Pumpkin is a good source of soluble fiber, which helps regulate bowel movements and gastric emptying.1 It may also provide a variety of nutrients, including alkaloids, flavonoids and oleic and linoleic acids.2 However, is it safe to give it to your pet as a healthy treat, and how much can you give them without causing any digestive problems? Learn how pumpkin may aid in optimizing your pet's health and how you can ensure that you're not giving them too much.
Is Pumpkin Bad for Dogs and Cats?
Pumpkin is a fiber-rich food that you can give to your pets as a healthy treat. While cats and dogs don't need fiber in their diet,3 fiber in pumpkin can assist your pet's digestive tract by helping stop the overgrowth of bad bacteria in their intestines. It also reduces symptoms of diarrhea and constipation by regulating the speed of intestinal transit time — slowing it down during periods of diarrhea and speeding it up during constipation.4 A two-tablespoon serving of boiled pumpkin can give your pets about 0.34 grams of fiber.5
However, note that adding pumpkin to your dog's or cat's diet may not be enough if you're expecting therapeutic results. Pumpkin contains two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. If you give pumpkin as the primary source, you may be feeding the wrong type of fiber that your pet needs. While it may add to your pet's total intake of this important component, you should not depend on this food to give your pet the required amount.6
Pumpkin also is rich in multiple essential nutrients that may benefit your pets. These include:
- Calcium — For dogs, calcium is especially important for skeletal mineralization, with almost 99% of calcium intake stored in the bones. This mineral also facilitates muscle contraction, activation of protein kinases and mediation of cellular response to hormones.7 Two tablespoons of boiled pumpkin will give your pets about 4.6 milligrams of calcium.8
- Magnesium — A cofactor in almost 300 enzymatic reactions, magnesium plays crucial roles in various physiological functions, such as heart rhythm, nerve function and muscle contraction and relaxation. Together with calcium, magnesium also regulates bone formation in both cats and dogs.9 Your pets can get approximately 2.75 milligrams of magnesium in a 2-tablespoon serving of pumpkin.10
- Phosphorus — This mineral is essential for metabolic functions, including bone formation, energy metabolism and buffer action.11 There are about 9.1 milligrams of phosphorus in 2 tablespoons of pumpkin.12
- Potassium — Maintaining healthy levels of potassium has been linked to a lowered risk of heart, kidney and bone diseases. It helps maintain healthy blood pressure and fight chronic kidney damage.13 Your pets can get about 70.5 milligrams of potassium for 2 tablespoons of boiled pumpkin.14
- Vitamin C — This vitamin is essential for strengthening your pet's immune system to combat possible diseases. Vitamin C is also a well-known antioxidant and free radical scavenger, which may help protect your pets from inflammation and even cancer.15,16,17 A 2-tablespoon serving of pumpkin provides 1.44 milligrams of vitamin C.18
- Beta Carotene — Beta carotene is vital for your pet's skin, coat, muscles and nerves.19 It also serves an important role in growth and development, immune function and cellular function.20 Your pets can get 642.5 µg of pre-vitamin A in 2 tablespoons of pumpkin.21
Is Pumpkin Safe for Pets?
Pumpkin is a safe treat or food topper for pets; just make sure it's 100% plain, pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling. Products that boast pumpkin as their main ingredient, such as pumpkin pie mixes or pumpkin pudding, may contain high levels of sugar or additives that are not beneficial for pets. A 100-gram serving of pumpkin pudding can contain approximately 12.14 grams of sugar, while one individual-sized pumpkin pie contains about 22.1 grams.22,23 In addition, some pumpkin-flavored products may also undergo intense processing, which may deplete pumpkin's nutritional content while adding preservatives and artificial flavorings or coloring.24
Ideally, you should always choose fresh, steamed pumpkin for your pets to avoid exposing them to possible harmful components in the heavily processed canned products. Only give your pets human-grade produce to make sure that you're giving them the highest quality. This will also ensure that they're getting the maximum amounts of nutrients that pumpkins have to offer. If unavailable, you can opt for 100% pure, canned pumpkin from trustworthy organic brands.
Check Out My Pumpkin Almond Cookies Recipe
Here's a great example on how to transform pumpkin into a healthy pet treat. For this recipe, you can use either canned, 100% pure, organic pumpkin or cooked pumpkin, whichever you have on hand:
Pumpkin Almond Cookies for Pets
✓ 1/4 cup coconut flour
✓ 1 pastured egg
✓ 1/2 cup pumpkin
✓ 1 tablespoon almond butter
✓ 2 tablespoons coconut oil
✓ A dash of cinnamon, ginger or clove (optional)
- Add all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
- Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
- Let cool before serving to your pets.
Give Your Pets Pumpkin Treats to Boost Fiber Intake
Pumpkin contains high levels of soluble fiber, which is especially beneficial for your pet's metabolism and bowel health.25 Providing them with this healthy treat not only may help with their digestion, but will also provide numerous nutrients for your pet's needs. Giving 1 to 4 tablespoons of plain 100% pure, organic canned pumpkin may help with mild cases of diarrhea or constipation.26
However, note that pumpkin should not be given as an automatic, go-to solution for pets that suffer from chronic digestive issues. If you think your pet is having constant digestive issues, contact your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pumpkin for Pets
Q: Can I give my pets pumpkin pie filling and puddings?
A: No. While these products contain pumpkin, the high sugar content and its effect on your pet's metabolism and overall health may far outweigh the benefits they may offer.27,28 Pumpkin pies and puddings are also processed, which means that the nutrients that pumpkin contains may be depleted.29
Q: Is pumpkin safe for dogs and cats?
A: Pumpkin is safe for dogs and cats as long as you give them only moderate amounts. Choose boiled or steamed, unsalted pumpkin to boost your pet's fiber levels.30
Q: Is pumpkin good for pets?
A: Pumpkin is a good source of fiber, which may help with your dog's digestion and metabolism.31 Pumpkin also contains other beneficial nutrients, such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus and vitamin C.32
Q: Will pumpkin help with my pet's diarrhea or constipation?
A: Because of pumpkin's high soluble fiber content, giving your pets 1 tablespoon for every 10 pounds of body weight can be helpful in abating diarrhea or constipation. However, avoid feeding them solely canned pumpkin as this may exacerbate digestive discomfort.33