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Your Pets and Pumpkins

It’s fall, and that means that it’s pumpkin season. Everyone starts to eat more pumpkin treats, they carve and decorate with pumpkins, and you can find practically anything pumpkin flavored, patterned, or scented at the store.

Did you know that your pet can join in on celebrating the fall spirit with pumpkins too? The addition of plain pumpkin puree or pumpkin seeds to your cat or dog’s diet can have many health benefits. And it’s a fun way to switch up meals and celebrate the season.

Healthy Digestion:

Pumpkin is high in fiber, which means that it helps to keep your pet’s digestion regulated. It can help both with constipation and diarrhea. The bulk and moisture content of pumpkin can soften stools and enhance contraction of the colon wall, thus helping to clear up constipation. On the other hand, pumpkin fiber can act as an absorbent for extra fluids, thus helping to control diarrhea.

Moisture:

Pumpkin is also great for pets that are on a diet of dry food or tend to not drink enough water. The moisture in pumpkin does a lot to hydrate your pet, and that extra hydration helps to keep your pet’s body temperature at a comfortable level.

Weight Control:

The fiber and moisture in pumpkin will help your pet to fill fuller faster. This could assist in controlling your dog’s food consumption, leading to healthy weight loss.

Hair and Skin Health:

Pumpkin seeds contain beneficial fatty acids and antioxidants that help to create healthy hair, fur, and skin. It’s fine to give your pet pumpkin seeds that are raw or roasted, whole, or crushed and mixed in with other wet food. If you’re feeding your pet whole seeds, do so one at a time, and only a few in each sitting (2-4).

Parasites:

Pumpkin seeds have also been used as a natural treatment for internal parasites like tapeworms. It is believed that the amino acid cucurbitin acts as a paralyzing agent against parasites, allowing the body to clear them out of the digestive tract. This treatment seems to work best if the seeds are crushed and incorporated into your pet’s wet food.

How much?

If you’re treating your pet for constipation or diarrhea, one teaspoon a day for cats and small dogs and one tablespoon a day for large dogs is a pretty standard amount. Keep it up until the condition passes.

If you’d like to introduce pumpkin into your pet’s regular diet, you can talk to your vet about the right amount and consistency for your pet.

What kind of pumpkin?

Your left-over jack-o-lantern isn’t cut out to be a good dietary supplement for your pet. The best pumpkin to use in your pet’s diet is canned pumpkin puree (pure pumpkin, not the pie filling, which has spices and sweeteners in it), prepared pumpkin seeds, or home-prepared pumpkin puree made from fresh pumpkins.

You can find pumpkin puree at the grocery store, usually in the baking aisle. It’s also possible to find canned pumpkin specifically made for pets.

If you’d like to try preparing your own pumpkin puree, simply buy a few small pumpkins. You can usually find “pie pumpkins” for eating in the produce section. These small pumpkins are a better choice than the carving pumpkins out in front of the store because they have a better, less stringy texture and they are less likely to have rotten or dry spots.

  • Wash the pumpkins and cut out and remove the stems.
  • Clear out the seeds and set them aside for roasting.
  • Slice the pumpkins into sections and arrange them on a baking sheet.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender.
  • Let the pumpkin sections cool and then peel and scrape the pumpkin skin off.
  • Blend or food process the pumpkin sections until smooth.

Pumpkin puree stays good for about a week in the refrigerator. In order to extend its freshness, you can freeze the pumpkin puree until you’re ready to use it. It’s useful to freeze separate, weekly portions of puree. You can also freeze individual servings of pumpkin in an ice tray, store them in a freezer bag, and then thaw a day’s portion or two at a time.

Pumpkin seeds can be eaten raw or roasted. If you’re going with raw, it may be best to buy them from the store (organic, unsalted). To roast seeds, start by spraying a cooking sheet with cooking spray. Rinse and dry the seeds then spread them on the cooking sheet in a thin layer. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir them around regularly, every 10 minutes, to get them evenly roasted.

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