Tapioca is a specific form of starch extracted from cassava roots (South American tuber). It is commercially available in several forms, including flour, pearls, and flakes. Besides being a rich starch source, it has no significant nutritional value. However, its recent popularity is owed to the fact that tapioca is a gluten-free grain option. As far as tapioca use in people is concerned, there are many controversial statements and opinions. But, what about tapioca for dogs?
Can dogs eat tapioca? Yes, dogs can eat tapioca. Tapioca is not toxic or in any way harmful to dogs. Tapioca is a healthy grain used in many commercially available dog food formulas. Even dog parents feeding their dogs’ homemade meals often use tapioca instead of conventional grain-based fillers. However, while tapioca is safe and dog-friendly, it must be noted that it is not a staple food for dogs. As carnivores, dogs need meat-based diets that can occasionally be enriched and balanced with other ingredients, for example, tapioca.
In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about dogs and tapioca. We will review the benefits and potential risks of adding this starchy food to your dog’s menu. We will also go through the different tapioca products and differentiate between the safety of tapioca and highly processed tapioca derivatives and food items.
TAPIOCA – WHAT IS IT, AND WHAT IS IT USED FOR?
There can be different tapioca production methods based on where you live, but they are usually based on squeezing the starchy liquid from ground cassava roots. Then, once the starchy liquid is extracted, it is left and allowed the liquid portion to evaporate. The powder left after all water is evaporated is the actual tapioca product.
The tapioca can be used in a powdered form or further processed in pearls or flakes. The most popular form is the pearls used in popular desserts like bubble tea and puddings.
Tapioca products are dehydrated products, meaning they will have to be mixed with water or other liquid before consumption. After being soaked, tapioca doubles in size, becomes translucent and gains a leathery texture.
It should be noted that tapioca is cassava flours are often mistaken, and the terms are used interchangeably, but this is wrong. Namely, as we explained, tapioca flour is made when the starchy liquid from cassava roots is extracted and dehydrated. On the other hand, cassava flour is made simply by grounding the cassava roots.
HEALTH BENEFITS: IS TAPIOCA GOOD FOR DOGS?
The health benefits of tapioca are a widely disputed topic. While some nutritionists claim it is a nutritionally poor and cheap filler, others claim its use can be associated with many health benefits. Although there are no proven specifics regarding these claims, the following features are true and can easily be seen as health benefits.
The third-largest source of carbs
Tapioca is the third-largest source of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the primary energy source – they boost and fuel the organism and enable many bodily functions.
Carbohydrates are a particularly important food group for overly active dogs – working dogs and dogs engaged in canine sports. However, tapioca is a healthy choice for all dogs needing an abundance of energy to fuel their daily activities.
Tapioca became widely popular after the gluten intolerance craze in both humans and dogs. Although gluten intolerance in dogs is not nearly as prevalent as in humans, some dogs are sensitive to this nutrient.
A dog with gluten intolerance will be prevented from eating a wide array of healthy and beneficial grains. This is where tapioca can play an important role – it is a valuable grain suited for dogs with gluten intolerances.
Some calcium manganese and iron
Aside from starch, tapioca does not have many nutrients. However, it has certain levels of minerals like calcium, manganese, and iron.
Calcium is important to maintain strong bones and teeth. Manganese helps the formation of connective tissues, certain blood clotting factors, and sex hormones. Iron is vital for building hemoglobin and transporting oxygen, thus strengthening the blood.
HEALTH RISKS: IS TAPIOCA BAD FOR DOGS?
Considering the questionable reputation of tapioca, it would only be fair to go through the health risks, as we did with the benefits. However, it is worth mentioning that some of the potential issues listed below should be considered only if tapioca is fed to dogs in substantial amounts or too frequently.
Tapioca is nothing but starches.
In the previous section, we mentioned that tapioca is the third largest carbohydrate source. While from one point of view this can be considered a benefit, from another it is a downside.
Namely, eating tapioca can quickly lead to unnecessary weight gain and cause obesity associated with various life-threatening conditions. In addition, sugary foods also increase the risk of diabetes.
Additionally, by bulking your dog with tapioca, you are depriving it of other foods with more diverse nutritional profiles.
High glycemic index
As noted, tapioca is nothing more than a starch source. Therefore, tapioca has a high glycemic index. The glycemic index determines how certain fast foods release their sugars into the bloodstream.
Foods with high glycemic indexes are linked with fast and sudden releases, while foods with low glycemic indexes with slow and gradual indexes.
Because of its high glycemic index, tapioca is not suited for dogs with diabetes. In addition, after being consumed, it will cause a sudden blood sugar spike which in diabetic dogs can have a lethal outcome.
The cassava root contains high levels of cyanogenic glycosides or, simply put, cyanide. As a result, manufacturers use a series of detoxification methods to remove this powerful toxin, including soaking, drying, and scraping.
Tapioca products are processed cassava which means they will not contain harmful cyanide. However, since the terms tapioca and cassava are often used interchangeably, the cyanide poisoning risk is worth mentioning.
Cyanide poisoning in dogs is a life-threatening condition. Clinically, it manifests with vomiting, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, arrhythmia, severe skin irritations, and coma. There are available antidotes, but vets will also use oxygen therapy, intravenous fluids, and supportive care to treat intoxicated dogs.
The cassava plant part used for tapioca production is the root. Considering how deep into the ground this root grows, it is safe to assume it is prone to many insects and pests. Therefore, to prevent these pests from damaging the cassava roots, roots grown for commercial purposes are heavily treated with pesticides.
The problem is that many pesticides can be absorbed into the root and remain present at consumption. As a result, they are harmless but following more regular use in small amounts, and they can cause certain long-term problems.
This potential health risk can be avoided by purchasing organic tapioca. However, the organic version is not readily available and usually comes at a much higher price.
Tapioca allergic reactions
Tapioca allergy is not a frequently seen problem in dogs. Although certain grains can be problematic, tapioca is rarely an issue. However, there is always the risk of this starchy product causing an allergic reaction in an overly sensitive dog.
Suppose a dog develops an allergic reaction to tapioca. In that case, it can either show signs of gastrointestinal irritation (vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, lack of appetite) or skin issues (itching, skin flaking, hair loss, and ear infections).
CAN DOGS EAT TAPIOCA PEARLS?
Yes, dogs can eat tapioca pearls. However, there is one caveat – they should not be used in excessive amounts or too frequently as they can cause stomach aches or intestinal issues. Both problems will likely result in vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, dehydration, and lethargy.
One more thing that needs to be considered before serving your dog tapioca pearls is the risk of choking. Dogs are very zealous eaters and often gulp down on food fast and without chewing. Because the tapioca pearl has a gliding and slippery surface, it can easily end up in the wrong pipe and cause choking.
Choking is a life-threatening emergency in dogs and requires first aid. As a responsible dog owner, you need to be familiar with the Heimlich maneuver for dogs.
CAN DOGS EAT TAPIOCA STARCH?
Yes, dogs can eat tapioca starch. This is because tapioca starch and flour are the same product.
However, when tapioca starch shopping, make sure you read the ingredients and the production process carefully. This is because many manufacturers state tapioca starch or flour while actually selling cassava starch or flour.
The interchangeable use of these terms can be confusing, especially since cassava is associated with some major health concerns in both dogs and humans.
CAN DOGS EAT TAPIOCA FLOUR?
Yes, dogs can eat tapioca flours. However, it goes without saying that the flour needs to be incorporated into something, for example, dog-friendly and homemade cookies.
Tapioca flour is basically made by finely grounding the tapioca or cassava root. It is originally used as a thickener for fillings, sauces, and gravies. It can also be mixed with regular white flour.
It is safe and healthy when it comes to dogs, especially if your dog has an upset tummy and diarrhea. In addition, because of its thickening properties, tapioca flour can help strengthen your dog’s stool.
Finally, it must be mentioned that the use of tapioca flour in dogs needs to be limited. Dogs are not supposed to eat too much baked goods and foods with high starch amounts.
CAN DOGS EAT TAPIOCA PUDDING?
No, dogs should not eat tapioca pudding. Although the main ingredient in tapioca pudding, the tapioca itself is safe for dogs, the rest are not.
Tapioca pudding is made of tapioca, milk (regular, coconut, or other lactose-free milk alternatives), sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. The potentially troublesome ingredients are milk, sugar, and vanilla extract.
Many dogs are lactose intolerant. Lactose is the main sugar found in cow’s milk. When exposed to lactose, lactose intolerant dogs develop severe gastrointestinal upset manifested with bouts of profuse diarrhea, excessive flatulence, and abdominal pain.
As for sugars, it is a well-known fact that sugars are not suited for dogs. Simply put, the dog’s digestive system is not equipped for digesting sugars, and if fed in excess, they can lead to obesity and increase the risk of developing diabetes.
Another concern will be if the pudding recipe uses artificial sweeteners instead of conventional sugar. The most popular artificial sweetener is xylitol. Sadly, xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs, and dogs that eat xylitol require urgent veterinary attention.
A dog experiencing xylitol poisoning will exhibit the following signs and symptoms: extremely low blood sugar levels, lethargy, excessive drooling, vomiting, staggering, ataxia (lack of coordination), seizures, liver damage, and collapse.
Sadly there is no antidote for xylitol. Once admitted to the vet clinic, the dog will be put on intravenous fluids (including dextrose to compensate for the low sugar levels) and provide supportive care (especially liver protectants).
To monitor the condition, the dog will probably be hospitalized for a couple of days. In less severe cases, if there are no clinical signs yet, the vet will induce vomiting to eliminate the toxin. However, close monitoring will still be warranted.
Finally, most vanilla extracts contain alcohol. Alcohol is toxic to dogs (similarly like it is for humans). However, the amount of alcohol in the tapioca pudding vanilla extract is usually too low to cause intoxication.
CAN DOGS EAT COOKED TAPIOCA?
Yes, dogs can eat tapioca. Cooked tapioca, as the name suggests for itself, is tapioca prepared through cooking on the stove. Since both tapioca and stove cooking are dog-friendly options, it is safe to assume that cooked tapioca is also safe for dogs.
Cooked tapioca for dogs can be mixed with tasty meat as a protein source and cooked veggies as a vitamin-mineral source to form a complete and nutritionally balanced meal.
Because of its high-carb content, cooked tapioca should not be part of your dog’s daily menu. Instead, you can keep this recipe as a delicacy and serve it on special occasions.
CAN DOGS EAT TAPIOCA CHIPS?
No, dogs cannot eat tapioca chips. Sadly, sharing your favorite snacks with your dog is not the best idea. Chips are generally considered a non-dog-friendly food regardless of whether they are made of traditional potatoes or cassava (tapioca).
Although the tapioca itself is safe and even beneficial to dogs, the thinly sliced and deep-fried chips variety is not. There are three reasons why tapioca chips are a no-go for dogs.
First, deep-frying is not a natural way of preparing dog food. Second, the excess oil can be detrimental to the dog’s health in the short and long run. In the short run, oily foods are likely to trigger gastrointestinal upsets manifested with vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, abdominal pain, lethargy, and dehydration.
In the long run, eating high-fat foods is associated with an increased risk of pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a particularly painful inflammation of the pancreas which can have lethal consequences.
The second concern is the salt content. As with any other chips, most tapioca chips are packed with excessive salt amounts. If consumed in larger amounts, salt is toxic to dogs. Salt poisoning in dogs manifests with vomiting, diarrhea, drunken walk, appetite loss, excessive thirst, frequent urination, kidney damage, tremors, seizures, and coma. In more severe cases, salt poisoning in dogs can be fatal.
Dogs with salt poisoning require immediate veterinary attention and need to be hospitalized until stabilization is achieved. There is no specific treatment – only intravenous fluids and supportive care.
The last concern regarding tapioca chips is the spices used to enhance the overall flavor. Spices are not suited for dogs, and if ingested in larger amounts in addition to the general gastrointestinal upset, they can cause severe ulcers or perforations along the lining of the digestive system.
CAN DOGS EAT BOBA?
Yes, dogs can eat boba. In fact, the term boba refers to cassava starch balls. However, their intake needs to be carefully limited because making boba requires adding sugars during the cooking process.
Considering that the balls are already high in sugars, the added content is not a very dog-friendly option, especially for diabetic dogs. However, healthy dogs can occasionally enjoy these sweet and smooth starch balls.
CAN DOGS EAT BOBA PEARLS?
Yes, dogs can eat boba pearls. Interestingly, tapioca pearls and boba pearls are the same product. The main concern about these products is the added sugar which can trigger health issues, especially in overweight and obese dogs. Because of the sugar content, it is advisable to refrain from serving boba pearls to your dog if diagnosed with diabetes.
CAN DOGS DRINK BUBBLE TEA?
No, dogs cannot drink bubble tea. This cool and refreshing drink is not classified as dog-friendly for various reasons.
Bubble tea is made by mixing tea base with milk, fruits, and of course, the signature tapioca pearls. So, what makes bubble tea non-fit for dogs?
First of all, the main problem is the basic ingredient – the tea. Tea contains caffeine, and caffeine is toxic to dogs. Although the amount of tea a dog would have to drink to develop caffeine toxicity is quite large, the risk is always present and worth mentioning.
A dog with caffeine poisoning will exhibit vomiting, drooling, panting, agitation, hyperactivity, and restlessness. If the dog is brought to the clinic promptly, the vet may induce vomiting. Still, if there are already visible intoxication signs, the vet will have to skip the vomiting induction part and proceed with intravenous fluids and supportive care.
Another troublesome ingredient in bubble tea would be milk. Dogs can drink vegan milk alternatives (soy or oat milk), but they cannot drink regular milk (cow’s milk) because the lactose found in this milk is associated with severe gastrointestinal upsets.
Finally, the pearls themselves can be tricky. Namely, if eaten in larger amounts, tapioca pearls can cause tummy troubles (in both dogs and people).
CAN DOGS EAT BURSTING BOBA?
No, bursting boba is a no-go for dogs. Bursting boba is tasty, flamboyant, and definitely fun but sadly is not something you can safely share with your canine friend.
Bursting boba contains water, seaweed extract, fruit juice, added sugars, malic acid, calcium lactate, potassium sorbate, and fruit flavorings. From this short recipe, we can see that bursting boba is made solely from sugars and food additives – flavor enhancers and preservatives. The only good ingredient is seaweed, and since it is used in an extract form, it is not sufficient to achieve any benefits.
Sugars and dogs are not a good combination because they can lead to obesity and increase the risk of diabetes. On the other hand, most food additives are associated with long-term consequences such as high cancer risk.
CAN DOGS EAT STRAWBERRY BOBA?
No, dogs cannot eat strawberry boba. Strawberry boba is a form of bursting or popping boba with added sugar, water, and strawberry juice.
As with many boba products, the high sugar content is the first red flag. Not to mention that instead of regular sugar, some manufacturers may use the previously mentioned and highly toxic xylitol.
The added strawberry juice will contain plenty of sugars on its own and various food preservatives and artificial flavorings.
Finally, because of their spherical form and gel-like consistency, strawberry pearls pose a choking hazard, especially for overzealous dogs with a sweet tooth.
All in all, dogs can eat tapioca moderately and occasionally. When prepared properly and served reasonably, tapioca is a beneficial addition to an otherwise complete and nutritionally balanced dog diet.
However, while tapioca is safe, many processed tapioca-containing products are not. If you are not sure whether some tapioca product is safe for your dog, it is best advised to refrain from offering it. Some of these products are not dog-friendly because of how the tapioca is prepared and others because of the added ingredients.
It is recommended to always consult with your vet before adding something new to your dog’s menu, especially if it has a chronic medical issue that warrants specific dietary requirements. If the vet approves the use of tapioca, keep in mind that same as any other new food, it needs to be implemented gradually, starting with smaller amounts.