Tapioca in dog food as novel starch source

Why use tapioca in dog food?

Tapioca in dog food can be advantageous in certain cases. I'll explain further down what tapioca exactly is, but let's first see why you want to know this anyway.

Suitable candidate for allergic dog diets

Tapioca can be used as an alternative source for carbohydrates. Compared to grains, tapioca has a simple molecular structure. It's just starch - a combination of amylase and amylopectin that forms the granule structure. Well, almost as a very small percentage (about 1%) consists of protein, ash, fat and fiber. Just remember that tapioca is gluten free and virtually devoid of protein.

Because of these characteristics tapioca is a good candidate for the carbohydrate source in the diet of an food-allergic dog.

A lot of no grain dog foods use potatoes as source for carbohydrates, though dogs can develop an allergy to potatoes as well. In those cases here's your alternative. No canine allergies to tapioca have been reported… thus far.

What is tapioca?

Tapioca is the extracted and purified starch from the root of the plant Manihot esculenta (see pictures below). This plant is native to South America and is now cultivated world wide under different names (cassava, kappa, sagudana, manioc, bot nang, boba, yuca (not to be confused with yucca)). In Western literature the name 'cassava' is most often used.

tapioca for dog food [Photo attribution: David Monniaux and Niels Elgaard Larsen]

Tapica is frequently associated with dessert puddings in the US, though it can be used for different types of meals.

Toxic components of this plant

You should not eat the leaves and stem of this plant. It contains cyanogenic glucosides (cyanide) that upon ingestion can result in pancreatitis, paralysis and death.

In the commercial production of tapioca, all cyanide compounds are removed using several refining steps involving water washed and physical separation based on differential density.

Tapioca in dog food is relatively new

Though tapioca is a common ingredient in our kitchen, it's usually novel to our canine friends. It has begin to find its way into no-grain and "elimination diets". So far, no negatives have been reported: no allergies, good pallatability, high digestibility and firm stool. [Ref: Carciofi et al., 2008. de-Oliveira et al. 2009].

Tapioca expands very well in extrusion: up to 2-3 times as compared to a rice-containing diet.

Examples of use of tapioca in dog food

  • The Instinct Meal Formulas by Nature's Variety have tapioca listed within the first 5 ingredients.
  • Royal Canin Canine Sensitivity Control (an elimination diet) contains tapioca to reduce the risk of allergic reaction.

At this moment it's very unlikely that your dog is allergic to tapioca, since it's so rarely used in dog food.

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