Posted on October 18, 2015
The Benefits of Canned Pumpkin for Your Pet
Jack-o-lanterns, Halloween decorations, Thanksgiving, and pumpkin pie! This is certainly the pumpkin season. But, do you know that pumpkins can be important year-round for some pets? Canned pumpkin is a commonly prescribed dietary additive for some gastrointestinal maladies. From diarrhea to constipation, pumpkin can be a dog’s (or cat’s) best friend.
What is canned pumpkin?
Canned pumpkin recommended by veterinarians is nothing more than pumpkin that has been pureed. It is a source of fiber that is low in fat and cholesterol. When purchasing canned pumpkin at the grocery store it is important to read the label carefully. Pie filling canned pumpkin has added ingredients such as sugar, fat, and various seasonings. It is the pure pumpkin product that veterinarians recommend.
How can pumpkin help?
Canned pumpkin can provide a number of health benefits based primarily on its fiber content. Be forewarned that canned pumpkin is mostly water, to the tune of approximately 90%. This means that the content of fiber is fairly low (not nearly as much as is found in Metamucil).
Pumpkin isn’t a be-all and end-all remedy for cats and dogs with gastrointestinal issues, but it is a reasonably harmless thing to try. If this has you thinking, “Hmm, maybe I’ll give canned pumpkin a try,” I urge you to consult with your veterinarian before doing so. In some cases, added fiber could cause more harm than good. All this being said, canned pumpkin does seem to make a significant difference for some animals in the following ways:
- Diarrhea: Fiber can act as a sponge that absorbs excess water within the gastrointestinal tract. Diarrhea has a myriad of causes, and added dietary fiber can benefit some of them.
- Constipation: When there isn’t excess water in the gastrointestinal tract, fiber can help draw in water and ease stool passage. Fiber can also create bulk within the colon that helps alleviate constipation for some animals.
- Weight loss: Pumpkin provides a relatively low calorie way to give an animal the sense of a full stomach. This can make the reduction of overall food quantity more tolerable for the dieting animal.
- Hairballs: Canned pumpkin can benefit some cats who suffer from hairballs. The fiber content helps move things along within the gastrointestinal tract. Be reminded that, only rarely are hairballs the true cause of vomiting in kitties.
How much pumpkin should you feed?
The amount of canned pumpkin needed to provide benefit will vary from pet to pet. For example, a Chihuahua may require only a teaspoon per meal whereas a half cup may be required for a Great Dane. As with any dietary additive, it’s best to start small and then work your way up to the appropriate amount. Some animals, particularly those of the feline persuasion, don’t much care for this different tasting orange substance in their food bowl- another reason to begin with only a small amount that is more readily disguised.
If you are feeding your pet only a small amount of pumpkin daily, you may not use an entire can before it spoils. Consider placing the pumpkin in ice cube trays and freezing. Blocks can then be thawed as needed.
Questions for your veterinarian
- Might my pet benefit from the addition of canned pumpkin?
- How much canned pumpkin should I feed and how frequently?
- What should I be watching for once the pumpkin is started?
Do you feed your pets canned pumpkin and have you found it to be beneficial?
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.