Jack-o-lanterns, Halloween decorations, Thanksgiving, and pumpkin pie, this is certainly the pumpkin season. But, do you know that pumpkins can be important year-round for some pets? Canned pumpkin is a commonly prescribed dietary additive for some gastrointestinal maladies. From diarrhea to constipation, pumpkin can be a dog’s (or cat’s) best friend.
What is canned pumpkin?
Canned pumpkin that’s recommended by veterinarians is nothing more than pumpkin that has been pureed. It is a source of fiber that is low in fat and cholesterol. When purchasing canned pumpkin at the grocery store it is important to read the label carefully. Pie-filling canned pumpkin has added ingredients such as sugar, fat, and various seasonings. It is the pure pumpkin product that veterinarians recommend.
[Editor’s Note: Not everything pumpkin flavored is safe for dogs. Make sure you are only using product recommended by your veterinarian.]
How can pumpkin help dogs?
Canned pumpkin can provide a number of health benefits based primarily on its fiber content. Be forewarned that canned pumpkin is mostly water, to the tune of approximately 90%. This means that the content of fiber is not nearly as much as is found in Metamucil®.
Pumpkin isn’t a be-all and end-all remedy for cats and dogs with gastrointestinal issues, but it is a reasonably harmless thing to try. If this has you thinking, “Hmm, maybe I’ll give canned pumpkin a try,” I urge you to consult with your veterinarian before doing so. In some cases, added fiber could cause more harm than good. All this being said, your veterinarian might suggest canned pumpkin be used in the following ways for some dogs:
- For diarrhea: Fiber can act as a sponge that absorbs excess water within the gastrointestinal tract. Diarrhea has a myriad causes, and added dietary fiber can benefit some of them.
- For constipation: When there isn’t excess water in the gastrointestinal tract, fiber can help draw in water and ease stool passage. Fiber can also create bulk within the colon that helps alleviate constipation for some animals.
- For weight loss: Pumpkin provides a relatively low calorie way to give an animal the sense of a full stomach. This can make the reduction of overall food quantity more tolerable for the dieting animal.
How much pumpkin should you feed?
The amount of canned pumpkin needed to provide benefit will vary from dog to dog, so check with your veterinarian. For example, a Chihuahua may require only a teaspoon per meal, whereas a half cup may be required for a Great Dane. As with any dietary additive, it’s best to start small and then work your way up to the appropriate amount. Some animals don’t much care for this different tasting orange substance in their food bowl-- another reason to begin with only a small amount that is more readily disguised.
If you are feeding your dog only a small amount of pumpkin daily, you may not use an entire can before it spoils. Consider placing the pumpkin in ice cube trays and freezing. Blocks can then be thawed as needed.
Questions for your veterinarian
- Might my pet benefit from the addition of canned pumpkin?
- How much canned pumpkin should I feed and how frequently?
- What should I be watching for once the pumpkin is started?
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.