With the growing popularity of pumpkin spice everything, you might even see more pumpkin products being advertised to your pup. This is for good reason, as in many cases pumpkin can have some serious health benefits. But before you start scheduling PSL dates with your pup, read on for the deets – when is pumpkin a good idea and when should you hold off!
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 precautions you need to keep in mind.
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 sharing pumpkin with your dog are why we at Ollie add pumpkin to our Turkey Recipe. The pumpkin is mixed with turkey breast, kale, lentils and carrots as well as things like chia seeds and cod liver oil for a delicious and nutritious meal.
Canned, cooked, and pureed pumpkin in its purest form (with absolutely no additives) is the easiest way to serve your dog some squash. Check the ingredients before you buy – the only thing you should see is pumpkin and butternut squash (yes, some canned pumpkin is mixed with butternut squash which is safe for your dog too).
Alternatively, pumpkin can be seeded and roasted at home. This requires some elbow grease as cutting into a tough pumpkin can be challenging. You will also need some patience as it takes time, especially if your pumpkin is on the larger side. You can use this time to teach your pup a trick or play with some fun, fall themed toys.
To roast a pumpkin:
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 filling. It is made with sugar and spices like nutmeg that aren’t good for your pup, and if the mixture contains xylitol, it can be toxic.
If you want to add a little PSL flavor to your pup’s pumpkin do this at home using cinnamon and either a touch of maple syrup or honey which are all safe.
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.” So while this is unlikely to be a cause for concern, do monitor how much pumpkin your pup is eating.
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.
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.
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