Choosing the right dog food has always been a critical part of every dog owner’s life.
You have to make sure that your choice of food is safe to eat for your dog, that is it doesn’t cause any illness or diseases for your dog and doesn’t cause any allergic reaction, is delicious for your dog, to keep him happy of course, and lastly, you have to ensure that your dog gets the necessary nutrients it needs from consuming the said meal.
Cassava has been one of such meals, so before you decide to include it as part of your dog’s diet. It is essential to know whether it is the right option for your canine.
Before I talk about whether or not it is an excellent decision to include it in your dog’s meal, it is essential to know what cassava itself is, what ingredients it has and how it affects your dog, and also how you plan to introduce it to your dog, are you looking to feed your dog a homemade diet? And you want a cheap source of carbohydrates?
Or you plan to make it a staple carbohydrate in their everyday meal?
All these and more will be discussed as you read this article.
What is cassava?
Cassava (manihot esculenta) is a root vegetable, majorly cultivated in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world.
The largest producer of cassava is Nigeria, while the largest exporter is Thailand. It is a major source of diet worldwide, and it is consumed in many forms after processing.
Cassava is the third-largest source of carbohydrates after rice and maize in the tropics. It is a major staple food in developing countries as over half a billion people depend on it as their primary diet.
Cassava in its raw form contains toxins that are dangerous for both human and dog consumption; therefore, it must be well processed before this perennial crop can be considered safe to eat.
Poor preparation can cause adverse effects like cyanide intoxication, ataxia, goitres, paralysis or even death.
Cassava vs. yuca vs tapioca. How are they the same and different?
Yuca, not to be confused with yucca (a shrub in the Asparagaceae family), is one of the many regional names given to cassava, so they tend to be used interchangeably.
Cassava is, however, not the same as tapioca, although people tend to make that mistake a lot. The tapioca is the starch extracted from cassava tuber, so it can also be called cassava starch.
The cassava flour and the tapioca flour are pretty different in the sense that there is no fibre present in the tapioca; the fibre has been removed during processing while the cassava flour includes both the starch and the fibre; basically, the tuber as a whole, dried and grounded.
Tapioca is consumed in lots of ways by humans, but for dogs, it’s often used as a source of carbohydrate in grain-free dog foods.
How nutritious is cassava?
The cassava contains little in terms of nutrients, which is why it is often called a low-grade filler for dogs.
A 100 gram serving of cooked cassava contains a total of 191 calories, which contains 82% of carbs, 14% fat and just 3% of protein. It also contains some small levels of minerals. Calcium (1%), iron (2%) and potassium (6%). Small traces of vitamin A, B6, C, E and K are also present but are very small.
It’s disappointing, but all the nutritional value that cassava provides are just starch and carbs.
Why is tapioca used in commercial dog food?
I’m sure this would be the question on your mind. “If tapioca isn’t nutritional, then why is it being used in commercial foods?” but the answer surprisingly is in the question. Tapioca contains little in terms of nutritional value.
Therefore, it allows for flexibility in creating recipes with specific nutritional profiles. This is a good thing for dogs who require specific nutrient levels in their food. The dog owner can easily introduce the needed nutrients and add tapioca as filler for the dog.
This is also great for dogs who require little protein in their diets, as tapioca provides close to nothing in protein.
Lack of protein in tapioca also means that it isn’t considered a source of food sensitivity or a potential allergen, making it great for dogs with adverse food reactions, especially for dogs having problems with grains.
The use of tapioca has been on the rise mainly because it adds bulk to kibble and wet food, which helps to determine satisfaction in dogs, especially small breed dogs.
Tapioca is also a great source of energy for your dog as it helps your dog maintain constant digestion by acting like fibre.
When is cassava toxic to dogs?
While tapioca is an excellent choice of diet when taken as part of a larger meal. Raw cassava, however, is harmful and toxic to your dog when consumed.
This due to the presence of chemicals called cyanogenic glycosides in raw cassava, which releases cyanide into the body when consumed.
Frequent consumption of raw cassava or badly processed tapioca can cause cyanide poisoning and even the death of your dog.
Although tapioca is a good choice when it comes to managing your dog’s allergies, it is, however, not a great choice as a staple food.
This is because it has a high glycemic index which raises your dog’s blood sugar and insulin levels.
And of course, for the same reason, tapioca is a bad choice for overweight dogs and dogs with diabetes.
What are more nutritious forms of carbs and why?
Carbs make up about 70% of dogs food. They are a great source of energy for your dog, and the fibre in them aids digestion in your dog.
It’s important to know, however, that carbs themselves do not possess and nutritional value in your dog, but the fact that they are surplus and do not spoil quickly, coupled with the fact that they make your dog fuller, has made them a preferred choice in dog’s food.
However, when choosing the proper carb diet for your dogs, the best choice is to go for complex carbs over simple carbs.
This is because simple carbs are immediately converted to energy (glucose), and if the energy is not used up soon by the dog, it gets converted to fat and stored in your dog’s body, thereby causing weight gain, which may lead to obesity in your dog.
Complex carbs, however, are converted to energy much slower, which makes them easier to burn.
They take time to digest, which makes them more filling, and they are great options for weight control.
They are also packed with nutrients like fibre, minerals and vitamins, essential for your dog’s body overall nutrition.
Examples of complex carbs are oats, Brown rice, sweet potato, barley, whole corn, whole wheat, millet, etc.
How should you prepare (cook) cassava for dogs?
When preparing cassava for your dog, you must peel the cassava as it contains great levels of cyanogenic glycosides.
It is never to be eaten raw as it contains cyanide which is dangerous for your dog unless you cook it thoroughly before eating it. Follow these steps when cooking cassava:
- Peel the cassava root
- Slice it into small pieces
- Soak slices pieces in water: this removes up to half of the cyanide level
- Boil until it is tender and very well cooked: if well cooked, it can eliminate all toxicity in the cassava.
- Pour away the cooking water.
It is important to note that bitter cassava varieties contain more cyanide than sweet varieties; therefore, they may need to be grated, pounded and soaked in water before boiling extensively to ensure that the harmful chemicals are well reduced.
Is tapioca a good food for a dog with kidney disease, and why?
Yes, and for a very good reason. Low Protein Diets (LPDs) such as tapioca have been a better meal choice for dogs with kidney disease over the years.
This is because protein consumption increases its workload significantly as it works to clear out the metabolites of protein from your dog’s body.
The consumption of protein is insignificant regarding its effects on the kidney of healthy dogs. However, for dogs with kidney diseases, the increased strain on the kidney causes it to get more damaged.
Therefore it is advised that patients with kidney diseases eat LSDs to rest their kidneys. The presence of plant protein is also a better choice than that of animal protein as it is less stress on the kidney.
What other vegetables are toxic to dogs?
Although there are lots of human foods that are perfectly safe and healthy for your dog to eat, you must, however, look out for some of the few ones that are potentially dangerous for your dog to ensure that your dog doesn’t suffer from it over time.
A wrong choice of vegetable, and you may be spelling long term illnesses for your dog or death as they may be toxic to your dog.
Mushrooms and onions can be poisonous for your dog.
They can cause rupturing of the red blood cells, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain, and nausea in your dog and even death. Also, vegetables like spinach, and broccoli, though safe to eat in small quantities, can be potentially dangerous when taken in large quantities.
Spinach can lead to kidney damage and while broccoli can lead to mild to severe gastric irritation when taken in large quantities.
When it comes to your dog’s health, consumption of cassava cannot be said to be safe or unsafe for your dog as it depends on several factors and degree of consumption. However, large consumption of cassava over a long period can be harmful and toxic for your dog, so careful consumption is essential. Your dog’s health is of paramount importance; take care of it.