Pumpkin Seeds: Good Dog Treat, or Unsafe to Eat?
We asked a veterinary toxicologist to find out if there are any benefits to feeding your dog these vitamin-packed seeds.
When you scoop out a pumpkin for a Halloween Jack-o'-lantern or cut up a raw pumpkin for a fall or holiday recipe, you might look at that mess from inside the gourd and wonder: Can my dog eat this?
If you're wondering about the majority of the pumpkin—like the pulpy flesh that's used similarly to any other squash—the answer is that it's mostly OK, but it depends on how it's prepared. Cooked pumpkin and pumpkin puree are likely fine in small quantities, but sugary pumpkin pie and other so-called pumpkin-flavored treats (unless they're specifically made for dogs!) should be avoided.
But what about the pumpkin seeds? Are they good or bad for dogs? They're a nice treat for people and are included in recipes for taste or nutrition, says Renee Schmid, DVM, DABVT, DABT, a veterinarian toxicologist who works with Pet Poison Helpline.
"Humans eat them as a source of vitamins, iron, and omega fatty acids," says Shmid. For dogs, though, Schmid is more skeptical about whether they're a needed additive to canine diets.
Are Pumpkin Seeds Safe for Dogs to Eat?
There's nothing toxic in pumpkin seeds, although they aren't necessarily the most gut-friendly food in high quantities. Schmid says they're OK for dogs to eat, but moderation is key.
"I suspect they don't break down easily in the digestive system and may cause upset or discomfort," she says. "If a dog eats a lot of them, a veterinarian may recommend inducing vomiting to avoid problems."
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Feeding Pumpkin Seeds to Your Dog
If you skip recipes with pumpkin seeds that include a lot of other ingredients, like sugar and salt, and the pumpkin seeds are peeled and cooked, you're probably OK to let your dog have some in small quantities, Schmid says.
"You can feed them any way you want," she explains. Grinding would make them easiest for dogs to digest and pass. Grinding is used by some to turn pumpkin seeds into a protein supplement.
So, while it's true that people eat pumpkin seeds for nutritional benefits, dogs have different nutritional needs. Schmid says your best best for a healthy, happy dog is a good dog food. "If the dog is on a high-quality, balanced diet specifically designed for dogs, there's no need to supplement with pumpkin seeds," she says.
Other Natural Foods Dogs Can Eat
Whether you've decided to feed a few pumpkin seeds to your dog in the spirit of the autumn season or not, there are other all-natural human foods that are also OK to share with dogs safely, including:
Before introducing any new foods into your dog’s diet, however, it’s very important to always consult your veterinarian beforehand. If the vet says it’s OK, then make sure you supervise your pet as they try any new foods to watch for signs of choking, allergies, or adverse reactions.
Can Pumpkin Seeds Kill Intestinal Worms?
Some herbalists claim that pumpkin seeds are an all-natural home remedy for intestinal worms. Schmid says not so fast: "No way. This is not correct."
If your dog has an intestinal parasite, like tapeworms or hookworms that are common pests that can easily be picked up from other animals and the environment, it's important to talk a with your veterinarian. They'll be able to prescribe the right medicine to treat your pup safely and effectively. It's important to keep your pet on a preventative medication that can help stave off these pesky parasites, and your vet will be able to help you choose the one that's right for your dog.