Fun fact: Pumpkin is not only good for our pup friends, but our cat friends too! While many of us have taken advantage of pure pumpkin puree when our pets' digestive systems have been less than friendly to them, if cooked properly, pumpkin also holds a plethora of benefits for our pets, such as vitamin A to enhance their immune systems, vitamin E to regulate enzyme activity, and calcium to support bone health. Pumpkin seeds also contain fatty acids that keep their skin healthy and fur shiny!
Amazing, right? So as fall approaches and you enjoy all things pumpkin, take a moment to whip up something special for your best fur friend as well!
Like the majority of other “human” foods, we have to be extra careful when deciding how our pets are able to consume pumpkin. Even when choosing canned pumpkin, make sure that it’s always “pure pumpkin puree,” aka, not pumpkin pie filling. Dr. Shannon VanDyke with Austin Urban Vet Center is able to give more medical insight into the dos and don'ts of pumpkin: "The easiest and most effective way [to feed your pet pumpkin is by] purchasing plain canned pumpkin already packaged at the grocery store. Make sure to buy pure pumpkin with no additional salt, sugar or additives, and avoid "pumpkin pie mix" to prevent additional calories and blood sugar spikes! The raw pumpkin pulp from inside your carved jack-o-lantern would be safe as well, but I recommend grinding it down in a blender a little bit to help with digestion."
Dr. VanDyke continues to share that no parts of a pumpkin have been found to be "toxic" to pets but that using caution is always a must: "Some owners have allowed their pets, especially young puppies, to chew on the rind of the pumpkin, which is similar to a bone, in order to keep them occupied. Very close monitoring and extreme caution must be taken in these situations [in case a pet were to] break off a piece of the rind and swallow it whole, which could present a choking hazard or gastrointestinal obstruction." It has been noted that the consumption of baked pumpkin is preferred over raw pumpkin. Something that Dr. VanDyke stresses, though, is to make sure your pets don't ingest any old or moldy pumpkins due to the risk of mycotoxins. So maybe rethink repurposing your Jack-O-Lanterns for a tasty treat.
There’s a reason why veterinarians recommend mixing pumpkin with your dog’s food when they’re having digestive issues: pumpkin is a natural laxative. As for cats, pumpkin is commonly recommended to help with constipation (if they're willing to look past their refined dining decisions and eat it). For these reasons, it’s important to measure out how much pumpkin you’re giving your pets, like any other supplement or vitamin. Too much pumpkin can lead to health complications. If you do want to move forward with incorporating pumpkin into your pets diet, Dr. VanDyke shares that most vets recommend approximately 1-2 tbsp of pumpkin per meal.
When it comes to pumpkin seeds, simply grind up the seeds in a blender or coffee grinder, and sprinkle the seeds over top of their food (once the seeds have been baked).
Ultimately, we always recommend chatting with your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet. If you do decide to add a little something special to your pet’s evening meal, consider one of these other fun treats too! Here is also a great article that explains six ways you can safely prepare tasty treats directly from a pumpkin!