November already? Hard to believe we are so deep into the fall season. Time seems to be going fast and slow all at the same time! While we are not huge fans of pumpkin spice everything, we are huge fans of pumpkins themselves. They are so much more than a decorative Halloween staple and a fabulous pie at Thanksgiving. The health benefits pumpkins offer to us and our pets are something to celebrate.
It's pumpkin season! While I am not a big fan of everything pumpkin spice, I love the color, shape and texture of the iconic pumpkin. There is nothing like carving a pumpkin to put you in that Halloween spirit, either. They are like autumn’s version of the snowflake! But beyond the fun pumpkins bring, they are very healthy for us and our pets.
While it seems like pumpkin appearing in our pets’ food and treats is a recent trend, pumpkin has offered great benefits that the Native Americans were aware of. Pumpkin has properties that make it an excellent wound healer. It also fights off intestinal parasites naturally. The Native Americans shared this with the Pilgrims, saving many from dying of disease. It is easily digestible and an excellent source of soluble fiber. It can cure and prevent diarrhea, constipation and upset stomachs. It works by “bulking up” your pet’s stool and slowing down digestion.
Pumpkin is full of essential vitamins and minerals that boost the immune system. It is loaded with beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the liver. Both are antioxidants that slow the aging process. Pumpkin contains potassium and iron, which will aid in keeping your pet from becoming dehydrated during bouts with diarrhea and vomiting. Increasing the amount of soluble fiber in your pet’s diet will help maintain a healthy stool consistency. I personally add it to my own dogs’ diet daily. If you have a pet prone to anal gland issues, maintaining a proper stool consistency is important in preventing this from reoccurring. My Chihuahua, Pablo, used to be prone to this. Since changing his diet and adding pumpkin, we have not had one issue. Pumpkin is gentler than medications as a cure for constipation. It is important to be certain your pet is drinking enough water. Dehydration is very dangerous and also a culprit of constipation.
Pumpkin is perfect for soothing an upset digestive tract. The most common GI issues occur due to food changes and allergies. Pumpkin can assist both. When transitioning to a new food, do it gradually and include pumpkin in the mix. Use 10% pumpkin to 90% food. Pumpkin is also a successful weight loss tool. Pet obesity is a dangerous condition that has been on an alarming rise. Once your pet is overweight it can be difficult to shed that weight. The biggest culprits are usually us over treating. Foods that contain wheat, corn and soy are big contributors to obesity. They are high in sugar and carbohydrates. They also contain fillers that can be the cause of anal gland issues. By switching to a diet free of these inflammatories, limiting treats and adding whole, fresh foods and pumpkin to the diet, your pet can successfully shed the excess weight. Once again, the reason it is a good meal replacer is that it slows down digestion, making your pet fill full. Replace up to ¼ cup of pet’s food with 1 tablespoon of pumpkin.
All of my cats love/loved pumpkin. For cats, reduce their food and do not let them free-feed, even consider using a timed feeder and give pumpkin as a treat. The general recommended daily dose of pumpkin for your pet is 1 tablespoon per 10 pounds of pet. For pets weighing under 10 pounds, start with 1 teaspoon and gradually increase amount. Be sure to always use pure pumpkin. Either canned pumpkin puree, or better yet, bake your own. Cooked pumpkin freezes well so you can make large amounts ahead of time. Avoid pumpkin pie filling, due to its salt and sugar content.
If you choose to bake your own pumpkin, bake and save the seeds as well. Unsalted pumpkin seeds are very beneficial. They are an effective de-worming agent. They can prevent and treat urinary tract infections and can prevent kidney stone development. Pumpkin seeds are rich in vitamins that support cardiovascular health and are full of anti-inflammatory properties. Unsalted, shelled and ground pumpkin seeds are most appealing and palatable to our pets. You can use a spice of coffee grinder to grind them. Just be sure it is clean and contains no coffee grounds. Pumpkin seed oil is very special in its own right. Pumpkin seed oil provides relief to aging dogs who may be suffering from incontinence or overactive bladders.
Now that you know all there is to know about the benefits of pumpkin, gather your family and pooch and head out to the pumpkin patch. After you find that perfect gourd, stop by your favorite coffee shop and warm up with a pumpkin spice latte and "puppacino"! Love,