Fall's Favorite Flavor Is Surprisingly Good For Pets

Pumpkin isn’t just for lattes anymore ☕️

Every year when the weather turns colder and the days get shorter, America restarts its pumpkin obsession.

With all the pumpkin-flavored treats available, from pies to lattes to pumpkin spice pizza, October might as well be pumpkin appreciation month. But the seasonal favorite isn’t just ideal for baking and decorating — pumpkins are surprisingly good for pets, too.

Adding pumpkin to your pet’s diet can have a wide variety of health benefits, notes New York City-based veterinarian Dr. Rachel Barrack. Pumpkin is chock-full of valuable nutrients, such as vitamin C, potassium and beta-carotene. In humans, studies show that the gourd can help lower blood pressure, promote digestive health and weight loss, and reduce the risk of developing heart disease and even certain types of cancer.

So what do you need to know about adding a scoop of pumpkin to your pet’s food bowl? Here’s how and why this fall veggie deserves to be part of a healthy diet for both dogs and cats.

Pumpkin keeps pets “regular”

If your dog or cat suffers from gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, diarrhea or an upset stomach, it may be time to break out the pumpkin.

“Pumpkin has a high fiber and water content, and fiber is one of the best ways to keep both people and dogs ‘regular,’” Barrack tells The Dodo. “Extra fiber from pumpkin — that may be currently missing in your dog’s diet — can aid in constipation or diarrhea and bulk up their stool.”

Barrack suggests adding a little canned natural pumpkin to your pet’s regular food to improve their digestion, and give them an antioxidant boost. “Pumpkin is also high in beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. Canned pumpkin has a high water content and can be helpful in cats prone to hairballs,” Barrack notes. A win-win for cat owners and their carpets.

Pumpkin can help a pet lose weight

In addition to regulating the gastrointestinal system, pumpkin can be beneficial to dogs and cats trying to shed a few pounds. “The high fiber content is very filling and can be used to keep pets full while reducing overall caloric intake,” Barrack explains.

Replacing a portion of your dog or cat’s food with pumpkin purée can be an excellent tool for weight management — along with making sure they get plenty of exercise and playtime each day.

Pet obesity can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, breathing difficulty and many other damaging conditions, according to PetMD, so it’s best to talk to your vet if you’ve noticed any significant weight gain.

It’s easy to add into a pet’s diet

You don’t need to buy specialty pumpkin from a pet store to satisfy your dog or cat — the canned kind you’ll find at the grocery store will do just fine. Fresh pumpkin can be used too, as long as it hasn’t been left outside.

“Use caution with whole pumpkins. If they’ve been sitting on your front step greeting trick-or-treaters, they can develop harmful mold,” Barrack notes. “The consistency of canned or puréed pumpkin is typically more readily ingested in my experience.”

Pumpkin can be mixed directly with your pet’s food once or twice daily. “Start with one teaspoon to one tablespoon per meal, depending on the size of the pet,” Barrack advises. “A cat or small dog may benefit from only one teaspoon whereas a giant breed dog may need up to a half a cup per day to see gastrointestinal benefit.”

Make sure to speak with your veterinarian before you start integrating pumpkin into your pet’s diet. Too much pumpkin can sometimes have the opposite effect — causing constipation or diarrhea, so it’s best to follow your vet’s recommended portion size.

… So long as you leave out the spices

When adding pumpkin to your pet’s diet, you’ll want to leave out the cinnamon, clove and nutmeg.

“Stick with fresh or canned pure pumpkin only,” Barrack adds. “You may enjoy the pumpkin spice latte or a slice of pumpkin pie, but it is not good for your dog.”