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Can Dogs Eat Pumpkin? A Vet Says ‘Yes,’ but Preparation Is Key

PureWow logo PureWow 8/11/2020 letters@purewow.com (Dara Katz)

a dog lying on a bed © Twenty20

As we gear up for pumpkin-spice-everything season and decide which ingenious costume you’re going to dress Sparky up as this year (a black cat, duh), you may also be wondering “Can dogs eat pumpkin?” After all, it is the gourdiest ingredient of gourd season. But before you let Sparky go ham on that jack-o'-lantern, we asked Dr. Priscilla Bowens, DVM, MPH, Esq. (aka @drpetnugget) and founder of PetNugget, a pet health education platform, can dogs eat pumpkin? Her answer? Yes…and no. Here, we explain.

What type of pumpkin can dogs eat? Roasted? Canned? Raw?

Dogs can eat pumpkin, but not all in all forms. For example, it’s best to avoid raw pumpkin, pumpkin skin and the stem, as they’re hard for your pup to digest. Canned and roasted pumpkin, however, are fine as long as there aren’t added ingredients or spices, Dr. Bowen says. (Recipes for roasting pumpkin below.) In fact, the easiest way to serve up pumpkin is straight from the can. To know if it’s safe for your dog, look at the ingredients list. It should say “Certified Organic Pumpkin,” or just “Pumpkin.” (Like Farmer’s Market Foods Canned Organic Pumpkin or Whole Foods 365.) If there are other fillers in the ingredient list, don’t serve it to your pup.

So is pumpkin healthy or beneficial for dogs? 

Says Dr. Bowen: “Pumpkin is definitely healthy for dogs as part of a well-balanced diet. It is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, E, lycopene and dietary fiber.” The meaty part of the pumpkin adds hydration—great for pets who don’t drink lots of water throughout the day, and the seeds are antioxidant and omega-3 fatty acid-rich. This is beneficial for eye health, skin and coat, digestion and organ health. Pumpkin also contains heaps of potassium, which, according to Chewy, is necessary for regulating blood pressure, improving muscle health and assisting your dog’s metabolism. Food therapy and holistic veterinarian expert, Judy Morgan, DVM, from Clayton Veterinary Associates, also says because of pumpkin’s soluble and insoluble fiber, it’s a natural remedy for both constipation and diarrhea in dogs.

What about pumpkin seeds?

Pumpkin seeds are surprisingly healthy for dogs—as long you prepare them correctly. They should be cleaned, peeled and roasted without any salt or other ingredients. If that sounds like too much of a load, you can buy pre-peeled pumpkin seeds and add them to your dog’s meal for a hit of fiber, Vitamin K, magnesium, antioxidants and more nutrients your dog needs. You can even grind up the seeds to thoroughly mix in with your pup’s food. And, although it’s not clinically proven, Dr. Bowen says that properties of the seeds have been studied as a natural remedy for certain intestinal parasites.

So when is it not safe to feed your dog pumpkin or pumpkin seeds?

“Pumpkin spice anything (e.g., pumpkin lattes, canned pumpkin pie or pumpkin-flavored alcohol) are all no-nos. The caffeine, spices and alcohol could all be toxic to your pup,” notes Dr. Bowen. That means, unfortunately, no Thanksgiving pumpkin pie for Sparky. (That said, turkey is on the table…) Same thing goes for the seeds. Avoid any and all spices and salt, and make sure the seeds are peeled to avoid choking hazards. 

How much pumpkin and pumpkin seeds can I feed my dog?

Stick to about 1 tablespoon of pumpkin per 20 pounds per meal. As for the seeds, they’re higher in fat, so use more sparingly. Think of the seeds as little booster or treat once or twice a week. And when it comes to puppies, definitely check in with your vet before changing up their diet.

When should you add it your dog's diet?

“As long as your dog has a good bill of health,” Dr. Bowen explains, “and in consultation with your veterinarian, it is OK to feed pumpkin on a regular basis, especially if your dog needs more fiber in her diet.” We also love adding a tablespoon of pumpkin when our dog has an upset stomach.

Roasted pumpkin recipe

Ingredients:

1 small pumpkin

Olive oil (yep, olive oil is safe and healthy for dogs!)

Directions:  

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lay the pumpkin on its side on a non-slip cutting board.
  3. Cut the top with the stem off the pumpkin.
  4. Place the now-flat side of the pumpkin down.
  5. With a knife or potato peeler, peel the skin from the pumpkin.
  6. Cut the pumpkin in half.
  7. Remove the seeds (you can dump or save for later!).
  8. Cut the pumpkin into bite-size (for your dog) cubes.
  9. In large bowl, mix the pumpkin cubes with a tablespoon of olive oil.
  10. Spread the pumpkin on baking sheet.
  11. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pumpkin is smashable with a fork.
  12. Let cool completely.
  13. Serve to your dog as is or mash up one cube and mix in with your dog’s meal.
  14. Store remaining cube in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days or freezer for up to a month.

Steamed pumpkin recipe

Ingredients:

1 small pumpkin

  1. Fill your steamer or pot with 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer.
  2. Lay the pumpkin on its side on a non-slip cutting board.
  3. Cut the top with the stem off the pumpkin.
  4. Place the now-flat side of the pumpkin down.
  5. With a knife or potato peeler, peel the skin from the pumpkin.
  6. Cut the pumpkin in half.
  7. Remove the seeds.
  8. Cut the pumpkin into bite-size (for your dog) cubes.
  9. Add pumpkin cubes to steamer and cover for 10 to 12 minutes or until you can easily poke with fork.
  10. Remove from stove and let cool completely.
  11. Serve to your dog as is or mash up one cube and mix in with your dog’s meal.
  12. Store remaining cube in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days or freezer for up to a month.

Dr. Bowen’s opinions are her own and do not constitute medical advice. Please contact your pet’s veterinarian for pet-specific medical advice.

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