Fall is here and you know what that means—lots of pumpkin! Pumpkin-flavored pies, breads and lattes are just some of the treats we simply can’t get enough of this time of year. But while it’s a healthy, yummy treat for humans, can dogs eat pumpkin along with their pet parents?
The answer is yes, but in small amounts. Pumpkin for dogs is not only safe, it’s nutritious, too! Of course, like all good things, too much can be bad. So pet parents should understand the safest and best ways to incorporate this new food into their pet’s diet.
Read on to get the scoop on pumpkin for dogs—including the benefits, the best ways to introduce this new food into your dog’s diet, and how to make sure you don’t feed them too much.
Is Pumpkin Good for Dogs?
Yes! Pumpkin is full of vitamins, minerals and fiber—all good things for your fur baby.
One of the best benefits of feeding your dog pumpkin is that it can help your pup have a healthy gut. The fibers in pumpkin act as a prebiotic that feeds the friendly bacteria in your dog’s gut, which helps with everything from colon function to the immune system, according to Dr. Kelly S. Swanson, a professor of animal and nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (You can read more about prebiotics and probiotics for dogs here.)
“It discourages the overgrowth of ‘bad’ bacteria that can cause issues in the GI tract,” says Sarah Dougherty, DVM, associate veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital in Portland, Oregon, and a veterinarian with the Digital Health division of Kinship.
Adding a little pumpkin to your dog’s diet can also help your dog maintain a healthy weight, says Katie Lytle, DVM, MPH, MS, veterinary channel manager at Wisdom Health in Vancouver, Washington. That’s because the fiber in pumpkin can help your dog feel fuller for longer.
What about pumpkin for a constipated dog? Dr. Lytle also suggests pumpkin for dogs experiencing mild cases of constipation and diarrhea.
And for those pups that need a little extra help with their anal glands—yep, pumpkin can do that, too! The fiber in pumpkin can help prevent anal gland irritation, which can mean fewer trips to the vet.
Can Pumpkin Be Harmful for Dogs?
Unfortunately—yes, pumpkin can be harmful for dogs if you overdo it.
Because pumpkin is high in fiber, your dog’s tummy may get a little upset if they eat too much at once. Pumpkin is also rich in vitamin A, and too much can be toxic in dogs. If you notice your dog isn’t eating, is vomiting, is lethargic or has other signs of discomfort, call your vet.
So, how much pumpkin for dogs is the right amount? “[Pumpkin] should equal no more than 10 percent of your dog’s diet,” says Dr. Dougherty. “Any more can cause a nutritional imbalance and could result in them not absorbing other nutrients, including protein, effectively.”
When considering canned pumpkin for dogs, make sure to read the nutrition label to make sure your dog is getting pure pumpkin without any added ingredients. And you should always avoid canned pumpkin pie mix.
“Canned pumpkin pie mix has a lot of added spices, which can cause toxicities,” says Dr. Dougherty. “Even more, it contains added sugar, making it up to 281 calories per cup, which can add on the pounds quickly in small animals. Some canned pumpkin puree has up to 600 milligrams of added sodium per cup, which can be harmful to pets with heart and kidney disease.”
And be sure to never feed your dog pumpkin pie. Like a canned pumpkin pie mix, a fully baked pumpkin pie may contain ingredients that can be harmful to your dog.
You may also be wondering, “Can dogs eat raw pumpkin?” To be safe, stick with cooked or canned pumpkin, which is easier for dogs to break down and digest, says Dr. Dougherty.
Pet parents should try to keep their dog away from whole pumpkins, which are popular decorative items during this time of year. If eaten, “the stem of fresh pumpkins can splinter and cause abrasions to the GI tract,” says Dr. Dougherty. “The skin is also very tough and doesn’t digest well, leading to risks for GI obstruction.”
How to Feed Pumpkin to Your Dog
Feeding your dog pumpkin is easy!
Many pet parents will simply place a dollop of canned pumpkin on top of their regular food, but letting them lick a spoonful is also a nice treat, Dr. Lytle says.
You can also give your dog pumpkin in the form of treats or supplements.
The key is to start slowly. Too much fiber at once can cause gas, bloating, an upset tummy and diarrhea, according to Dr. Dougherty.
She suggests starting off with a small amount of pumpkin (about 25 percent of the total recommended daily amount) for about two to three days, increasing it little by little every two to three days until your pup is happily gobbling down the total recommended daily amount of pumpkin with no side effects. For small dogs, that max amount might mean ½ teaspoon per day, while large dogs can safely eat 1-4 tablespoons daily.
Pumpkin Treats for Dogs
If you’re looking for inspiration for other ways you can incorporate pumpkin into your dog’s diet, there are countless yummy, already-made-for-you dog treats with pumpkin—or you can get creative in the kitchen!
Here are some ideas:
Pumpkin Dog Treat Recipes
Pumpkin Dog Treats We Love
Pumpkin Apparel and Toys for Dogs
Do you have a dog who loves pumpkin? Dress your dog in their favorite flavor with a pumpkin-themed dog collar, or give your pup a dog-friendly gourd to chew on with our pumpkin dog toys.
Remember—it’s always a good idea to consult your vet before incorporating any new foods into your dog’s diet, especially if they have any underlying health conditions. But if you get the thumbs up to feed your pup pumpkin, we think they’ll love every bite!