If your dog has got tummy troubles, then you probably want to know how to help him. A quick google search or chat with a fellow dog owner might suggest that a change in diet could help. One of the most recommended things to try is chicken and rice. Some vets will also advise the same, but is there any evidence to suggest that this is the best thing to speed your pet’s recovery along? Let’s explore this.

Stomach upsets in dogs

Firstly, it’s important to remember that there are many reasons that dogs can develop an upset stomach. Diarrhoea can also vary in severity from slightly sloppy faeces to profuse watery stools. Dogs can remain well and maintain a good appetite, or they could be lethargic, off their food and in pain.

A change of diet may be suitable in some of these situations, but sometimes investigations and medication are best, to stop your dog’s condition from getting worse. This is why it is important to speak to a vet in the first instance if you have any concerns about your pet’s tummy troubles.

Here are some examples of the variety of causes of diarrhoea in dogs –

  • Dietary indiscretion (scavenging and eating things they shouldn’t)
  • Parasite infections 
  • Bacterial and viral infections 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease 
  • Dietary sensitivities or allergies
  • Pancreatitis (Inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Hormonal conditions 
  • Cancer 
  • Medication side effects 

Why is chicken and rice often advised?

The first thing many people reach for when their dog has digestive upset is cooked chicken breast (with the fatty skin removed) and plain cooked rice. This bland, low-fat diet contains no hidden ingredients or anything that could further irritate the already inflamed lining of the digestive tract. It is a low residue option, which is another way of saying it is low in fibre and therefore highly digestible.

Another advantage of this diet is that dogs that are feeling a bit off colour may be tempted back into eating when offered cooked chicken meat, over their normal dry kibble.

This all makes sense, as when we are suffering from tummy troubles we will tend to naturally stick to simple bland foods, like toast. Not many people will continue eating greasy, fatty meals or full roast dinners!

However, there is a lack of solid evidence to support the use of chicken and rice. Simply put, no one has done a study into this diet change to prove its effectiveness. Many cases of simple stomach upset in dogs may improve without intervention anyway. More research is needed to prove whether there is a benefit to swapping dogs onto chicken and rice.  

While chicken and rice is an option for short-term use, it should not be fed as a long-term diet and would never be recommended in this circumstance. It is not a complete food and will be lacking in essential nutrients such as iron, fibre and calcium. It is also common for owners to accidentally underfeed their dogs. This means that their pet could lose weight when given it longer term. Chicken and rice is just not as energy-dense as normal complete dry food.

Some animals may have a food sensitivity meaning they are intolerant, or even allergic, to certain ingredients. Beef, milk and chicken are among some of the most common triggers (and we’ve even seen dogs who were allergic to rice… – Ed.). In this instance, chicken and rice would definitely not be helpful and could make problems worse!

In some illnesses, chicken and rice can help to temporarily improve your dog’s condition, but it is not curative. For example, a dog with an underlying parasite infection may get moderately better on a more digestible bland food diet. However, the only way they will actually be cured is by receiving appropriate anti-parasite medication. So, if your dog’s upset stomach keeps relapsing and never completely resolves, then something more than chicken and rice is needed. Just continuing to feed your dog this diet for longer is unlikely to make a difference and wouldn’t be advised.

So, is chicken and rice the best thing to feed if my dog has an upset stomach?

Certainly, chicken and rice has its place, and will not harm most dogs with a simple stomach upset. The ingredients are often readily available as most owners have them at home already. It may also tempt some dogs into regaining their appetite again which is helpful. However, there are other options available for dogs with digestive trouble.

Many vets and pet shops sell prescription sensitivity or gastrointestinal diets. These are perfect for both short-term and long-term use. They have been formulated by qualified veterinary nutritionists to be highly digestible at the same time as providing all of the essential nutrients your pet needs. The other advantage of these diets is they come with feeding guidelines on the packaging meaning that it is easy to work out how much of the food your pet needs, which will help prevent underfeeding.

The only notable downsides of feeding this type of food are that they can be expensive for budget-conscious clients, and they may not be quite as appealing to a dog that is off their food as cooked chicken breast is.

Some owners also find a probiotic supplement helpful, to give their dog’s friendly gut bacteria a boost which can aid with digestion, so this is something you can discuss with your vet too.


In many cases, chicken and rice can be useful. However, it has its limitations and may not help in every single case of diarrhoea. This is why it is important to get your dog checked over by your vet if you are worried about them. Further investigation may help to work out what the underlying cause of your dog’s upset stomach is and therefore what the best diet and/or treatment is.

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