Maybe it’s just that time of year, but I’ve been seeing a lot of questions about pumpkin for dogs, cats, birds, horses and even fish. Following are a few facts about feeding pumpkin to pets.
The orange color of pumpkin tells us it’s a wonderful source of Beta Carotene. It’s also a very good source of Pro-Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper and Manganese, and a good source of Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Iron, Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorus. Throw in some Omega 3 & 6, and you have yourself a nutritious vegetable. Pumpkin is low in calories, coming in at around 30 calories/cup, low in carbohydrates, and relatively high in fiber.
The nutritional benefits of pumpkin for pets include healthy digestion, immunity support, bone & joint health, and healthy skin & hair/fur/feathers/scales.
Note: When we discuss pumpkin here, we’re referring to pure, unseasoned pumpkin.
Pumpkin for Pets
Dogs – Contrary to what some believe, science has proven that dogs are carno-omnivorous animals whose anatomy and physiology have adapted to eat a varied diet. Their digestive system is able to cope with diets containing significant levels of carbohydrate. Therefore, dogs are perfectly capable of digesting and utilizing the plethora of nutrients in pumpkin.
Cats – I often see concern about giving cats pumpkin due to the fiber, but the term ‘fiber’ is a little simplistic for the issue. Cats can have a difficult time digesting carbohydrates, not just fiber specifically. Pumpkin is considered to be low in carbohydrates and they contain about half the starch of Winter squashes. Since carbohydrates are present in pumpkin, however, we do suggest that you feed cats sparingly and in small servings. Cooked pumpkin should be easier for them to digest than raw.
Most cats do seem to enjoy the taste. Big kitties love them too, as this Big Cat Rescue video demonstrates:
Horses – Feeding pumpkin to horses is sometimes debated. I believe this comes from the fact that most gourds are toxic to horses. Standard orange pumpkins are safe and nutritious for horses, but should be fed in small, treat quantities.
Rabbits – Bunnies and many other small animal species enjoy pumpkin and they may have it in small, treat quantities.
Birds – Some species of birds enjoy picking at raw, grated pumpkin and of course, the pumpkin seeds (in limited quantities). The Pro-Vitamin A content in pumpkin is especially valued by pet bird enthusiasts. As a bonus, the carotenoid pigments pop out shades of red, yellow and orange.
Aquarium Fish – The bio-availability of nutrients in terrestrial vegetation can vary widely due to binding issues. As a general rule, low carbohydrate vegetables are the best choices. Fish can utilize carbohydrates as energy, but to my knowledge there is no requirement for them. I limit their inclusion when formulating homemade fish food.
Pumpkin for Holistic Healing of Pets
Pumpkin has been used as a natural remedy for both constipation and loose stools in dogs, cats, rabbits and horses due to it’s high fiber content. I’ve also read that it soothes the digestive system overall, but I can’t dig up any science on that.
Dogs, cats, horses or birds with inflammatory maladies (such as arthritis) may benefit from the mild anti-inflammatory effects of pumpkin. The Vitamin C will also boost collagen production and healing.
Pumpkin seeds are valued as a source of Omega 3, an anti-parasite treatment, digestive system ‘tonic’, and are sometimes used as an ulcer treatment in horses. You’ll find pumpkin seed oil in many natural anti-parasite products, such as GI Cleanup for cats or dogs.
Notes of Caution: Feed sparingly, a little goes a long way and feeding a large amount may cause digestive upset. If your pet has digestive issues after eating pumpkin, you should discontinue use. While there is a negligible risk of hypervitaminosis from eating whole foods as part of a balanced diet, it’s something to be aware of when feeding supplements containing Vitamin A (such as pumpkin seed oil). We recommend consultation with a veterinarian before making changes in your pet’s diet or before using natural remedies.
??? Do you feed pumpkin to your pets? Tell us about it!
Self Nutrition Data
D. J. Batchelor, M. Al-Rammahi, A. W. Moran, J. G. Brand, X. Li, M. Haskins, A. J. German and S. P. Shirazi-Beechey. Sodium/glucose cotransporter-1, sweet receptor, and disaccharidase expression in the intestine of the domestic dog and cat: two species of different dietary habit. American Journal of Physiology. January, 2011.
Halpern, Georges M. The Inflammation Revolution: A Natural Solution for Arthritis, Asthma, & Other Inflammatory Disorders
Deutsch, Robin. The Healthy Bird Cookbook: A Lifesaving Nutritional Guide and Recipe Collection
Nyland, A. DVM Natural Horse Care The Right Way
Balch, Phyllis A. CNC. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition
Feeding and Digestive Functions in Fishes. Science Publishers. 2008.
✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Free Pet and Animal Pumpkin Carving Patterns from Around the Web
Dog or Horse Treat Recipe: Easy Pumpkin Walnut Cookies
The Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds for Pets
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