The Benefits (and Risks) of Pumpkin for Dogs

. 4 min read

You might have heard of dog owners using pumpkin as a remedy for a number of gastrointestinal maladies—everything from diarrhea to constipation—but is pumpkin safe for dogs? In most cases, yes, pumpkin can be a healthy part of a dog’s balanced diet. With its naturally-occurring fiber and rich concentration of vitamins, pumpkin has a myriad of benefits for your pup. However, as is the case with any ingredient you add to your dog’s food bowl, there are some pumpkin-y precautions you need to keep in mind.

Benefits of Pumpkin for Dogs

In most cases, a pumpkin can make a healthy dog even healthier. The popular squash is low in calories to ward off obesity and high in fiber to promote a strong digestive system. Pumpkin is a good source of carbohydrates, which provide your dog with instant energy.

The vitamins and minerals in the orange fruit (pumpkin is not technically a vegetable) provide great benefits for your pup as well. Pumpkins are rich in carotenoids, vitamin E, iron, and potassium. Carotenoids encourage skin health and eye health, while vitamin E acts as an anti-inflammatory and helps with heart function. Iron encourages the production of hemoglobin, and potassium ensures that muscles and nerves work properly.

These benefits of pumpkin for dogs is why Ollie adds pumpkin to its human-grade dog food. The Healthy Turkey Feast combines cranberries with ingredients like ground turkey, kale, lentils, and coconut oil.

What Kind of Pumpkin Can Dogs Eat?

Canned, cooked, and pureed pumpkin in its purest form (with absolutely no additives) is the easiest way to serve your dog some squash. Alternatively, pumpkin can be seeded and steamed at home—although this requires some elbow grease.

Raw pumpkin is safe for dogs as well, but it’s best to test this in small quantities as the roughage can be tough on a dog’s digestive tract. If you’re feeding your dog raw pumpkin, take care to remove the stem, which splinters easily and can cause damage or obstruction on the way down. Never feed your dog pumpkin pie mix. The sugar and spices aren’t part of a dog’s healthy diet, and if the mixture contains xylitol, it can be toxic.

Risks of Pumpkin for Dogs

Ollie’s dog food meets the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for All Life Stages, which means a proper amount of pumpkin is balanced with other ingredients. However, if you are feeding your dog at home, too much pumpkin isn’t a good thing. An excess of fiber in a dog’s diet can cause digestive distress and inhibit the absorption of other nutrients in his food. Additionally, the vitamin A found in pumpkins can turn deadly. The Merck Veterinary Manual states, “The amount of vitamin A needed to cause toxic effects is 10 to 1,000 times the dietary requirements for most species.”

Pumpkin for Diarrhea in Dogs

Cooked, pureed pumpkin, rich in soluble fiber, is commonly cited as a natural remedy for diarrhea in dogs—but it should be used with caution. In Natural Dog Care, Bruce Fogel, DVM, MRCVS, explains, “Soluble fiber slows down the digestion and absorption of food in the small intestine.” Because diarrhea in dogs can sometimes be attributed to intestinal hurry, pumpkin may help prevent digestion from moving too quickly.

However, fiber can sometimes exacerbate the issue. Gary Weitzman, DVM, President of the San Diego Humane Society and author of the book The Complete Guide to Pet Health, Behavior, and Happiness, says, “I don’t recommend pumpkin for dogs with diarrhea. It won’t hurt your dog, but it’s probably not going to help.” Additionally, your dog’s diarrhea can be caused by any number of factors, from pancreatic disease to parasites, and regardless of whether your pup tolerates the orange stuff, it won’t help with the underlying issue.

Pumpkin for Constipation in Dogs

When it comes to your dog’s digestive system backing up, pumpkin can be quite effective. Weitzman says, “I would certainly give pumpkin for dogs who are having constipation.” The Merck Veterinary Manual also states that 1 to 4 tablespoons of pumpkin can provide some relief: “Dietary fiber is preferable because it is well tolerated, more effective, and more physiologic than other laxatives.”

Keep in mind that if your dog is suffering from constipation due to a deeper issue, such as an enlarged prostate or an anal sac disorder, this malady will need to be addressed and cannot be solved by a bit of puree.

Remember: In almost all cases, pumpkin for dogs is healthy and beneficial. Keep this advice in mind and let your pumpkin-loving dog enjoy his autumnal treat—in moderation, of course!

The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.