Tapioca is a staple food for millions of people living in tropical countries and not only. It is preferred by many in the form of tapioca pudding, a very delicious and filling dish. As with any human treat, you may ask yourself ‘Can dogs eat tapioca?’
Does your furry friend like to beg anytime you are eating something good? Then you may be tempted to give them tapioca pudding just for the fun of it.
Keep on reading to find out everything you need to know about this food. And whether it is safe for your four-legged or not.
What is tapioca?
If you do not live in a tropical region, chances are you haven’t heard about tapioca yet. However, there are people who introduce it to their diets for various reasons.
Here are the main things you need to know about tapioca:
- Is a starch extracted from the storage roots of the manioc or cassava plant;
- The plant is original from Brazil but has been exported by the Portuguese to the West Indies, Africa, and Asia;
- Cassava can withstand the harshest soil conditions;
- Dried tapioca contains 89% carbohydrates and 11% water;
- It does not contain any protein or fat, and little minerals and vitamins;
- Tapioca is often used for the texture and mouthfeel it provides;
- Can be added as a sweetener instead of corn syrup;
- Does not contain gluten and can be used to make bread for people on gluten-free diets;
- Is contained by various manufactured foods as it works as a thickening agent;
- Plays a role in the production of alcohol and biofuel for cars;
- It is also used to produce biodegradable bags and gloves that are recyclable and sustainable.
So, while tapioca does not provide great nutritional value, its properties are widely appreciated. As a food additive, it can transform dry ingredients into the most appetizing dishes.
Is tapioca safe for dogs?
First of all, you need to know what a dog’s healthy diet consists of. Meat makes the majority of a dog’s diet, but they also need additions such as grains, fruits, and vegetables.
These non-meat foods are a source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. This means you can offer your dog food from literally any food group. But as long as it is not harmful to canines!
Ensuring a healthy diet enables you to keep your pooch supple and in good health. This can usually be achieved by offering age-appropriate, commercially-available food. A homemade diet that gives the dog all the nutrients it needs is harder to achieve.
Speaking about commercial foods, this is where you might ask yourself again ‘Can dogs eat tapioca?’ This is because some pet foods contain tapioca as an additive.
So, let’s find out whether tapioca is safe for dogs or not.
Tapioca is safe for dogs and not toxic at all. The reason why it is contained by dog foods is because it works as a filler. It usually replaces other grain-based starches in your dog’s food.
Does it make a difference?
Apparently some dog owners observed that their dogs preferred tapioca to other starches. If gluten is harmful to your dog, tapioca is a great alternative.
The answer is that dogs can eat tapioca as long as their food contains all the other necessary nutrients.
Advantages of tapioca over other starches
Tapioca is gradually replacing other types of starch such as wheat flour and cornstarch due to a series of advantages:
- Is tolerated by humans and pets with food allergies, such as gluten allergies;
- Cassava is a natural products and GMO strains are not on the market yet – so tapioca is a great option if you want to avoid GMOs;
- It thickens at a lower temperature compared to other starches;
- Has a neutral flavor and gives food a glossy appearance;
- It does not leave an aftertaste like other starches and flavors are not masked by the phospholipids present in other starches;
- Food made with tapioca maintains its properties even when frozen;
- The price of tapioca is lower compared to other starches such as corn or potato starch.
So, if tapioca starch makes human food more appetizing, it can certainly improve the properties of pet food. And if you have a picky dog, it may notice the difference!
Tapioca use in dog food
There are many dog foods that utilize tapioca as an ingredient. These products are usually recommended to pets suffering from allergies and needing an alternative to grain starches.
Even if your dog is not suffering from allergies, you may have come across tapioca as a pet food ingredient. Naturally, you may want to find out more about what goes into your canine companion’s food.
Many quality dog food producers are lately avoiding grains and replacing them with tapioca. Originally used in cheaper pet food, tapioca is now the ingredient of choice when it comes to binding agents.
Some pet owners worry about the low nutritional value of tapioca, but remember it is merely a natural food additive. It does contain some nutrients though, such as B vitamins, iron, manganese, and calcium.
Tapioca or any other starch is necessary to improve the properties of dog food. When used in dry dog food, it helps keeping the kibble pieces together. In wet food, it gives a glossy, nice-looking appearance to pet products containing it.
Pet food manufacturers put a great effort into improving the appearance of their products. Consumers expect the food to look in a certain way in terms of texture. They will avoid products that don’t have a commercial aspect, which translates into low sales for the manufacturer.
The mouth feel of the product is also important for the dog, who may like or refuse certain brand products. Small-sized breeds can be pickier than large dogs.
Possible negative reactions to tapioca
Before exploring the negative reactions that your dog may have to tapioca, you need to know its main downside. This ingredient has a very high glycaemic index value, like potatoes and white rice.
What this means is that tapioca raises insulin levels at a fast rate. So, it is not recommended to diabetic or overweight dogs.
Tapioca is not particularly good neither bad for your dog, but may cause certain adverse reactions to some dogs.
Consuming tapioca in large quantities can lead to issues such as diabetes or dental deterioration. This is because tapioca has a high carbohydrate concentration, exceeded only by sugar cane.
Also, too little protein in a dog’s diet and a large percentage of carbohydrates will lead to issues such as:
- Brittle and dry fur;
- Hair loss;
- Skin pigmentation problems;
- Lack of energy and strength;
- Weight loss;
- Bone and muscle development issues;
- Wounds taking a long time to heal.
How much tapioca should your dog eat?
A dog food formula containing tapioca as a primary carbohydrate source can be recommended when your dog is allergic to grains.
However, this doesn’t mean you can load your dog with tapioca or other carbohydrates. Meat and fish ingredients play a vital role in your dog’s diet. They provide biologically appropriate proteins needed for growth and repair.
Unfortunately, carbohydrates make the bulk of many dry dog foods. Some commercial foods can have even more than 50% carbohydrates!
Which is not good for the dog, as pooches don’t require too much carbohydrate in their diet. A dog can survive entirely on protein and fat. Energy metabolism in dogs is obtained from fat oxidation and breakdown of protein.
Carbohydrates are fed to dogs because their digestive tracts accept them. Which means that carbohydrates can be included in a dog’s diet as food additives, but that should ideally be all.
Carbohydrates like tapioca are necessary in pet food processing to ensure the right food texture and structure. The dog can cope with a higher level of carbohydrates, but they are not beneficial for its health. Too many carbohydrates, including tapioca, may cause problems like inflammatory processes in the gut.
So, the answer is dogs should eat just a small amount of tapioca. Ideally it should be the amount necessary to make the food more palatable and maintain its shape.
What about tapioca pudding?
Have you ever been tempted to give your dog tapioca pudding? There are some pets that beg for any food, not just meat.
Tapioca pudding is the most popular dish containing tapioca in the US.
Let’s see if the ingredients in this dish are any way harmful to your furry friend:
- Tapioca – acceptable in low quantities, not harmful;
- Milk – some dogs can be lactose intolerant and get an upset stomach from milk;
- Coconut milk – not harmful to dog and can be given in moderate amounts;
- Sugar – regular consumption of sugar can cause diabetes in dogs;
- Eggs – are good for your dog in moderate quantities;
- Salt – not harmful in small amounts;
- Vanilla essence – acceptable as long it does not contain alcohol, which can poison dogs.
Taking all into consideration, you can feed tapioca pudding to your dog in moderate amounts. However, it is not part of the ideal dog diet. If your dog wants to have some, you can allow it.
Tapioca should never be the primary source of nutrition, neither for dogs or humans. A balanced diet for dogs means a high percentage of protein and fat, plus small amounts of fruit and vegetables. A dog can also eat a small percentage of grains if it is not allergic to them.
On the other hand, that limited source of carbohydrates can also be represented by tapioca. This ingredient can be included in your dog’s diet as a gluten-free source of carbohydrates and as a food additive.
Can dogs eat tapioca? Final answer – yes, in small to medium amounts.