Pumpkins. Really, where can you go wrong with them?
By themselves? Beautiful to look at, delicious to eat. Roasted? Forget about it. Turned into a pie? DIVINE, we tell you.
But one of the often forgotten things about pumpkins is that not only are they delicious, but they’re also just so… darn. good for you. Not just for humans, either! Pumpkins are indeed a wildly healthy food for our pets, too!
But, just how healthy are they? Are they something that’s nice for our dogs to get a taste of every now and then, or should their food always have a little bit of pumpkin shellacked on for good measure?
We’ll answer all that and more in this short blog below!
Why is Pumpkin Healthy for Dogs?
Pumpkin is like a superfood for our furry friends. Not only is it low in calories (so it’s basically a diet food), but it’s also packed full of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Additionally, pumpkin is saturated with potassium which helps regulate blood pressure and boosts your dog’s metabolism. Then there’s all of the minerals that pumpkin contains such s iron, phosphorus, and magnesium, all of which can aid in your dog’s blood and bone health.
However, what pumpkin is most lauded for is its fiber. It is positively stuffed with fiber all around. At least that’s what Judy Morgan, DVM from Clayton Veterinary Associates had to say to Chewy.com: “Pumpkin is a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber. Based on this, it can be helpful for both constipation and diarrhea in dogs”.
What Are the Health Benefits of Pumpkin for Dogs?
One of the best facts about pumpkin for dogs is that every single component of the gourd is extremely nutritious. The flesh itself is packed full of water and essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, while the seeds contain antioxidants and a generous dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Below, we go into a bit more detail on the health benefits pumpkin can deliver to your pup.
Pumpkin is rich in Vitamin A: a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that is mainly stored in the liver when ingested. Vitamin A has been extensively studied for its benefit to the eyes and the science is in: it is essential for dogs’ eye health. Vitamin A supports the formation of certain pigments that enable the eyes to adjust to changes in light. This is why night blindness is often a symptom of Vitamin A deficiency.
Skin and Coat
Pumpkin is good for more than just ensuring that your dog can see well – it also helps them maintain a luscious coat and soft skin.
This is because of its healthy dose of key nutrients such as Vitamin A and zinc. Meeting your dog’s zinc requirement is especially important to guarantee the health of their skin and coat.
This is because of a thing called mast cells. Mast cells in dogs which are white blood cells found in connective tissues all throughout the body, especially beneath skin and hair. Mast cells contain granules which are rich in histamines, heparin, and zinc, all of which correct mast cell function and promote healthy cell function.
Ergo: by getting their recommended daily dose of zinc, your dog’s hair and skin will heal and regenerate much faster and easier. What a blessed bonus!
Nearly every part of a pumpkin can be used to promote good digestive health in dogs thanks to its high concentration of natural, soluble fiber.
Pumpkin’s high fiber content helps bulk up your dog’s stool by absorbing water, while the fiber’s fermentation produces certain fatty acids that supply energy to cells within the digestive system and lower the pH of the large intestines.
Not only that, but fiber’s tendency to lower the pH level of your dog’s intestines also acts as a prebiotic. No, not a probiotic; a PREbiotic. Prebiotics stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria, inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria, and providing the necessary nutrients that bacteria need.
Given its rich moisture and fiber content, pumpkin is also a powerful tool for your pet’s weight control and subsequent loss. The fiber and water in the pumpkin will help keep them full for longer and avoid overeating, which prevents them from unintentionally gaining even more weight.
Boosts the Immune System
Pumpkin is a natural immune booster for a variety of reasons. First, its Vitamin A content makes it ideal for supporting the production of white blood cells and helping antibodies fight off viruses.
Similarly, pumpkin has a high concentration of Vitamin C. This naturally occurring, potent antioxidant scavenges your dog’s body to eliminate harmful free radicals and reduce inflammation which can help improve their immune response to certain illnesses.
Additionally, upping your dog’s Vitamin C intake can actually help regenerate oxidized Vitamin E, which is essential for cell function and fat metabolism and may improve your dog’s immune system’s resilience.
Remember how we said earlier that every part of the pumpkin is beneficial to your dog’s health? Well, we really meant it. Not only is the pumpkin’s flesh beneficial, but so are the seeds!
Pumpkin seeds are rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids that help promote water consumption and absorption which helps detoxify the urinary tract.
Specifically, the omega-3 fatty acids in pumpkin seeds have certain anti-inflammatory properties which are known to help dislodge kidney stones.
Pumpkin seeds have also been shown to help treat urinary incontinence by reducing inflammation in the urinary tract.
Protects Against Parasites
Everyone knows that parasites can absolutely decimate your dog’s digestive system, all while causing a variety of unpleasant symptoms such as weight loss, dry skin, and even neurological problems.
Luckily, pumpkin has high amounts of the amino acid cucurbitacin which is naturally toxic to a variety of dog parasites and has been used in the past to expel worms.
Should I Give My Dog Canned or Fresh Pumpkin?
Both fresh and canned pumpkin are safe to give your dog! However, if you decide to give them canned pumpkin, make sure that it contains no added sugars, fillers, or ingredients, as these all can upset your dog’s stomach. You’ll want to especially make sure that whatever kind of canned pumpkin you’re using contains no spices, either; spices like cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon might be delicious to us, but they can actually severely irritate your dog’s digestive system.
How Do You Prepare Pumpkin for Your Dog?
Below are the best ways to prepare and serve pumpkin to your dog.
It is fast and easy to serve plain, canned pumpkin to your dog. Simply take it out of the can and add between ½ to 1 teaspoon with their food. For a larger dog, start with a full tablespoon. That’s it!
Serving fresh pumpkin undoubtedly takes more work than just opening a can, but it’s really not so hard. All you have to do is split the pumpkin and remove its seeds. Then, bake it in your oven until soft. Once soft, remove the flesh from the pumpkin’s tough outer shell. Once the flesh has been removed, add between ½ of a teaspoon and a tablespoon to your dog’s food, depending on their size.
To get the full health benefits of pumpkin for your dog, you’re going to need to find a way to use the seeds. Thankfully, we all already know a delicious way to do that: it’s simply roasting them! Now, while you can’t go about adding lots of salt and fall spices to these seeds, your dog is still likely to love them. All you have to do is remove the seeds, clean them, and then roast them for one hour at 350 degrees. Voila! You’ve got a perfectly healthy, crunchy snack that’s sure to please your pup!
Cooled Pumpkin Puree
To create pumpkin puree, start by peeling the pumpkin and removing its seeds. Once that’s been accomplished, slice the pumpkin into one- to two-inch chunks before placing them in boiling water for 30 minutes. Then, drain the chunks and mash them into a paste. This puree will keep for up to six months in the freezer, so feel free to defrost it before adding it a teaspoon at a time to your dog’s food!
Of course, we know we probably don’t have to tell you to take necessary precautions when preparing your dog’s food. After all, you’re a responsible pet parent that’s always looking for new ways to ensure your dog is healthy and happy – hence why you’re on this blog! Still, it’s good to take the extra step and educate dog owners about all the things they need to know and do to care for their dog.
Like, for example, do you know what to do if your dog has diarrhea but acts fine? (Besides giving them some pumpkin to help abate their upset stomach…)…or…do you often wonder how long a dog can go without peeing? Or for more general facts, take a look at our dog faq page.