Can Dogs Eat Pumpkin?
Yep! Here’s how to serve up the superfood, from pet-safe purees to crunchy cookies.
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Thanksgiving means loads of opportunities for your dog to scavenge for food — from the beautiful feast on your table to all those scraps in the trash. If pumpkin-themed dishes are making an appearance on your holiday menu, you might be wondering if pumpkin is safe for dogs to eat. The short answer: Yes, dogs can eat pumpkin — both the pulp and the seeds — but only when prepared properly and served plain (sorry, no pumpkin pie for you, pup). Here’s how to serve it up.
The Health Benefits of Pumpkin for Dogs
Pumpkin is a superfood and super healthy addition to your dog’s diet. The pulp is low in calories, and its blend of soluble and insoluble fiber makes it an effective remedy for diarrhea and constipation. Pumpkin is also low in sodium and exceptionally high in beta-carotene, carotenoids, potassium, and vitamin C; it also has some calcium and B-complex vitamins.
Pumpkin seeds contain a wide variety of antioxidant phytonutrients and are an excellent source of potassium, magnesium, and calcium (which is important for bone formation). They’re also a good source of healthy oils and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). When ground up and added to oatmeal and honey, the seeds are a traditional remedy for tapeworm.
How to Add Pumpkin to Your Dog’s Diet
Pumpkin is very versatile. You can mix it into your dog’s meals, use it as a topper, add it to baked treats (it can be used as a fat substitute), or stuff it into a Kong-type food toy. Steam and mash fresh pumpkin, or take the easy way out and used canned pumpkin (organic, if possible). Now is a great time to stock up on canned pumpkin since it’s usually on sale during the holidays. When buying canned, read the label carefully to be sure you’re getting 100% pumpkin, not pumpkin-pie filling which has salts, sugars, mace, and nutmeg — which can be toxic to dogs.
Pumpkin seeds need to be ground up before feeding them to your dog. Here’s how to prepare them: Put seeds and the stringy pulp that sticks to them in a strainer and rinse, picking off as much of the “string” as you can. Dry, then put them on a sheet pan in a 300°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. After they cool, grind the seeds in a food processor, coffee grinder, or blender. Store in a glass jar. As with any new food, start slowly when introducing them to your dog’s meals.
How to Make Pet-Safe Pumpkin Puree
If you can’t find canned pumpkin, you can make your own pumpkin purée. Here’s an easy, foolproof method, using an Instant Pot:
Place a small, 2.5 lb. pumpkin on the trivet that comes with the Instant Pot (if the stem is long turn it upside down, facing the bottom).
Add 1 ½ c. water.
Cook for 13 minutes on high pressure.
Let the pressure release naturally.
After about 20 minutes, carefully remove the pumpkin using tongs (it can be messy, so have a bowl handy). Cool before handling.
Cut the pumpkin in half; scoop out the seeds, reserving them for other uses; spoon out the pulp; discard the skin. At this point, the pumpkin is essentially pureed (dogs don’t mind the stringy bits), but you can use a food processor to puree it, if desired.
How to Make Pet-Safe Pumpkin Soup
The recipe below is adapted from The Natural Nutrition No-Cook Book by Kymythy R. Schultze. Place all the ingredients into a food processor to blend into a soup. It yields about four cups, which can be stored.
2 cups fresh pumpkin, peeled and diced (use canned if fresh isn't available)
1 1/2 cups apple juice
1 cup carrot juice
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
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Claudia Kawczynska was co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Bark for 20 years. She also edited the best-selling anthology Dog Is My Co-Pilot.