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Can dogs eat pumpkin? Benefits and risks of this fall favorite

can dogs eat pumpkin
(Image credit: Getty Images)

'Can dogs eat pumpkin?' is a common question asked by many pet owners once the seasons change and it gets a little chillier in the air. 

A firm festive favorite, this orange vegetable is both delicious and versatile for human consumption so it's understandable that you might want to share this tasty treat with your four-legged friend.

Pet owners in search of the best dog treat for their furry friend are often turning to their own kitchen. However, while the contents of your larder can seem healthier than the average dog treat lining the shelves, it's important to clue yourself up on what human food can dogs eat and understand the ins and outs of feeding your pooch common vegetables. 

Choosing healthy dog treats can be really tricky at the best of times and with so many different parts to a pumpkin, it’s difficult to know what - if any - of these are safe for your canine to enjoy.  

But, in short, pumpkin that is prepared in a specific way can make for an ideal treat that your canine companion is sure to love. 

Can dogs eat pumpkin and is it good for them? 

In short, yes, but only the pulp and the seeds! Pumpkin is packed full of important vitamins and minerals that can benefit your dog in a number of ways. It contains Vitamins A, C and E, Alpha carotene, Calcium, Iron, and Lutein, which (among other things) help to improve your pooch’s immune system, strengthens their bones and teeth, and keeps their skin, coat, and eyes healthy. 

This fall favorite is also low in calories and filled with lots of fiber, making it the perfect treat should your pooch need to lose a few pounds.

Its high fiber content could also be the reason why so many owners swear by it when their pet has digestive issues, such as constipation or diarrhea. A tablespoon of canned pumpkin, which is mixed in with their normal food, could make them feel right as rain in no time.

When is pumpkin bad for dogs? 

You might think that there’d be no harm in giving your canine a raw pumpkin to chew on, right? Wrong. The leaves and the stem of this hearty vegetable are covered in prickly hairs, which could irritate or harm your dog if they’re chewed or swallowed.

The tough exterior shell of a raw pumpkin can also prove to be a problem, as it isn’t easy for dogs to digest, so it’s advised not to give them a raw pumpkin - no matter how much it resembles a small ball-like chew toy.

Despite this, canned plain pumpkin is safe for your dog to enjoy. But this doesn’t apply to all types of pumpkin-based products.

Any type of pumpkin pie mix or blend should be completely avoided as it contains spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg, which can be toxic for puppies and cause digestive issues in older dogs. 

Another thing to keep in mind is the quantity. Too much pumpkin can actually be quite dangerous due to the high levels of beta carotene, which a dog’s body will convert into Vitamin A -  which in large quantities can be highly toxic.

Can dogs eat pumpkin: Australian Shepherd dog sitting outdoors on grass beside a pumpkin

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How much pumpkin to give a dog 

No more than a couple of teaspoons a day for smaller dogs or a couple of tablespoons for larger breeds each day is thought to be a safe amount. 

However, as with any health remedy or introduction of any new food, we always recommend you have a chat with your vet first. They'll be able to rule out any underlying conditions and recommend whether any other dietary changes need to be made to your dog's diet.

We recommend you start off slowly and see how your dog reacts, especially given that pumpkin is high in fiber, which could cause digestive issues in dogs with sensitive stomachs.

Funnily enough though, the soluble fiber content in pumpkin can come in handy if your dog has diarrhea because it absorbs water and helps bulk up their stool. Fiber also acts as a prebiotic which stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria and kills harmful bacteria, so a small amount of pumpkin can help rebalance the gut.

And as luck would have it, this miracle orange vegetable works wonders for serious constipation too, acting as a natural laxative and softening your dogs stools. Start with 1/2 tsp and increase to 2tsp if symptoms persist.

Tips on feeding your dog pumpkin 

If you find that your four-legged friend is getting tired of the treats you pick up for them from your local store, then pumpkin (prepared the right way) can make for a good substitute. There are plenty of recipes for homemade dog treats available online, but here’s a few simple suggestions for your dog to try that includes pumpkin: 

  • Suggestion 1 - One of the most fun ways for your dog to enjoy pumpkin, is to smush the pulp into their favorite Kong toy. 
  • Suggestion 2 - Fresh pumpkin can be steamed and mashed to make a delicious topping on their regular food.  
  • Suggestion 3 - It can be used to make dog-friendly “cookies” by mixing 2/4 cup of pumpkin puree, 2 ½ cups of oat/whole wheat flour, 2 eggs and 3 tbsps of peanut/almond butter. Bake for 30 minutes on a lined baking sheet.  

As with any new food - whether that be treats or main meals - it’s advised that you consult with your veterinarian first to ensure that it is safe for your dog.  

Chloe Petrylak

Chloe is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, who has more than eight years experience in media. With a passion for creating content all about wildlife and the environment, she can be found at www.chloemaywrites.com or @ChloeMayWrites on social media.