Fall is here and pumpkins abound this time of year. Halloween brings them out in all their glory. Now that the tricking and treating is done, what do you do with that big orange squash?
Well, if it’s carved… enjoy it a little longer and then throw it out. But if your pumpkin is untouched and undecorated consider cooking, pureeing and adding it to your pet’s food.
From the flesh to the seeds, pumpkin’s got essential fatty acids, nutrients and fiber that are beneficial for our cats and dogs.
Here are 6 reasons you should consider feeding it to your pet… if not fresh pumpkin then canned pumpkin from the store. It’s full of good stuff.
1) Digestive Health
Because pumpkin is such a fantastic source of fiber, it’s helpful for constipation and diarrhea.
Constipation is common in senior cats. If your kitty suffers from it, talk to your vet about adding a little pumpkin to your cat’s food.
The increased fiber—3 grams per cup—makes the stool bulkier. Bulkier stool stimulates the colon and makes the muscles contract to move the stool through the colon and out the tush.
And pumpkin’s helpful with diarrhea too. If your dog eats something they shouldn’t and they end up with loose stools, give them a little pumpkin. The fiber in pumpkin bonds together in your pet’s digestive tract and acts like a sponge to absorb excess water in the diarrhea.
Pumpkin is good for general stomach upset in your dog or cat.
2) Urinary Health
The seeds of the pumpkin are a healthy treat for your pet too. They are rich in essential fatty acids (omega-3) and antioxidants (Vitamin C) that support a healthy urinary tract.
If your pet suffers from incontinence, kidney stones or crystals, talk to your vet about pumpkin seeds as a wholesome treat.
3) Weight Loss
The high fiber and water content (90%), and low calories and fat in pumpkin can help your overweight pet slim down.
Replace a little of their food with pumpkin. It tastes great. And even though you’ve cut calories and fat, the fiber helps your pet feel full.
4) Nutrient Dense
Pumpkin is not only high in fiber and low in fat and calories, it’s full of nutrients.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in pumpkin are good for the skin and coat. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory benefits as well. My post Omega-3 Fatty Acids… Your Pet Needs Them Too! talks all about that.
Pumpkins are loaded with beta-carotene (cancer fighting), magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, and Vitamins A and C. So although there’s no documented science that pumpkin is beneficial to the immune system, it seems logical that it couldn’t hurt.
Beware… some of these vitamins and minerals can be toxic though if levels get too high. So never give your pet more than a teaspoon or two of pumpkin a day. And always check first with your vet to be sure it’s okay for them to have it.
Are hairballs a problem for your cat? Well, pumpkin’s a natural solution. The fiber helps move hairballs through the cat’s digestive tract. And if your cat eats pumpkin regularly, it can prevent hairballs from forming in the first place.
If your pet eats dry kibble, their bodies need to secrete more gastric acid and pancreatic enzymes for digestion than with wet food. Adding a moisture rich food like pumpkin to dry kibble reduces the dehydrating effect.
How do you make pumpkin edible for your pet?
Well, definitely don’t feed it to them raw. Cook it or buy it canned.
But if you buy the canned stuff, be sure it’s just pureed pumpkin. Don’t buy pumpkin pie filling. It’s loaded with sugar, spices, preservatives and fat, which can all add up to stomach upset for your pet.
If you’re going to cook fresh pumpkin, it’s simple. Cut the pumpkin into small pieces. Cut off the pith and the seeds. Put the pumpkin skin-side down in a roasting pan. Add ¼ inch of water and bake uncovered for 1 hour or until tender at 300 degrees. When the pumpkin’s cool, cut off the skin and mash or puree the flesh.
To feed the seeds, cook them on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Roast them at 375 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes. Let them cool and then give only 1 or 2 a day as a treat. They are high in fat which can cause diarrhea if you give your pet too many. Store the leftovers in an airtight container.
Because pumpkins are big and canned pumpkin is plentiful too, you can end up throwing most of it away if you don’t plan.
Pumpkin puree will only last a week in the fridge. And since you will only give your pet about a teaspoon a day, a good amount will end up in the garbage at the end of the week. But here’s what you can do.
Use ice cube trays to make individual daily servings. Once frozen, separate a weeks worth into small containers. Then each week defrost one container at a time.
If you freeze the pumpkin puree, be sure to mix it when it defrosts because the water will separate from the pulp.
You can feed your pet a teaspoon of pumpkin by itself as a treat, or mix it in with their food. But get the okay to add pumpkin and find out the right amount from your vet. Otherwise, you may end up with a case of diarrhea.
Do you feed your pet pumpkin? If so, do you buy canned or feed fresh pumpkin? Tell us the effect it’s had on your pet in the comment section at the top of the page.