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Pumpkin for Pets

dog with pumpkin - wombatarama.jpg
wombatarama, [Flickr]
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When giving your pet a treat, pumpkin is a great option. It is full of nutrients and fiber. Fresh pumpkin has a higher water content than canned pumpkin, but in moderation, both are a healthy choice for your furry friend.

There are special flavors that seem to be perfect for Autumn.  One is Pumpkin Spice – always popular for pies, but now there’s Pumpkin Spice coffee, cheesecake, tea, candles, soap, deodorant – almost anything you can think of is available in Pumpkin Spice.  While you should be very careful about giving your pet anything in the Pumpkin Spice category, real pumpkin (without the spice) can be a healthy treat for a dog or cat. 

     Pumpkin has good things like vitamin E, beta carotene and potassium, which help your pet’s internal organs work properly and maintain good overall eye, skin, heart, and general muscle health.  It can support the animal’s immune system. It is rich in fiber so it could help regulate the digestive system, something to remember if your best friend seems constipated or has diarrhea.

     There are two sources of pumpkin – canned pumpkin or real pumpkin. Canned pumpkin should be one hundred percent pumpkin with no sugar or other sweeteners added. If you plan to feed your pet real pumpkin, bake it first until it is soft.  Then remove the seeds and let it cool before giving it to your pet. Carved pumpkins (Jack O’Lanterns) should not be used.  After being cut and sitting around for a while, they breed mold and bacteria, which could make your pet sick. 

     When giving your furry buddy pumpkin, don’t overdo it.  Use about a teaspoon or two per day for small and medium dogs, and maybe a tablespoon or two for a large dog.  For cats, one-half teaspoon to a full teaspoon per day should be plenty. You can give it as is or mix it in the pet’s food.  Make sure your pet drinks plenty of water so the fiber in the pumpkin won’t cause dehydration.

     As with any addition to your animal’s diet, check with your veterinarian first. The whole idea is to make sure your best friend stays happy and healthy throughout the Autumn season, when you’re speaking of pets.

Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.