It’s Pumpkin Season For Pets!
We might all get tired of Pumpkin Spice everything, but the common pumpkin is healthy and beneficial for cats and dogs in lots of different ways.
I have a few go to things in my arsenal that I suggest for dogs who have sensitive stomachs, food intolerances, leaky gut or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Tops on that list? Plain old pumpkin, a food that has an almost magical range of benefits for dogs with stomach issues.
Pumpkin is rich in fibre, and low in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol, and it’s a good source of Vitamin E, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Potassium. A 2010 study in the “International Journal of Pharmacology” shows that pumpkin contains powerful antioxidants – compounds that protect cells from free radicals, and help the body to fight immune disease. This same study shows that Pumpkin acts as an anti inflammatory, soothing the stomach lining and reducing inflammation in the gut.
Pumpkin fibre has an equally beneficial effect for both diarrhea, and constipation. For dogs with loose stool or diarrhea, the fibre in pumpkin helps to bind stool, while it also absorbs water from the gut. Pumpkin’s anti inflammatory properties soothe the stomach and the intestinal lining. The same fibre helps constipated dogs, by bulking up and softening stool, and improving intestinal motility. For cats, pumpkin can help to prevent and eliminate hairballs, and (just like with dogs) it eases both constipation and diarrhea.
Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil are very much in the news at the moment, especially after the Dr. Oz show did a segment touting the effectiveness of pumpkin seed and pumpkin seed oil at combatting everything from prostate problems to skin issues. This isn’t just hyperbole, either – a clinical study at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) showed Pumpkin seed oil is beneficial in treating overactive bladders, urinary tract infections and bladder inflammation – common conditions in many dogs, especially elderly dogs and spayed bitches.
If Fido is a bit on the fluffy side, you might be feeding him a specialized weight control kibble. The ‘weight control’ in most kibbles come from simply adding more fibre to the kibble recipe used in non diet foods. This fibre source can be anything from beet pulp to cellulose from pine trees (yes, really). Skip the garbage fillers, and add bulk and flavor to your chubby dog’s diet with the simple addition of a few tablespoons full of pumpkin.
You can purchase canned Pumpkin puree at pet food specialty stores, or in the grocery store. If buying canned pumpkin at the grocery store, make sure to choose plain Pumpkin, and not sweetened and spiced pumpkin pie filling. You’d be surprised how much canned “pumpkin” contains large portions of much cheaper squash varieties. Libby’s Brand canned pumpkin is certified 100% genuine pumpkin, but in fall, when fresh Pumpkins are everywhere, it’s super easy to make your own homemade Pumpkin puree, and it easily freezes into individual portions.
To give your dog the benefit of pumpkin seed oil, take the seeds you retained while cleaning your pumpkin and lightly roast them (directions below) and then feed either whole, or give them a quick puree in your magic bullet or food processor.
Easy Pumpkin Puree Method (from the Farmer’s Almanac)
- Cut a pumpkin in half and then into fourths.
- Use a large spoon or scoop to remove the seeds, and set aside (Seeds are edible and nutritious too. Save for roasting.)
- Place the pumpkin skin-side down in a roasting pan. Add a little water to cover the bottom of the pan and cover.
- Place in a 300°F oven. The pumpkin will take about 1 hour to bake, unless you are working with a small one.
- Test the center of the pumpkin for softness with a knife. When the pumpkin is done, it will slice easily.
- Remove pumpkin from the oven when it’s ready and uncover.
- Allow to cool slightly to the touch.
- Cut the fleshly part away from the hard outside shell. Chop the fleshy part into 2” to 3” inch chunks.
- If the pumpkin will be used solely for pies or breads, process the pumpkin cubes in a blender or food processor until smooth.
- Store pumpkin in the freezer for future use. Freeze in storage containers or pressure-can in pint-canning jars.
Lightly Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
- Preheat oven to 400°F
- Rinse pumpkin seeds in colander under cool running water to remove pulp
- Lightly oil baking sheet or roasting pan with 1 TBSP olive or coconut oil
- Spread seeds in an even layer on pan, tossing to coat in oil
- Roast for 15 – 20 minutes, until seeds are just golden
- Cool and store in airtight jars or plastic containers
- Feed whole seeds by adding to food, or to pets as a snack