The Benefits of Canned Pumpkin for Your Pet

Photo Credit: jillwatson on Flicker, 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?

Best wishes,

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
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit 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,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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8 Comments on “The Benefits of Canned Pumpkin for Your Pet

  1. Hi Ann. I’m not sure that carrots will do the job as well as pumpkins. To my knowledge, they have not been used in a similar fashion.

  2. My vet recommended pumpkin just yesterday because the dog was in for expression of anal sacs just two months after last needing that. But what about carrots??? (I wish I had asked her.) Would carrots do the job just as well? I always have carrots around, and the dog loves them. I gave her some last night. If pumpkin is 90% water, are carrots perhaps a better ratio? It’s easier for me to always have carrots than to always have pumpkins. But I will go get some pumpkin and try it.

  3. I have used canned and in October when pumpkins are plentiful, have made my own mashed pumpkin for the dogs. I have tried for many years, in vain I might add, to give it to my cats…oh well, at least the dogs love it!

  4. I loved seeing this column, as we fed our dogs pumpkin for many years alongside their other balanced diet. Once my housemate kindly grew organic pumpkins and pureed them for Bonnie and Clyde, but mostly I bought the traditional canned kind.

    They gobbled it all up. :) Never tired of it.

    In fact, I saved the last can from feeding it to Gladys Venus Iris, our shiny black dog, and I still use it to store my pens.

  5. i’ve been feeding a heaping tbsp of cannned pumpkin daily to my dogs for over 20 years; it was first recommended as a preventitive for anal sach problems and indeed have never had to have them expressed since using it, or any problems with them

  6. I used to buy canned pumpkin, which I found to be quite expensive; now I buy fresh, ORGANIC yams and sweet potatoes, boil them and mash them like potatoes. Under $1.99/pound, as opposed to $4 for a one pound can of (non-organic)pumpkin! I add greens and other things, but my dogs love this, and they have had less digestive problems. I recommend it to everyone! (as Dr. Kay says, check with your vet first).
    Only use ORGANIC; the others are treated with a chemical to prevent sprouting.

  7. I have been using pure canned pumpkin for many years!! My vet is the one who told me to use it. I use a tablespoon or more. I stuff Kongs with pumpkin and freeze it. (Especially during the hot weather). Then I give it to my Labs to lick it. They love it and it keeps them occupied for a good while.
    I also stuff pumpkin in one end of the white sterilized bones you can buy at pet stores. You can freeze it or just spoon it in the end. They enjoy them either way.

  8. Canned pumpkin is a staple in my home and I urge any new client w/ puppies to keep it as a staple as well. I agree w/ you than consulting w/ their vet is of utmost importance. Dogs get into things, especially puppies. If everything else is good, appetite, energy level, zest for life and the runs come out of the blue it can’t hurt to offer a bit of pumpkin and see if it helps. I use it for my cat as well, he loves it and is 17 yrs old. A healthy boy for sure. Thanks again Nancy for another informative blog offering alternatives.