It's fall in the South and along with some cooler temperatures, October ushers in hayrides, Halloween, and the jack-o-lantern on every doorstep you pass. It might have you wondering whether your dog can eat pumpkin. We asked Dr. Kristin Wuellner, a veterinarian at Hill's Pet Nutrition for the scoop on this fresh or canned fall treat.
First, make sure your dog doesn't mistake pumpkins or gourds for balls or toys and munch on them. The hard outer pumpkin shell isn't particularly tasty or digestible, but you know some dogs will eat anything! Plus, the outer pumpkin skin may have prickly hairs and include the stem, which isn't good to eat.
However, the fleshy fruit inside is a better bet. Pumpkin can be a nutritious treat. It's good for digestion and packed with antioxidants. "Pumpkin is safe for dogs to eat and can be a good source of fiber, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, E, and C when fed under your vet's supervision," says Dr. Wuellner.
Some dog parents use pumpkin as an aid to relieve diarrhea or constipation, but always make sure you get to the root of your dog's tummy troubles with your veterinarian prior to adding pumpkin to their diet.
"We know that the fiber within the pumpkin bulks the stool by absorbing water and acts as a prebiotic, helping stimulate growth of beneficial bacteria," says Dr. Wuellner.
Fresh or Canned?
While your dog can eat both, and many dog parents use canned pumpkin as a DIY fiber booster. However, Dr. Wuellner says it's about 80% water and likely doesn't contain enough fiber to have much therapeutic benefit. Plus, if you feed your dog canned pumpkin, be sure not to give them canned pumpkin pie filling, which can be high in calories and sugar (and is not the same as canned pumpkin). Also, avoid canned pumpkin that has added sodium.
You can buy dried pumpkin powder, which can be dosed similarly to dried psyllium husk (often sold as the fiber source in Metamucil). "But make sure to consult your veterinarian before adding anything to your dog's meals," says Dr. Wuellner.
"If you'd like to consider adding pumpkin to your dog's diet daily, it is best to discuss a full dietary plan with your veterinarian. Depending on your dog's health and nutrition needs, they may recommend first trying a different dog food instead," she says.
How to Add Pumpkin to Your Dog's Diet
If you've talked with your vet and got the go ahead on adding a little pumpkin to your pup's diet, you can use it on top of or mixed in with their food, stuffed in a Kong-type toy, or baked into homemade dog biscuits like dog bones or treats. Make sure to ask your veterinarian how much pumpkin is okay to give, based on your dog's weight. To use the fleshy fruit, cut it in chunks and steam or boil it and mash it like a potato. You can also bake it in the oven, then cool and mash the flesh.
And yes, dogs can have a roasted pumpkin seed or two as a treat, but make sure they're roasted plain without salt or other spices. Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds are prebiotic powerhouses of nutrition, but you should always consult your vet before offering the fall fruit.