when possible.3 If you would like to purchase large quantities of brown rice at one time, you can obtain special airtight containers filled with inert nitrogen gas from food suppliers which can extend the shelf-life for years.3
When cooking brown rice, you should first wash the grains. Some people also opt to soak the rice to help improve texture and reduce cooking time.17 Soaking may also help decrease the amount of arsenic contained in the kernel.11
To cook brown rice, measure one part rice to two parts water. Bring to a boil and then simmer on the stove until the water is fully absorbed, approximately thirty minutes. Once cooked, remove the rice from the heat and allow it to stand for approximately ten minutes before serving.17
Brown rice can also be prepared in a rice cooker or a pressure cooker, such as an Instant Pot. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using these methods.
Many factors (such as your pet’s size, what other foods they are eating, their specific health issues, etc.) will impact how much brown rice you should feed. Your veterinarian can help advise you on the best way to incorporate brown rice into your dog’s diet. In general, brown rice should not exceed more than 10% of your pet’s total calories for the day.18
Where to Get Brown Rice
Regular brown rice is readily available at most grocery stores.
Germinated or sprouted brown rice is available at some specialty stores or you can make your own at home. To sprout brown rice, soak it in warm water (35-40 degrees Celsius) for 3-12 hours, with water changes every 3-4 hours. Afterwards, drain the water and keep the grain in a moist condition for 20-24 hours.4
Parboiled and instant brown rice should be avoided as the processing methods destroy many of the beneficial compounds in the rice.1,3
- Carcea M. Value of wholegrain rice in a healthy human nutrition. Agriculture. 2021; 11(8):720. doi:10.3390/agriculture11080720
- Saleh AS, Wang P, Wang N, Yang L, Xiao Z. Brown rice versus white rice: Nutritional quality, potential health benefits, development of food products, and preservation technologies. Compr. Rev. Food Sci. Food Saf. 2019;18(4):1070-1096. doi:10.1111/1541-4337.12449
- Dinesh Babu P, Subhasree RS, Bhakyaraj R, Vidhyalakshmi R. Brown rice-Beyond the color reviving a lost health food – A review. Am.-Eurasian j. agron. 2009;2:67-72.
- Patil SB, Khan MK. Germinated brown rice as a value added rice product: A review. J. Food Sci. Technol. 2011;48(6):661-667. doi:10.1007/s13197-011-0232-4
- Wu F, Yang N, Touré A, Jin Z, Xu X. Germinated brown rice and its role in human health. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(5):451-463. doi:10.1080/10408398.2010.542259
- Kushi M, Esko E. Foods that promote health. In: The Macrobiotic Approach to Cancer: Towards Preventing and Controlling Cancer with Diet and Lifestyle. Illustrated, revised ed. Avery Pub. Group; 1991:117-226.
- Hudson EA, Dinh PA, Kokubun T, Simmonds MS, Gescher A. Characterization of potentially chemopreventive phenols in extracts of brown rice that inhibit the growth of human breast and colon cancer cells. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2000 Nov;9(11):1163-70.
- He Y, Wang B, Wen L, et al. Effects of dietary fiber on human health. Food Sci. Hum. Wellness 2022;11:1:1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.fshw.2021.07.001
- Oh C-H, Oh S-H. Effects of germinated brown rice extracts with enhanced levels of GABA on cancer cell proliferation and apoptosis. J. Med. Food. 2004;7(1):19-23. doi:10.1089/109662004322984653
- Vucenik I, Shamsuddin AM. Cancer inhibition by inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) and inositol: from laboratory to clinic. J Nutr. 2003;133(11 Suppl 1):3778S-3784S. doi:10.1093/jn/133.11.3778S
- Zhang F, Gu F, Yan H, et al. Effects of soaking process on arsenic and other mineral elements in brown rice. Food Sci. Hum. Wellness. 2020;9:2:168-175. doi: 10.1016/j.fshw.2020.01.005
- Zhang R, Zhang X, Wu K, et al. Rice consumption and cancer incidence in US men and women. International Journal of Cancer. 2015;138(3):555-564. doi:10.1002/ijc.29704
- Sanchez TR, Klu YA, Genkinger JM, Lacey JV, Chung NT, Navas-Acien A. Association between rice consumption and risk of cancer incidence in the California Teachers Study. Cancer Causes Control. 2020;31(12):1129-1140. doi:10.1007/s10552-020-01350-9
- Latifah SY, Armania N, Tze TH, et al. Germinated brown rice (GBR) reduces the incidence of aberrant crypt foci with the involvement of β-catenin and COX-2 in azoxymethane-induced colon cancer in rats. Nutr. J. 2010;9(1):1-8.
- Huang W, Cao L. Targeting GABA signalling for cancer treatment. Nat Cell Biol. 2022;24(2):131-132. doi:10.1038/s41556-021-00839-y
- Huang D, Alexander PB, Li QJ, Wang XF. GABAergic signaling beyond synapses: an emerging target for cancer therapy [published online ahead of print, 2022 Sep 13]. Trends Cell Biol. 2022;S0962-8924(22)00195-7. doi:10.1016/j.tcb.2022.08.004
- Food Network. How to cook brown rice. https://www.foodnetwork.com/how-to/packages/food-network-essentials/how-to-cook-brown-rice
- Purina. Can dogs eat brown rice? https://www.purina.com/articles/dog/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-brown-rice
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