It’s pumpkin spice season! Colorful leaves, cool temperatures, Halloween and all things pumpkin flavored — pies, lattes, ice cream, bread, pancakes, and even beer. As you indulge in this season’s pumpkin treats, you may wonder if your pet can indulge as well. Pumpkin is frequently touted as a healthy dietary supplement for dogs and cats, but does it work? And is it safe?
Many veterinarians suggest adding canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling, which has spices and sugar added) to the diet of a dog or cat with intestinal issues — typically constipation or diarrhea. How can one food help with both problems? Well, it’s all about what makes pumpkin pumpkin: water and fiber, in addition to potassium, phosphorus, calcium, vitamins A, C and K, and several other vitamins and minerals. Canned pumpkin without salt is about 90% water and 3% total dietary fiber, which includes both soluble and insoluble forms.
Soluble and insoluble fiber affect the gastrointestinal tract differently. Soluble fiber acts like a sponge, soaking up the excess liquid that’s present during diarrhea. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools and draws water into the intestines when a pet is constipated. Canned pumpkin’s high water content can help to soften stools in constipated dogs and cats.
In theory, you can give too much canned pumpkin and make your pet’s problem worse. More likely, the small amount of fiber in a spoonful of canned pumpkin may not be enough to have a significant effect. And be sure your pet likes the pumpkin and eats it readily – especially important for cats! If your pet avoids its healthy food due to dislike of the added pumpkin, you’re not solving any problems and in fact may be creating a new one.
Having said that, if you want to celebrate the season with your pet, there’s nothing wrong with offering a little pumpkin. Pumpkin is low in calories and, like other bright orange squashes, contains healthy Vitamin A and antioxidants. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and the seeds can also be consumed. A spoonful of pumpkin won’t hurt your pet, and may help with tummy troubles. But even if your pet loves the new treat and asks for more – you’d better keep the pumpkin spice lattes for yourself.