By: Dr. Juli, DVM @itsDrJuli
Many pet parents know that some dogs can't stay away from human food. Resisting your pup's longing eyes and drooling lips can be challenging as you enjoy your favorite treat. Fortunately, some human foods can be a great addition to your dog's daily diet. We’re all familiar with peanut butter as a go-to human food snack for dogs. But did you know pureed pumpkin can be good for dogs and even alleviate minor digestive system problems? But, before serving up a pumpkin feast to your pup, always check with your veterinarian before adding any new foods or treats to your dog's diet. Additionally, before feeding your pet human treats, check the ASPCA list of pet-toxic foods to avoid an unexpected emergency veterinary visit.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin Puree for Your Pooch
Although all things pumpkin fill the grocery stores during the holiday season, canned pumpkin is available year-round. This powerful superfood can support your dog's overall health and wellness while providing a delicious treat that's packed with vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin A. Pumpkin is rich in beta carotene, which gets converted to Vitamin A in your dog's body. This essential vitamin is critical for proper muscle and nerve function and supports healthy skin, coat, and eye health.
- Vitamin C. Antioxidants, like vitamin C, help support your dog's immune system health and combat harmful free radicals.
- Vitamin E. This fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin promotes healthy liver, skin, heart, and immune system health.
- Potassium. This mineral is essential for proper heart, nerve, and muscle homeostasis. Potassium also works with sodium to maintain the body's hydration and blood pH.
Despite these health benefits, too much of a good thing can affect your dog's waistline. It's crucial to make sure that dog treats, including pumpkin, do not comprise more than 10% of your pup’s daily caloric intake, or else they may become one of the 50% of dogs in the US that are overweight or obese. Pumpkin is fiber-rich, and feeding your pup this tasty treat in moderation can help them feel fuller faster and maintain a healthy weight. The extra fiber pumpkin provides may also aid weight loss in overweight pups.
When to Give Your Dog Pumpkin
Most dogs will experience gastrointestinal (GI) problems at some point. Sudden changes to your dog's diet or environmental stressors can be enough to disrupt your pup's stomach flora, which can lead to an upset stomach or changes in their poop. Although mild GI problems may solve themselves, providing your pet with supplements like probiotics can help rebalance their gut. Adding a fiber source, like pumpkin, to your dog's food can help firm up their stool or help promote regularity in dogs with constipation.
Cooked pumpkin is an excellent source of soluble fiber with numerous health benefits, including adding bulk to your dog's stool by absorbing water, supplying energy to the cells, stimulating intestinal absorption of sodium and water, and lowering pH levels in the large intestine. However, it's critical to bring your dog for a veterinary examination to determine the underlying cause of their upset stomach, especially if they are experiencing any of the following:
- Diarrhea that lasts more than 24 hours
- Bloody stool
- Bloated or painful abdomen
- Straining during defecation or urination
- Constipation that lasts more than 24 hours
For cases of mild GI upset or bowel changes, your DVM may advise adding a fiber supplement. Common conditions that pumpkin puree may help include:
- Mild constipation. Pumpkin not only provides an easily digestible fiber source, but its water content can also help restore your dog's regular bowel movements. Dehydration is a common contributor to constipation, so ensure your dog has access to plenty of fresh water. A water add-in, such as a Bone Broth, can also help encourage your pup to drink while providing added nutrients to support their gut health.
- Mild Diarrhea. Like people, your dog can experience mild diarrhea for various reasons, including stress, counter-surfing, or new foods. The fiber in pumpkin can act as a prebiotic to stimulate the activity and growth of beneficial gut bacteria and inhibit the harmful bacteria that cause dog diarrhea.
- Anal gland issues. Fiber-rich foods like pumpkin help your dog naturally release its anal glands during bowel movements. Anal gland problems, like impaction, may indicate an underlying allergy. Talk to your veterinarian if you notice your dog frequently scooting or if you suspect they have anal gland problems.
- Weight management. Pudgy pups are at risk for painful arthritis and potentially deadly diseases like diabetes. Adding pumpkin to your dog's diet can help keep their appetite at bay and aid in weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.
Serving Suggestions: How Much Pumpkin to Feed Your Dog
Always consult your veterinarian to ensure it is safe to give your dog pumpkin to support their digestive health. Too much pumpkin can exacerbate or cause your pet to have diarrhea or vomiting. If you notice any adverse side effects, immediately stop giving your pet pumpkin and call your veterinarian.
Like people, your dog's response will vary depending on their GI health and the current fiber content in their diet. Additionally, pumpkin supplementation should never replace feeding your dog an AAFCO-approved complete and balanced pet food diet. Ensure to provide your dog access to plenty of water because fiber without proper hydration can exacerbate constipation and lead to dehydration.
The amount of pumpkin to feed your pup will depend on their weight and tolerance; the following is a general daily serving suggestion guide:
- Toy breeds and small dogs ( < 20 pounds): 2– 3 teaspoons
- Small breeds (20 – 30 pounds): 1–2 tablespoons
- Medium-sized breeds (30–50 pounds): 2–3 tablespoons
- Large breeds ( 50 –100 pounds): 3–5 tablespoons
- Giant breeds ( >100 pounds): 5 tablespoons – ¼ cup
Creative Ways to Feed Your Dog Pumpkin
Depending on the season, pumpkin is available in various forms. Raw pumpkin flesh and fresh pumpkin can be difficult for your pup to digest and has an increased risk of intestinal blockage or a choking hazard, especially when feeding the rind. The safest and most easily-digestible forms of pumpkin are cooked plain pumpkin, plain canned pumpkin, and powdered pumpkin. Never give your pup a baked pumpkin pie, pumpkin pie filling, or food flavored with pumpkin spice because they often contain pet-toxic ingredients like nutmeg and artificial sweeteners like xylitol.
Ways to add pumpkin to your four-legged pal's diet include:
- By the spoonful. Licking the spoon is not just for humans anymore. Feeding your dog a spoonful of pumpkin is a great way to bond while offering them this nutritious treat.
- On a lick mat. Adding frozen or room-temperature pumpkin puree to a lick mat is a great way to stimulate your dog's brain and relieve boredom.
- As a food topper. Sprinkle pumpkin powder or canned pumpkin over your dog's food for a special treat.
- A Dog-safe PSL. Share your love of lattes with a dog-safe version of the pumpkin spice latte. Check out our recipe here.
- In a homemade treat. Create a nutritious and hydrating frozen treat using our Pumpkin Powder, water, and some bone-shaped silicone ice cube trays.
For more information and tips on your dog's health, check out the Native Pet blog.