In the wake of a certain coffee joint’s popular pumpkin spice latte, the popularity of pumpkin has exploded. There are a variety of treats on the market that use pumpkin as a main ingredient, and everyone knows how popular a traditional pumpkin pie is on Thanksgiving. As you’re preparing your pumpkin treats, keep in mind that plain pumpkin is fine for your dog, but the additional ingredients might not be.
Is Pumpkin Safe for Dogs?
Yes, given in moderation and fed with discretion, pumpkin can be excellent for your dog’s digestion. The most common reason pumpkin is “prescribed” is to help dogs who are suffering from diarrhea. Diarrhea can occur for a variety of reasons, including stress, a change in diet, or bacteria and viruses. Pumpkin is loaded with fiber, and that fiber works wonders at absorbing the excess water in the intestines. If your dog is having a minor bout of diarrhea, you can add some pumpkin to their meals to help firm the stool up. You’ll usually see an improvement within 24 hours. If the diarrhea continues past 24 hours or your dog’s appetite decreases, you should take them to their veterinarian.
Besides helping with diarrhea, canned pumpkin is also rich with beta-carotenes, the same nutrient found in carrots. The body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which helps maintain eyesight in dogs as they age. You can also give your dog pumpkin seeds. The seeds contain antioxidants that are especially good for urinary health. The seeds contain fatty acids and nutrients that improve the health of the skin and coat. These fatty acids make the coat softer and shinier.
Choose The Right Pumpkin for Your Dog
You can feed pureed pumpkin in a few ways. First, you can buy canned pumpkin puree, but ensure you’re not purchasing the pie filling. The pie filling is loaded with sugar and a host of spices, all of which can give your dog digestive upset. If you’re feeding pumpkin, chances are your dog already has diarrhea, so you don’t want to give them something to make it worse. You can also make your own pumpkin puree. Roast your pumpkin in the oven at about 400 degrees until it’s soft, then scoop out the meat and puree it until it’s smooth. Refrigerate it and throw it out after four or five days; it usually goes bad at the seven day mark. You can also store it in the freezer for a few months. Putting it into ice cube trays makes for easier serving when you need it.
Some dogs don’t really care for the taste of pumpkin, so you can add in a couple tablespoons of plain, low-sugar yogurt. The yogurt won’t hurt in the event of diarrhea because it puts probiotics back into the gut, which also battle diarrhea.
If you give your dog pumpkin seeds, ensure they’re roasted. Fresh, uncooked seeds can actually spoil very quickly, and roasting prolongs their life. If you’re making the seeds for yourself, you’re probably using oil and some seasonings, but your dog doesn’t need any of these. Roast them without any additional ingredients to prevent any digestive problems.
The Importance of Moderation
Pumpkin should be saved for those bouts of diarrhea or loose stool. Because of the high amounts of vitamin A, too much can be toxic to your dog. You should be careful with how much you feed them at one time. Smaller dogs should only get a couple of teaspoons, while bigger dogs can safely have a couple of tablespoons a day.
Pumpkin doesn’t really give your dog anything they need unless they have diarrhea or loose stool. While the fiber is nice, too much can have the opposite effect and actually loosen the stool. Keep their servings small and relegated to the times when their digestive system is upset for pumpkin to keep its desired effect.