I live in the pumpkin capital of the country, Half Moon Bay, CA. and have always lived here with dogs. So I was surprised that it wasn’t until last month that I started reading about all of the health benefits of pumpkins for dogs. First I read that pumpkin can help their digestive system (assuming they don’t eat a 1,535 lb. pumpkin in one sitting.)
Then I checked the ingredients in Sanchez’s Great Life kibble and discovered that pumpkin is the fourth ingredient listed, even before squash, carrots, and papaya.
Finally I read about health benefits of pumpkins for dogs from Edie Jarolim, the author of Am I Boring My Dog? (a book I’d highly recommend for its educational value on all things dog combined with humor that will leave you in stitches).
While Halloween is over, pumpkins are still plentiful and it’s not too late to stock up on canned pumpkins (without added sugar) for your pooches. While you should consult your veterinarian if any of these issues are persistent, read on for some tips from Veterinarians Laci and Jed Schaible that I learned when reading Edie’s interview with them.
Pumpkin can be a very effective treatment for the occasional abnormal stool. (If your pet has regular GI issues, consult your veterinarian.) Pumpkins have a high water and fiber content and can act to hydrate the intestines and their contents when dogs are suffering from constipation. Start with 1 tsp for smaller dogs and 2 tsp for larger dogs at the first sign of constipation. The water and fibers will be absorbed by the dry stools in your dog’s intestines, and your pup should experience relief in a few hours.
Pumpkin can also be used to treat diarrhea. The soluble fiber in pumpkins actually helps absorb excess water in the bowels that the body didn’t absorb properly, thereby helping to calm diarrhea. Start slowly, and adjust accordingly.
Pumpkin seeds are high in essential fatty acids and antioxidants (good for overall healthy skin and fur), and the oils in pumpkins’ flesh and seeds are believed to support urinary health. They are also an excellent source of Vitamin A, beta-carotene, potassium and iron, and may even reduce the likelihood your pet will develop cancer.
Pumpkin is also recently gaining popularity as a supplement to a dog’s food to aid in weight loss. While it is true that it is a low-cal/low-fat/ filler that is high in fiber and will help keep your pet feeling full longer, you want to make sure that your pet is still getting the required nutrients that he or she needs. As with all diet changes, start slowly and gradually increase. If your pet is obese, contacting your vet to get a personalized diet plan so your pet is not losing too much weight too rapidly, or too little weight too slowly.
Raw, cooked, or canned?
Both raw and cooked pumpkin is safe for dogs. (If your dog has diabetes or chronic kidney disease, always ask your vet first.) As far as our healthy pooches go, seeds and flesh of fresh raw pumpkins are safe provided, of course, it’s not a rotten pumpkin that’s been sitting on the porch for four weeks. Pumpkin parts do go rancid very quickly! An easy way to have some handy dog treats around that will last 3-4 weeks is roasting plain seeds in the oven (see recipe below).
Leaves and stems however, are covered in sharp little hairs, which can irritate the mouth and gastrointestinal tract and cause tiny little cuts in the dog’s intestines. Make sure pumpkin patch field trips are 100 percent supervised.
Common sense tells us fresh is always better than canned because of fewer synthetic ingredients. If you choose to go with canned, make sure it doesn’t have added sugar.
Quantity of pumpkin
According to the North American Companion Animal Formulary, the dose for a cat with constipation is 1 tsp per feeding. Small dogs can receive a comparable amount. For larger dogs, I would start with no more than 2 tsp with each meal. The giants may be able to tolerate up to 5 tsp with each meal. Adjust accordingly to your pet’s size.
A warning sign you are overdoing it is if your pet’s stools become orange, larger than usual, and pudding-like in firmness. As far as seeds go, they are to be given in moderation, just like treats. With serious overfeeding, pumpkin seeds getting blocked in the colon has been reported.
Pumpkin dog treat recipe
1. Rinse pumpkin seeds under cold water and pick out the pulp and strings.
2. Place the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet that is lightly misted in non-stick cooking spray.
3. Bake at 325 F until toasted, for around 20-25 minutes. Check and stir every 10 minutes.
4. Cool and store in an air-tight container, and you have a great stock of natural dog treats.