If you’re researching Tapioca in dog food, then you’re probably struggling to cope with your dog’s allergies and searching for an alternative to Peas, Potatoes, or Grain Ingredients.
Alternatively, your dog isn’t suffering from allergies, but you’ve come across Tapioca on an ingredient list, and it has peaked your curiosity, and you want to find out more.
In the case of attempting to combat allergies, it can be a stressful and confusing time for you and upsetting to see your dog suffering the consequences.
Whether your dog is experiencing stomach, skin, or other issues, a dietary solution to improve your dog’s health could be the best way to go (under veterinary supervision, of course).
Researching the topic is overwhelming – ask any of your dog-owning friends, and they are all likely to tell you a different experience! Surely it doesn’t need to be this complicated to find the best food for your dog?
See our Hypoallergenic Dog Food Guide for just a taste of the complexity of allergies and intolerances for dogs.
Many premium dog foods are now vehemently avoiding grains due to public opinion and consumer knowledge and instead looking towards ingredients like Tapioca.
Tapioca is fast becoming the ingredient of choice and often replaces ingredients such as Potato Starch as a binding and fiber agent. But is Tapioca a nutritious ingredient in dog food, and more importantly, is it suitable for a dog’s diet?
Let’s break down all the facts and information you need to know about Tapioca as a carbohydrate-providing ingredient in dog food.
What Is Tapioca?
Tapioca is a starchy vegetable extracted from the root of the Cassava plant. If you’ve never heard of Cassava before, it is because it’s found in South America and is not commonly seen in Europe or North America.
Tapioca is very popular and is used in a number of ways in South America, such as in the production of alcohol, the make baked goods such as bread, cookies, and cakes, and in some cases, to produce biofuel for cars and generators.
As we hinted at earlier, the reason Tapioca is an exciting ingredient to those of us researching ingredients in dog food is that it is being used more and more in premium foods as an alternative to low-quality grains or common ingredients that often cause allergies.
If your dog has a problem with grains, then Tapioca may be an option alongside other starches like Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes.
Tapioca – Nutrition
You won’t find a significant portion of fat or protein in Tapioca. Instead, it is present in dog food as a source of complex carbohydrates and as a binding agent.
While dogs certainly do not need excessive levels of carbohydrates, a modest sum is perfectly acceptable and should not be frowned upon. For this purpose, the complex carbohydrates provided by Tapioca can fulfill this need with ease.
Sadly, as a starch ingredient, Tapioca doesn’t supply many of the vitamins that your dog will require. However, it does provide some micronutrients, including a mix of B Vitamins such as Folate and Vitamin B6.
Tapioca is better known for its mineral content, as Tapioca is an excellent source of iron, manganese, and calcium. These minerals are important for the production of red blood cells and for healthy bones.
Tapioca, like Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes, is a drastically different source of carbohydrates when compared to both grains and legumes, which can allow it to be an excellent option in specialist diets.
However, one downside of Tapioca is that it has a very high glycaemic index value, similar to that of White Rice or Potatoes.
A high glycaemic index means it raises a dog’s or humans insulin levels at a fast rate and so must not be given to dogs that are diabetic or overweight as it could have a detrimental effect on their health.
While the importance of the glycemic index of ingredients is often misunderstood or exaggerated, this is worth noting.
An important follow-up to this point is for you to understand that dogs are not naturally allergic or intolerant of grains, legumes or white potatoes, or any other vegetable ingredient.
As a consequence, it is likely that your dog could eat a diet containing any of the mentioned ingredients without any negative effects.
While some may argue all grains are poor-quality ingredients, whole grains such as Brown Rice and Oatmeal are reasonable dog food ingredients and shouldn’t be painted in the same negative light as other grains like Corn or Wheat.
Therefore it wouldn’t be recommended to seek out a Tapioca based dog food without good reason.
Tapioca As A Binding Agent
A binding agent is an essential component of dry dog food as it is the glue that keeps the kibble pieces uniform and in their desired shape.
While realistically, the shape and texture of your dog food aren’t incredibly important, consumers are used to aesthetically pleasing small brown pieces, and as a consequence, dog food manufacturers put significant effort into maintaining this appearance.
There are a number of binding agents used in dog food. Examples include animal fats, egg products, and starches. Tapioca falls under the last of those examples.
Traditionally Potato Starch is the most common starch used as a binding agent, but as Potato continues to be frowned upon or avoided for dogs with allergies, Tapioca starch has started to see use.
Should Tapioca Be In Dog Food?
The primary reason that Tapioca is being used more commonly as a dog food ingredient is that it adds bulk to kibble, as well as wet food, and helps create a satisfying and uniform texture and shape.
It’s also a dense energy source, and it acts like fiber which helps your dog maintain consistent digestion.
However, it doesn’t add very much else beyond these factors – and you should want your dog food to be very high in natural, meat-based proteins rather than any other ingredients.
As Tapioca doesn’t offer much nutrition past its carbohydrate content, some experts say its place is in cheap, low-quality dog food and nothing else. But the significant benefit is in its use in specialist dog food diets for those with severe allergies or sensitivities.
Here’s where tapioca comes into its own. Because most dogs won’t have come across Tapioca in their lifetimes as it’s so unusual, it’s unlikely to trigger an allergic reaction.
Potatoes, on the other hand, while a reasonable option for dogs with a grain or legume allergy, is another possible trigger for further undiagnosed food allergies as their use is more widespread and most dogs will have been previously exposed.
If you’re looking to take all of the possible triggers away from your dog’s daily kibble or wet food, then, by all means, choose a grain-free recipe with Tapioca added.
Ensure that meat is at the top of the list of ingredients and that tapioca is not there in place of vegetables that provide essential nutrients.
Is Tapioca The Best Carbohydrate Ingredient For My Dog’s Diet?
If you need to put your dog on a specialist diet, then you should strongly consider a dog food formula that uses Tapioca as its primary carbohydrate source.
If, however, your dog does not have an adverse reaction to more traditional carbohydrate-providing ingredients, like Peas, Chickpeas, or Sweet Potatoes, then it’s probably more worthwhile spending the additional time and money selecting a dog food that contains a high proportion of high-quality meat and fish ingredients.
These meat and fish ingredients are the most critical aspect of your dog’s diet and provide the easily digested and biologically appropriate protein and fat that your dog so desperately needs for growth, repair, and maintenance.
Sadly, Tapioca brings no additional benefits regarding vitamins and minerals over alternative starches or vegetable ingredients, and the high GI levels in tapioca mean there is a higher risk of insulin issues such as diabetes. That could be reason enough to focus elsewhere on your search for a perfectly-balanced diet.
Which Dog Foods Contain Tapioca?
The list of dog food brands making use of Tapioca has been growing steadily over the last decade, and we believe it will continue to grow in the future.
Some well-known examples of brands utilizing Tapioca in their recipes include American Journey, Blue Buffalo, Earthborn Holistic, Go!, Instinct, Merrick, Natural Balance, Rachael Ray Nutrish, Solid Gold, and Wellness.
While researching the use of different ingredients in dog food recipes, we found that only five of the 100 most popular dry dog food recipes on Chewy.com contained Tapioca which is less than we expected.
Despite this, there are still thousands of unique recipes that contain some form of Tapioca.
You can see a prime example of the use of Tapioca in dog food recipes in the below ingredient list of Rachael Ray Nutrish’s Peak Open Prairie Recipe.
As you can see, in this recipe Tapioca is one of several plant-based ingredients like Potatoes and Peas that are present to provide carbohydrates and fiber.
However, you can also see an example of where Tapioca is used as a binding agent in the below ingredient list of Nutro’s Hearty Stew Tender Chicken, Carrot & Pea Stew.
This makes perfect sense when you understand its purpose to bind ingredients together rather than provide nutrition.