Dogs and Pumpkin: Do or Don't?
Autumn means the arrival of this favorite orange gourd. But does the pumpkin on your doorstep and in your favorite fall recipes belong in your dog's diet?
When the summer turns to autumn and Halloween approaches, pumpkins show up as decorations on doorsteps everywhere in America. They linger through Thanksgiving, and so does the question, "Can my dog eat pumpkin?" We asked the experts, and while you should skip the high-calorie treats like pie and dessert bars, pumpkin can be a safe addition to a dog's diet depending on how it is prepared.
Are Pumpkins Safe for Dogs to Eat?
Well, maybe not the whole pumpkin, but parts of it are OK, says Renee Schmid, DVM, DABVT, DABT, a veterinarian toxicologist who works with Pet Poison Helpline to answer questions about toxic substances.
"Pumpkin is a good fiber source and is often recommended for chronic digestive issues, like diarrhea," Schmid says.
It's all about how it's prepared, however, says Tina Wismer, DVM, with the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: "While cooked pumpkin is completely safe for pets, raw pumpkin is not."
Toxic or Not? Products With Pumpkin and Pumpkin Parts
- Pumpkin guts. The innards of this gourd can be used in soup stock in recipes, but they're not much use as a dog treat. Veterinarians do not recommend feeding dogs raw pumpkin.
- Pumpkin seeds. These aren't necessarily toxic, but they are dense in calories (avoid for overweight pooches!) and may be hard for your dog to digest, depending on how you prepare them.
- Canned pumpkin is OK, says Schmid: "Canned or pureed pumpkin is probably best and least likely to cause gastrointestinal upset." This pumpkin can be a good source of fiber for dogs and low on calories. Canned pumpkin or sweet potato is sometimes recommended online as a remedy for either diarrhea or constipation in dogs, but some veterinarians say fiber supplements might be a better choice.
- Canned pumpkin pie mix, which may include extra sugar, spices (nutmeg is toxic to dogs in high amounts) and other additives, is high-calorie and is not good for dogs.
- Pumpkin pie is often high-calorie, so it's not a great part of a dog's balanced diet. It's probably OK if they swipe a tiny taste that was dropped on the floor, but watch for xylitol as a sugar substitute in pie. Xylitol, even in small amounts, is extremely toxic to dogs. Same goes for pumpkin bread—it's best to avoid giving the sweet treat to your dog.
- Pumpkin-flavored products. Let's be real: Pumpkin by itself doesn't taste like much. "Pumpkin-flavored" human food usually means cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spices, which may irritate a dog's stomach. Make sure any pumpkin products you choose for your dog are made for dogs.
If you're thinking of adding something like pumpkin to your dog's diet over time, do a little research, check with your veterinarian, and remember to introduce the food slowly to watch for adverse reactions or allergies.
What If My Dog Eats Too Much Pumpkin?
Too much pumpkin, consuming the stem of a pumpkin, or the indigestible exterior can all cause problems if a dog eats them.
A mild case for a dog who eats the wrong part of a pumpkin might include mild stomach upset, vomiting, or diarrhea, says Schmid.
"If a lot is eaten and the pieces were large, you should watch the dog for abdominal pain, lethargy or sluggishness, lack of appetite, and persistent vomiting," she says. "Call your veterinarian if you see these signs."
Other Fruits and Veggies That Are Safe for Dogs to Eat
Pumpkin joins other fruits on lists of human foods that are safe for dogs to eat when properly prepared and properly portioned.
If you’re curious about fruits dogs can eat, these fruits are generally safe with the right preparation:
Vegetables that may be safe for dogs to eat, depending on preparation, include:
RELATED: The Best Vegetables for Dogs & Cats