A Cat’s Tongue… 7 Things You Never Knew

Whether you’re a cat lover, a dog lover, or both, you’ll probably agree they’re different.  One of those differences… their kisses.  Because cats have unique tongues.

They feel like sandpaper.

That’s because a cat’s tongue is covered in backward-facing papillae—barbs made of keratin, the same substance as human fingernails.

That sandpaper tongue serves several purposes, particularly for an outdoor cat or a cat in the wild.

1)   Grasping and pulling meat from the bones of its prey

The little hook-like structures on the tongue give the cat a good grasp on the meat of its prey.  This enables them to pull the meat from the bones very effectively.

2)   Collecting dirt, debris and loose hair from their fur

Cats groom themselves endlessly.  In fact, they spend more than half their waking hours on grooming.   That prickly tongue will catch anything on the fur that’s not supposed to be there

If you don’t groom them regularly, all the loose fur they lick up can lead to hairballs.

And those barbs, they’ll latch on to anything collected on the tongue.  Even something unintended for consumption.

Because the barbs face toward the throat a piece of yarn, string or tinsel in their mouth can be dangerous.  They’re not able to just spit it out. When not in licking mode, the spines lay flat.  And the cat will swallow these dangerous items.

Cat tongues are designed for intake only.

3)   Detangling knots

In a single swipe, a cat’s tongue moves in 4 different directions.  Because the spines are hook-like, the tongue acts like a flexible comb that snags on knots and teases them apart.  A handy grooming tool…

4)   Removing parasites

When your cat is grooming, their tongue removes anything in its path, including parasites and their eggs.

5)   Maintaining their ability to ambush their prey and hide from their predators

Cats are ambush hunters.  They will use extreme licking to hide their smell so they can go undetected by their prey allowing them to pounce before being noticed.

They will also lick every remnant of a fresh kill off their fur to avoid detection by their predators.

6)   Waterproofing fur

The sandpapery tongue helps redistribute oils produced by the cat’s skin to provide some waterproofing.

7)   Cleaning wounds

When a cat licks a wound, the barbs will get into the wound and clean out dirt.  And the saliva contains compounds that are antibacterial.

But a cat can go overboard and turn a tiny abrasion into a big lesion—and a big headache—if they lick themselves raw.

Necessity is the mother of invention—no truer words exist when speaking of adaptations in the animal kingdom.

Do you remember your reaction the first time a cat licked you?  Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Signs Your Pet Has Seasonal Allergies

It’s April and everyone in my home is sneezing, wheezing, coughing or scratching… including our dog.

Spring is a beautiful time of year.  Everything’s in bloom.  The bees are buzzing.  And the landscape is vibrant… no matter where you live.  But with all that pollen comes allergies.

And our pets suffer too.

Pets may have some of the same symptoms as humans.  But unlike humans, the telltale sign of seasonal allergies in pets is a lot of scratching.

Their allergies usually manifest in allergic dermatitis—skin irritation or inflammation.

Because their symptoms are different than ours, their suffering often goes unnoticed. But they can be just as miserable.

Here are 7 signs your pet has allergies:

1)  Chewing or licking their feet

You’ll notice redness between their pads or toes from excessive licking or chewing.

2)  Constant licking of their body or groin

If the licking continues, this can cause loss of hair, redness, scabbing and hot spots.

3)  Rubbing their face on furniture, carpet, grass, walls

Excessive itchiness is so uncomfortable, your pet will rub against anything to relieve it. The stress of itching and scratching can even cause loose stools.

4)  Inflamed or infected ears

Head shaking, ear scratching, hair loss, odor or discharge around ears, are signs there’s a problem.  Allergies can cause yeast or bacteria to grow in the ear resulting in infection.

5)  Recurrent hot spots (dogs) or facial scabbing (cats)

The scratching can make your pet’s skin inflamed and infected.  In dogs, a hot spot may form.  This is a loss of hair on a patch of skin that becomes red, oozy and inflamed.  On your cat, you may see scabs on the face.  Not likely hot spots though.  They’re rare in cats.

6)  Wheezing (more likely in cats)

Pets rarely have the same respiratory allergy symptoms as people. But it can happen. The may wheeze, particularly cats. Or they may have a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing or coughing.

7)  Generalized redness (eyes, oral tissue, chin, paws, anus)

The inflammation caused by an allergic reaction to something in your pet’s environment can cause their mucous membranes to become inflamed and red.

What causes pet allergies?

Pets can have seasonal/environmental allergies, food allergies, flea bite allergies and contact allergies.

But you’ll know it’s a seasonal allergy if you only see the signs at certain times of the year—typically spring, summer or fall.

If you live in a place where there is no hard freeze, environmental allergens can cause problems year-round.  As a result, it can be difficult to differentiate between seasonal allergies and food allergies.

Food allergy symptoms can be the same as seasonal allergies.  Read more about how to know if your dog has a food allergy here.

Pollen, grass, mold and dust mites cause seasonal allergies in pets, just as they do in people. So minimize your pet’s exposure to these allergens to ease their misery.

How can you treat allergies in your pet?

The best way to help your pet is to keep them and their living areas as free from allergens as possible.

During the warmer months:

  • Soak their feet in a footbath or wipe them with a wet towel after a walk to keep allergens from coming into your home.
  • Bathe them frequently using a hypoallergenic shampoo, or one for sensitive skin.
  • Wipe them down with a grooming wipe after they’ve been outside.
  • Vacuum and clean floors and pet bedding often, using nontoxic cleaning agents.
  • Keep your pet off the grass if possible. If that’s not feasible, try booties.

You may want to try some allergy fighting supplements too.

Quercetin suppresses histamine release.  Bromelain and papain increase the absorption of quercetin which makes it more effective.  The three taken together decrease pain and inflammation from irritated mucous membranes.

Then there are Omega-3 fatty acids.  They decrease inflammation and reinforce the skins barrier.  Salmon oil is a great source of Omega-3.  Look for a food like Husse that already has it in most of their recipes.

And coconut oil is good to add to your pet’s diet.  It has lauric acid which helps decrease yeast production, a cause of infection in the ears.

Talk to your vet before you give your pet any supplement as it can cause an adverse reaction if your pet suffers from other health problems or takes medications.

And talk to your vet, too, if your pet’s symptoms are so severe that the itch/scratch cycle is causing the skin to become inflamed and tender.  This can progress to open sores, scabs, hair loss and infection if allowed to continue.

You want to get a handle on allergies quickly because seasonal allergies can become year-round with continued exposure to allergens.

Particularly for older pets, the more exposure to environmental offenders, the more intense and longer lasting the allergic response becomes until the allergy season just doesn’t seem to end.

Firstly, your vet will tell you to feed your pet a high-quality well-balanced diet free of fillers and animal by-products.  A food like Husse.

Also, avoid a high carbohydrate diet.  Just like in humans, carbs increase inflammation in the body.

Your vet may also recommend an antihistamine to help the itching.  And in severe cases, your vet may prescribe a steroid.

Steroids have many serious side effects and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Because they can cause high blood pressure and kidney disease, your pet will need regular blood work and urine tests if they’re on them long-term.

And if the scratching has caused a secondary skin infection, the vet will prescribe an antibiotic.

If your pet’s allergies are so severe they need steroids, it may be time to talk to the doc about allergy testing and shots.

Yes, that’s right… allergy shots aren’t just for human kids anymore.  They can be very effective in pets.

With the right combination of intervention and prevention, allergy season doesn’t have to be miserable for you or your pet.

What do you do to minimize your pet’s allergy symptoms?  Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Know About Feline Infectious Peritonitis?

In my last post, I rained down some pretty serious anxiety on canine parents.  So this week I thought I’d share the love with cat parents.

Seriously though, you need to know the facts about this dangerous illness to have any hope of preventing it.

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral cat disease.  It’s caused by certain strains of feline coronavirus.  It’s common for cats to get coronavirus.  But uncommon for coronavirus to turn into FIP.  FIP affects 5-10% of cats and kills 95% of those infected.

How does coronavirus turn into FIP?

Most strains of corona virus are harmless.  And cats infected with it rarely show any symptoms.  The immune system kicks in and a healthy cat will almost always fight it off.

But in some cats—the very young and the very old—there can be a problem with the immune response or a mutation of the virus that causes the infection to progress to FIP.

No one is certain why it happens but for coronavirus to progress to FIP, the antibodies produced by the immune system to protect the cat go awry.  This malfunction causes the white blood cells to become infected with the virus.  The virus then travels in these cells throughout the cat’s body.

It’s this interaction between the immune system and the virus that causes the disease, making it unlike any other viral disease in animals or humans.

Is your cat at risk of getting FIP?

The bad news is that any cat that carries coronavirus can get FIP.  The good news is most won’t because a healthy immune system will fight it off.

Kittens, cats with feline leukemia virus, and old cats are at greatest risk.  Most cats that get FIP are under the age of 2.

Multi-cat households are also at greater risk than single cat homes.  And shelters and catteries are potential breeding grounds for the disease.

FIP is not highly contagious though because your cat will shed most of the virus by the time it progresses from corona to FIP.

Coronavirus, however, is contagious and is transmitted by cat-to-cat contact and exposure to poop.  It can live in the environment for several weeks.

The most common means of transmission of corona is from mom to her kittens usually between 5 and 8 weeks of age.

If you are planning on breeding your cat, talk to your vet about the risks of coronavirus.

What are the signs of FIP?

If your cat has coronavirus, you may never know it.

Some cats show mild respiratory symptoms like sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal discharge.  Some have mild intestinal upset.

But once the virus progresses to FIP—which can be weeks, months or even years after exposure to corona—the symptoms may not be as subtle.

FIP comes in two forms, the wet form (effusive) and the dry form (noneffusive).  The wet form targets body cavities and progresses rapidly.  The dry form targets the organs.

Symptoms of the dry form are:

Chronic weight loss

Loss of appetite

Lethargy

Depression

Anemia

Persistent fever

Loss of vision

Loss of coordination

Early in the disease, the symptoms of the wet form are like the dry form: weight loss, fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, and depression.  In addition, you may notice:

Sneezing

Runny nose

Fluid in abdomen or chest

With the wet form, your cat may develop a pot-belly from fluid in the abdomen.  If too much fluid builds up, breathing may become difficult.

How will your vet diagnose and treat FIP?

FIP is difficult to diagnose because symptoms are similar to many other diseases.  And there’s no diagnostic test.

A biopsy of abdominal fluid is the only way to definitively diagnose FIP.

Generally, your vet will make a presumptive diagnosis based on symptoms, blood work, history, and examination of fluid if there is any.

There is no known cure or effective treatment for FIP.

With the dry form, your vet will provide supportive care to ease symptoms that includes:

Good nutrition

Steroids to reduce inflammation

Antibiotics

Draining of accumulated fluids

Blood transfusions

This may give your cat a few months to live without too much discomfort. The wet form progresses so quickly, supportive care is usually not beneficial.

Once diagnosed with FIP, there’s no need to quarantine because the cat is passed the point of being contagious.

But to keep coronavirus from spreading in your multi-cat household, clean your cats’ food and water dishes, and disinfect your cats’ living space. Keep sick cats away from other cats and kittens away from cats other than their mother.

What has your experience been with feline coronavirus or feline infectious peritonitis?  Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

The Winter Blues… Pets Suffer From Depression Too

Short gray days at this time of year can make anyone feel a little low.  I attended college in Binghamton, New York where the sun didn’t shine from late October until late April.  I can tell you with certainty that when I was there, I suffered from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)… winter depression.  It’s a problem for many people.

But how about our pets?  Is it possible they’re affected by seasonal changes too?  And what about depression in general?  Can our pets be depressed?

If your pets are used to enjoying the outdoors—long walks in the park, games of fetch in the yard, hikes in the mountains—you can be sure they’re feeling down if bad weather’s keeping them housebound.

Are you noticing signs of the winter blues?  Our pets don’t care if the weather’s nice or not.  They still want and need to exercise… both their bodies and their brains.  Keeping a regular exercise routine, even if you have to take it indoors to an agility gym or play games of “Find It”, is essential to keeping your pet happy in every season.

But what about just generalized depression?  Have your pets ever been in a bad mood at other times of the year?

It’s likely pets experience depression, but maybe not in the same way people do.  We can’t be sure how our pets feel depressed because they can’t tell us.

In humans, doctors diagnose depression through dialog with a patient.  The patient can tell the doctor what they’re experiencing.  An animal has no ability to explain their state of mind.  So it’s a little more challenging to say they’re suffering from depression, as we think of depression.

But we know our pets suffer from depression-like symptoms.

Because of their inability to talk to us though, we can’t be sure that the symptoms they are experiencing are being caused by depression and not a medical problem.  The signs of depression are also linked to other health issues.

See your veterinarian as soon as you notice any of the behavioral changes I talk about in this article to rule out a health problem that needs treatment.

How do you know if your pet’s depressed?

A pet that’s depressed will act differently.  So take notice of any changes in their normal behavior.  Things like:

Lack of interest in playing

Sleeping more

Changes in appetite

Drinking less

Hiding

Destructive behavior

Aggression

Pottying in the house or outside the litter box

Lack of or excessive grooming

Lethargy

Withdrawing from attention

Moping

Pacing

Whining or crying

What would cause your pet to become depressed?

In pets, depression is short-lived, and it’s generally brought on by change.  A new home, a new baby or pet in the house, or a stay-at-home owner getting a job outside the house.  These can all lead to depression.

But the most common reasons for depression in our pets are the loss of an owner or companion animal.

Unfortunately, loss is a part of life… for everyone.   But there are ways to lessen the blow for our pets.

How can you keep those tails wagging?

During periods of change in your home, try to keep your pet’s routine the same.  Keep up with daily exercise, play and cuddle time—even if your new circumstances make it difficult.  Your pet needs their regular routine.

If your pet is moping, try not to reward that behavior by lavishing affection on them.  Instead, get them to do something that makes them happy and reward that behavior.

For instance, grab the leash for a walk.  If they wag their tail and show excitement, praise that happy behavior.

With a cat, give them their space.  But when they come to you, try to engage them in an activity they like and give them affection when they respond.

If you use this method of behavior modification early on, you can often avoid a prolonged period of depression.

Most pets bounce back in a few days or weeks.  They just need a little more TLC, exercise, and attention.

But if your pet falls into a depression you aren’t able to help them shake, talk to your vet about meds.  Some of the medications used for depression in people are also available for our pets.  Vets often prescribe drugs like Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft.

Medication takes time to kick in—up to 2 months.  But your pet probably won’t need to be on it for more than 6 to 12 months.

If you prefer to take a more holistic approach, herbal supplements are available for pet depression.  A holistic vet can help you find the one that’s right for your dog or cat.

But remember, never give your pet any drugs or supplements without talking to your vet first.  They can have adverse effects if your pet is sick or is on other medications.

Depression is treatable in people and pets.  It just takes a little education to see the signs so you can act… because happiness is something we all want for our pets.

Has your dog or cat suffered from depression?  How did you know and what did you do about it?  Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

12 Tips to Calm Your Pet This New Year’s Eve

In a few short days, 2016 will come to a close. If it’s been a year you’re happy to see end, you’ll likely be celebrating.   As will your friends and neighbors who are happy to turn the page on the calendar.

With all that celebrating there’ll surely be noisemakers, fireworks, loud music and maybe some hootin’ and hollerin’ in your home or your neighborhood.

Although the carousing may be a release for us, our pets don’t feel quite the same way. For them, loud noises can be terrifying and anxiety provoking, making New Year’s Eve less than enjoyable for our furry family members.

If you have a seriously anxious pet, they may tremble, hide, pace or pant. With moderate anxiety your pet may lick their lips and yawn a lot.

Knowing you have an anxious pet enables you to be proactive and prepare.   Here are 12 things you can do to minimize your pet’s stress.

1) Confine your pet to a safe place. If your pet is crate trained, they’ll probably be comfortable there. But if your pet isn’t crate trained, now’s not the time to try it. Instead, put them in a safe room where they can’t get themselves into trouble.

2) Play relaxing classical music or the television at a volume that’s loud enough to drown out the frightening noises, but not too loud to cause more anxiety.

3) Spray lavender oil on your pet’s bed or favorite blanket. Or just let them smell it.

4) Try canine or feline pheromones that help your pet feel safe. These come as plug-in room diffusers or sprays.

5) Talk to your vet about ProQuiet, a chewable tryptophan tablet that works for cats and dogs. Sileo is a prescription medication for dogs that reduces anxiety without sedation. Ask your vet if it’s right for your dog.

6) Take your dog out for as much exercise as possible before the festivities begin. And keep your cat moving with toys and laser pointers before the evening gets going. They’ll be too tired to be stressed.

7) Try desensitizing earlier in the day or a few days before by making loud noises, blowing the noisemakers, and clanking the pots and pans. This may not work for extremely anxious pets.

8) Try a pressure point coat like ThunderShirt. These jackets put constant gentle pressure on a dog’s pressure points and promote a sense of calm by creating the sensation of being held.

9) Distract your pet with food puzzles or some new toys. Spritz a new toy with catnip to keep your cat engaged. And I never met a dog that didn’t love a Kong stuffed with peanut butter.

10) Allow your pet to follow you around if that helps them stay calm. If that’s not possible or you’re going out, hire a pet sitter. This is particularly advisable if your pet is extremely anxious.

11) Some say you shouldn’t comfort or coddle a frightened pet. It will reinforce their negative behavior. But some say it’s okay to show calm affection. I’m personally in that camp. If you were scared, wouldn’t someone speaking soothingly calm you down? When your pet is calm, reinforce that behavior with treats. And always stay calm yourself so your pet sees that everything’s okay.

12) Leave the neighborhood for a quieter place if possible.

One or two of these alone may not work. You may have to try several of them to have any effect on your pet.

In spite of your best efforts, you may come home to damage if you leave your pet alone on New Year’s Eve and there’s a ruckus in your neighborhood.

Whatever you do, don’t scold them! Your pet needed an outlet to express their anxiety. Or they may have been trying to escape from it.

What if your typically calm pet unexpectedly becomes anxious on New Year’s Eve? This can happen as pets age. Especially if they suffer from health problems or the dementia I wrote about in my last article.

Awareness can go a long way in minimizing your pet’s stress. It allows you to plan if you know you have an anxious pet.

But there are also things on the list you can do if your normally relaxed pet starts to unravel. Look out for the signs your pet is melting down and confine them to a safe place. Play calming music. Give them a stuffed Kong toy.  And sit with them for a while.

In some pets, the anxiety is so severe they hurt themselves. They may bloody their paws trying to escape out a closed door or possibly even jump from a window. And never tie up your anxious dog outside. They can injure themselves trying to escape the tether and runaway.

Always be sure your pet has a collar on with identifying tags and that they are micro-chipped, in case they get loose.

It’s unfair to let a pet suffer. Talk to your vet if you know you have an anxious pet.

For humans, the holiday season is a time for joyful celebration. But we rarely consider what our pets think of all the hoopla.  We can make the festivities enjoyable for all our family members with a little planning.

A happy and healthy 2017 to you and your pets!

How do you keep your pet calm when they’re frightened of noises? Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

7 Herbs That May Be Good For Your Cat

You may or may not believe in using herbal supplements to treat what’s ailing you. But have you ever thought about using them for your cat’s medical conditions?

They can often help where traditional medications have fallen short. And they can also be a terrific complement to traditional medicine.

Just as herbs are beneficial for treating conditions in people, they can help our pets too.

But always check with your vet before giving herbs to your cat. Some herbal supplements can be toxic if you give your cat too much. And they can be inadvisable if your pet is taking other meds.

And remember that a supplement can be good for one condition, but make others worse. Only your vet can tell you if your cat is a good candidate for herbal remedies.

Here are 7 herbs to consider for your feline.

1) Valerian Root

People use valerian root to help them sleep. In cats, it has the opposite effect. Valerian root will give your cat a boost of energy. This is helpful if you have an overweight, lazy cat you’d like to get moving.

Valerian root is a great alternative to catnip if your kitty isn’t a fan. Or you can use both on different occasions. It makes them feel euphoric and can reduce stress. Actinidine is the active ingredient in valerian root that produces the euphoric response.

You can sprinkle valerian root on their scratching post or toys. You can even find toys laced with it.

2) Dandelion

Dandelion root is a diuretic. It promotes liver detoxification and keeps the urinary tract healthy.  The root of this pretty yellow flower is just good for digestion.

And how about a laxative?  Does your cat need one? Dandelion root’s a natural remedy.

You may be wondering about the flower itself.  Well, it can be a safe and gentle pain reliever.

3) Catnip

If you have a cat, you know catnip is kitty crack. It’s an herb in the mint family. If a cat eats catnip, it acts like a sedative. But if your kitty sniffs it, this herb also known as Nepeta produces a “high” that lasts for about 10 minutes.

Nepetalactone is the compound in the leaves and stems that produces the response in your cat. The scent mimics that of feline pheromones. The “high” your cat feels from sniffing this herb may make them act hyper.

Cats inherit the sensitivity to Nepetalactone and only about half of all cats are actually sensitive to the herb.

Because the sensitivity takes time to develop, young kittens won’t react to catnip. Your cat must be several months old before they experience the “high”, if at all. And if your cat is exposed to it often, they may lose their sensitivity.

4) Goldenseal

Goldenseal is a natural antibiotic. Make a goldenseal tea.  Strain, cool, and make a compress for infected or irritated eyes.

You can also use goldenseal as a disinfectant on wounds. Turn the powdered root into a poultice and apply it to skin infections or ulcers.

Goldenseal has anti-inflammatory properties too.

5) Eyebright

Eyebright is an herbaceous flowering plant. It’s one you might never have heard of.  But this is an herb that seems to be a panacea for upper respiratory infections. Eyebright helps nasal mucous, sneezing, and breathing difficulties, as well as eye rubbing. It also supports the immune system.

Eyebright is often made into a tea—1 to 2 teaspoons added to your cat’s food. Or use it as a wash for the nose or eyes.

6) Nettle

You may choose to buy this one in supplement form to avoid having to harvest it from your garden. The little hairs that cover the nettle plant will sting your skin and cause blisters. Its other name is stinging nettle… for a reason.

But nettle packs a health punch!

A tea of nettle is helpful in treating seasonal allergies. There are histamine-like substances in nettle. These substances may slow the body’s own release of histamines… the cause of those allergic reactions.

Nettle is rich in vitamins and minerals including Vitamin C and iron. These nutritive properties make nettle an all-around great addition to your cat’s food.

It also reduces itchy skin from fleabites when used topically. And there’s evidence nettle may help with kidney function.

7) Parsley

Veterinarians use parsley to support urinary tract health. It helps prevent kidney stones and is used to treat cystitis.

Parsley stimulates appetite in cats that are poor eaters. And it’s good for digestion, not to mention fresh breath!

Parsley has a lot of folic acid… very beneficial to heart health. And some claim parsley discourages tumor growth, particularly lung tumors.

In cats that have given birth, parsley is useful in promoting lactation and contracting the uterus. But never give parsley during pregnancy. It can cause contractions.

You can also rub parsley leaves on the skin to help with bruising and itching.

These are only a handful of herbs that are natural remedies for what’s ailing your kitty. There are many other herbs that can be helpful where traditional medicine hasn’t been. You can get lots of information on this topic from a holistic veterinarian.

And if you decide to grow any of these herbs in your garden, you’ll want to research the best and safest ways to use them. A holistic vet can help.

But if you decide to buy herbs in supplement form instead of growing them, buy from a reliable source. Reputable sellers should be more than happy to tell you how to use them effectively and safely.

Herbs are generally not harmful when used topically.

But as I said at the start, herbs taken orally can endanger your cat. Some herbs are poisonous. Some are only poisonous in high doses. Some are contraindicated with traditional medications. So always talk to your vet before starting your cat on any herbs or herbal supplements.

Do you give your cat herbs? How have they helped? Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

Pumpkin for Dogs and Cats… 6 Reasons To Give It To Your Pet

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.

5) Hairballs

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.

6) Hydration

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.