When a dog is having trouble with diarrhea or constipation, many owners turn to pumpkin, as a helpful food… but why is it so hard to find clear, professional guidance on how much pumpkin is safe and effective?
So, how much pumpkin can a dog have? Follow this easy rule: one teaspoon for a small dog, two for a medium dog, and three (one Tablespoon) for a large dog. Feed him only pumpkin that contains no salt, sugar, or fillers. Contrary to popular opinion, pumpkin is not the most effective solution for a dog’s irregularity. Better results are derived from a dehydrated carrot supplement; or a concentrated fiber supplement, as directed by the veterinarian.
Enthusiatic reports from owners far and wide have desperate owners running to the supermarket to grab a can of pumpkin for their irregular dogs, usually as a solution for diarrhea. Read on, for easy-to-remember guidelines on pumpkin “best practices,” and where to turn if pumpkin doesn’t do the trick. Remember, this is just to help your dog get more “regular.” If he is having nasty diarrhea, call the veterinarian.
How much Pumpkin is Safe for a Dog?
One to three teaspoons is a safe amount. The AKC recommends that you “add 1-to-4 tablespoons of pumpkin to your dog’s meal.” While this is larger amount is not directly unsafe, one must consider: what part of your dog’s diet would be replaced by all of this pumpkin? A dog who is eating a good-quality kibble already has a balanced diet, and too much daily pumpkin could shift that balance, causing your dog to lose protein and essential nutrients.
Yet, will the smaller, safer amount of pumpkin do the job? Just imagine how stunned I was to learn, from Tufts University, that you would have to feed your dog an astonishing ’12 cups of pumpkin a day, to provide enough fiber to make a difference…and that’s just for a medium-sized dog!’
This chart compares pumpkin and other fiber options available to dogs. You will be surprised at how pumpkin stacks up against the competition (fiber amounts reflect how much in a dog-sized serving):
Better Alternatives to Pumpkin for Dogs
Dr. Lisa M. Freeman of Tufts goes on to suggest that your dog might be better off having his veterinarian recommend a fiber supplement, in an appropriate amount for his weight, age, and condition. Note: although the recommended supplement is likely to be a common, “people” variety from the market, let the veterinarian advise you on the correct dosage. Today’s Veterinary Practice says that ‘insoluble fiber can interfere with nutrient digestibility.’
This does, however, kind of defeat the advantages of pumpkin – It’s a lot less expense and hassle to throw a can of pumpkin into your shopping cart, with the rest of your food; and certainly easier than hauling the dog to the veterinarian.
If your dog is anything like mine, a great place to make a switch in his diet would be in the cookie jar! A healthy treat would delight your pet, while helping to solve his irregularity. The simplest way to do this is by giving him the perennial owner favorite, Olewo Carrots. Dogs adore this dried-carrot treat, and it is surprisingly effective.
Check out these cute greyhound buddies, chowing down on Olewo Carrots.
Easiest Pumpkin Dog Biscuits: healthy, fresh, and fun
Instead of replacing your pup’s valuable kibble with the pumpkin, a healthier-all-around solution would be to replace one of his Milkbones! Although the Internet teems with recipes for pumpkin dog biscuits, here is one that has only two ingredients! Best of all, they contain pumpkin and oats (or whole wheat flour), providing a nice fiber boost in a healthy treat.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
- Mix 1/2 cup canned pumpkin with 1 cup oats (if your oats are too coarse, process them a bit in your blender first) to form a dough. That’s a 1:2 ratio, in case you want to make less dough, or more.
- Lightly grease a cookie sheet.
- Roll the dough 1/4″ thick, directly onto your prepared sheet. If your dough is too sticky, try refridgerating it until the oats have absorbed more of the moisture from the pumpkin. Failing that, you can always tighten it up with a little flour.
- Use a crimping pie/ravioli wheel cutter to cut the dough into 1″ squares.
- Dock them (prevents curling up), using the blunt end of a bamboo skewer to poke a hole into the center of each biscuit. No need to separate the biscuits. Alternatively, you can dock them with a fork. If you do that, you create a biscuit that you can break in half for a training treat.
- Bake about 40 minutes, until they’re hard and dry.
- Let them cool on the sheet, before breaking them apart.
- Store anywhere that dog biscuits keep well.
What Kind of Pumpkin is Best for Dogs?
When it comes to pumpkin for your dog, keep it simple – It must be nothing but pumpkin, and it must be cooked. Your two top choices are canned 100% pure pumpkin, or cooking a fresh pumpkin.
Canned pumpkin is extremely simple, because it is already cooked. No further heating or prepartion is needed. In fact, if you cook it further, you will cook out some of the nutrients. Reading the Ingredients on the label is equally simple. Buy the one that has just one ingredient: pumpkin.
My infographic will help you to navigate your various pumpkin choices:
Dangerous Pumpkin Additives: a dealbreaker for dogs
A word of caution: pumpkin may be good for your dog, but resist the temptation to share your treats with him during what I call “Pumpkin Spice Season.” Every Autumn, there seems to be more pumpkin-spice flavored items for sale, much of it containing no pumpkin whatsoever! Even if it does contain pumpkin, the “spice” part can be problematic. Pumpkin pie spice contains cinnamon and nutmeg, neither of which are OK for dogs; with nutmeg being particularly toxic.
Another very toxic additive you may find in pumpkin spice products is the sweetener, Xylitol. This alcohol sugar is double-barrel danger for your dog, as it can cause both a fatal insulin spike AND liver failure.
Other additions to commercial pumpkin products are added fats and sugars, which can feed cancer, so you certainly don’t want to feed them to your dog. Then, there are artificial flavors and colors, which aren’t healthy for any of us.
How to Prepare Fresh Pumpkin
Put down that Jack O’Lantern! If you have been avoiding cooking your own pumpkin, because the darned thing is so huge; you will be relieved to learn that the type of pumpkin used for cooking is the much smaller “sugar” variety.
The easiest way to cook a pumpkin is to roast it; although you can microwave it or boil it, as well. To roast it, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp, place it cut side down on a baking sheet, and roast it in a moderate oven for about an hour, or until it is easily pierced with a knife. Once cooled, you can scoop out the flesh. It will only keep in the fridge for a few days, so parcel it into containers and freeze it. Even better, mash it, and spread it into ice cube trays for no-fuss portioning!
Resources for Further Info
Dr. Freeman outlines the downside of pumpkin:
The AKC’s view of pumpkin for diarrhea:
TVP’s info on fiber supplements for your pet: