If I haven’t convinced you it’s ok to dress your dog for Halloween, but you want to get into the spirit of the holiday with your pup, there’s always the Dog- O-Lantern!

These pictures have been circulating around my emails — I believe I got them three times — but it wasn’t until my always alert best friend Clare suggested I post them as a dog dressing alternative that I thought of the idea. (Thanks, Clare).

I have never gone in for pumpkin carving — sharp objects are not my friend — so I’m not intimately familiar with pumpkin innards, except as they are magically transformed into fillings for pie. But, having heard that pumpkin is good for dogs,  I thought I’d take the opportunity of a holiday that yielded abundant jack-o-lantern leavings* to pursue this topic.

I asked veterinarians Laci and Jed Schaible, co-founders of VetLive.com, if they’d fill me in.

Pumpkin is said to be good for dogs. How so?

Pumpkin is a wonderful treat for your dog, and it is never more convenient to feed than this time of year. The most widely known benefit of pumpkin is a digestive one. If your pet has regular GI issues, you should consult your vet, but for the occasional abnormal stool, pumpkin can be an effective treatment.

Pumpkins have a high water and fiber content and can act to hydrate the intestines and their contents when dogs are suffering from constipation. Start with 1 tsp for smaller dogs and 2 tsp for larger dogs at the first sign of constipation. The water and fibers will be absorbed by the dry stools in your dog’s intestines, and your pup should experience relief in a few hours.

Pumpkin can also be used to treat diarrhea, oddly enough. The soluble fiber in pumpkins actually helps absorb excess water in the bowels that the body didn’t absorb properly, thereby helping to calm diarrhea. Again start slowly, and adjust accordingly.

Pumpkin seeds are high in essential fatty acids and antioxidants (good for overall healthy skin and fur), and the oils in pumpkins’ flesh and seeds are believed to support urinary health. They are also an excellent source of Vitamin A, beta-carotene, potassium and iron, and may even reduce the likelihood your pet will develop cancer.

Pumpkin is also recently gaining popularity as a supplement to a dog’s food to aid in weight loss. While it is true that it is a low-cal/low-fat/ filler that is high in fiber and will help keep your pet feeling full longer, you want to make sure that your pet is still getting the required nutrients that he or she needs. As with all diet changes, start slowly and gradually increase. If your pet is obese, contacting your vet to get a personalized diet plan so your pet is not losing too much weight too rapidly, or too little weight too slowly.

Is pumpkin in all forms — including raw jack-o-lantern innards — good for dogs, or only cooked pumpkin?

Both forms are safe provided you use a little common sense. First of all, if your pet has a medical condition, such as diabetes or chronic kidney disease, always ask your vet first!

As far as our healthy pooches go, seeds and flesh of fresh raw pumpkins are safe provided, of course, it’s not a rotten pumpkin that’s been sitting on the porch for four weeks. Pumpkin parts do go rancid very quickly! An easy way to have some handy dog treats around that will last 3-4 weeks is roasting plain seeds in the oven (see below).

Leaves and stems however, are covered in sharp little hairs, which can irritate the mouth and gastrointestinal tract and cause tiny little cuts in the dog’s intestines. Make sure pumpkin patch field trips are 100% supervised.

Common sense tells us fresh is always better than canned because of fewer synthetic ingredients. If you choose to go with canned, make sure it doesn’t have added sugar.

Is there a limit to the amount of pumpkin that’s healthy for dogs to eat?

Absolutely. There is a limit to just about everything. Unfortunately, I’ve scoured journal articles and no one knows the exact limit. According to the North American Companion Animal Formulary, the dose for a cat with constipation is 1 tsp per feeding. Small dogs can receive a comparable amount. For larger dogs, I would start with no more than 2 tsp with each meal. The giants may be able to tolerate up to 5 tsp with each meal. Adjust accordingly to your pet’s size.

A warning sign you are overdoing it is if the pet’s stools become orange, larger than usual, and pudding-like in firmness.

As far as seeds go, they are to be given in moderation, just like treats. With serious overfeeding, pumpkin seeds getting blocked in the colon has been reported.

Do you have any pumpkin recipes for dogs?

Sure! Roasting is the easiest if your schedule is limited:

1. Rinse pumpkin seeds under cold water and pick out the pulp and strings.

2. Place the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet that is lightly misted in non-stick cooking spray.

3. Bake at 325 F until toasted, for around 20-25 minutes. Check and stir every 10 minutes.

4. Cool and store in an air-tight container, and you have a great stock of natural dog treats.

Bio: Dr. Laci and Dr. Jed Schaible are married veterinarians turned pet-owner advocates after they diagnosed their dog Madison with terminal bone cancer. Transitioning from caregiver to consumers of University Hospital Vet Care, they soon realized how overwhelming pet healthcare can be without the inside scoop that veterinary degrees provide. After losing Madison, they wrote a business plan for VetLIVE.com, a business that affordably provides pet owners the inside info they need to effectively navigate the consumer side of the vet industry. Their business has since evolved into a 24/7 service with second opinions and LIVE chat with a vet. Check out their blog at VetLive.com/blog.

*Update: See Roxanne Hawn’s comment for the source of these photos, and a link to information on how you can re-create these carvings.

34 thoughts on “Of Pumpkins and Pooches”

  1. I would love to see more pets feed some RAW food to help improve their health. Many of the pets in this country are too fat and out of shape, same for their owners. We all need to eat more health fresh raw foods.

  2. Those photos come from a Better Homes and Gardens layout, featuring templates/stencils so that you can carve pumpkins like they did.


    It’s a total pain in the butt. You have to look through the photo gallery. The stencil for each image comes up when the photo does. Took me forever last night to figure that out.

    So, we’re carving our pumpkins tonight.

    I have been known to give canned pumpkin for tummy upset, but I don’t think I’ve ever considered feeding the jack-0-lantern innards raw. We’ll see. We have house guests tonight, and I don’t want there to be any tummy troubles. :o)

    Thanks for the info.

    1. Thank you! I tried to find the photo source (but I guess not hard enough)… I am hugely impressed that you’re actually following through on this project!

      1. Oh! We LOVE to carve pumpkins at our house. Love it. Love it. I printed out the border collie stencil for me. The lab stencil for Tom, and the Boston terrier one for his mom.

        And, I got that email too, earlier this week. I didn’t realize where the photos came from until I went looking for the stencils. I think Fido Friendly posted a link to the stencils earlier this week on FB. That’s the only reason I knew.

        1. What’s kind of disturbing from a writer/copyright holder’s perspective is that whoever started sending those pictures around removed the Better Homes and Gardens stamp from every picture. Ah, photoshop!

  3. Thanks for this post, that’s lots of great advice. I remember reading once that canned pure pumpkin was a good Kong stuffer. Maybe I’ll give it a try with some fresh this weekend.

    Since I’m too lazy to put together a costume, maybe I’ll give one of these carving ideas a try.

  4. You’ve never carved a pumpkin? This is a travesty that needs to be remedied. I have a great children’s pumkin carving kit, complete with stencils and everything- you gotta try it!

  5. Those photos have been around the block a few times and it is bad/sad about the lack attribution – they are pretty magnificent:) I hope Roxanne takes some snaps of her pumpkins.

    Thanks for the toasted pumpkin seed recipe – that sounds good! Interesting business model, too.

  6. My friends have had great success using pupkin (sic) as a weight loss tool for their chunky pups, but it seems they were doing it incorrectly…they substituted double pumpkin for half the usual food (e.g., instead of 1 cup of usual food, 1/2 cup usual food and 1 cup pumpkin). Oh well, no one seems to have suffered ill effects from it.

    And by the way, pumpkin seeds are yummy and nutritious for humans, too, especially when baked with a little olive oil and sea salt.

  7. Thanks for all the great info. I’m amazed that I’ve only heard about the great benefit of pumpkins for dogs this past week, especially since I live in the pumpkin capital – Half Moon Bay, CA. Sanchez will be very happy to be adding more pumpkin to his diet.

    1. Lisa, thanks for coming by! I had no idea that Half Moon Bay was the country’s pumpkin capital; I just knew about Gilroy and garlic…

  8. dear ms jarolim, thanks for this post!

    my stay-at-home human has been experimenting with sweet potato/kumara mash [which we like] and was just about to go out to the supermarket to pick up some pumpkin to boil and mash into our lentils this week. we can eat the seeds too? that’s really interesting. i hope they’ll be okay to boil and mash [rather than roast] as it would be easier to put everything into the one pot to cook.

    she also loves the line:
    “A warning sign you are overdoing it is if the pet’s stools become orange, larger than usual, and pudding-like in firmness.”

    we sometimes get orange poop after we eat our kumara and carrots, though they are lovely and firm. we get a tablespoon at breakfast and another at dinner.

    have a good day and thanks also for making a halloween post without a dog in costume!
    🙂 xox

    1. Dear Ms. Georgia,

      Glad you enjoyed the post and that your human is adding in some healthy natural foods to your diet. Yes, Edie did a great job finding great pictures sans costumes!

  9. I think pumpkin is the best dog treat ever! It’s healthy and delicious.

    I buy up canned pumpkins on sale in the fall and mix it with yogurt and freeze for “doggie ice cream” in the summer.

    Mmmmm! Ice cream!

  10. Great article. Mom dressed me in a monster dog hoodie. That wasn’t so bad, but she also took a picture of me next to a jack-o-lantern carved by one of my boys. Next year I think I’ll ask mom to put my face on the pumpkin. She tells me that it’s actually easier than it looks. She’ll just have to make a template.

    Come by my mom’s blog and see my Wordless Wednesday Halloween pix.

    Smell you later,

  11. My dog just saw his first whole pumpkin on our porch tonight.. a giant beauty we got to decorate our porch at the farmers market.. He saw it and INSTANTLY thought oh my goodness.. that’s a giant orange ball… I must play with it.. (He’s a Lab) He then proceeded to play with chew and basically destroy the entire pumpkin! I swept up the pieces and am now roasting it on a cookie sheet.. He sure seemed to enjoy it raw as well.. Thanks for the great info.

  12. My dog ate a small pumpkin (like the table/basket pumpkins to decorate with) a couple days ago. This has been on the back porch table since around Halloween so they weren’t fresh by any means. Anyway, I’ve kept an eye on her (mainly because they were old!) but she seems fine. She has normal appetite and playing. She has seemed a bit more gassy than usual but I honestly was expecting worse. I think she has a tummy of steel, lol! This dog has even swallowed a mouse whole, yuck!

  13. This is such a cute idea. I am about to get my daughter a dog and since I have never had a dog before I have been doing research for weeks on things like what are the best vitamins for dogs and what foods can be harmful. Now I am doing research on fun things like outfits to for dogs and fun activities. I would have never thought to carve a pumpkin with my dogs face. I am excited about Halloween now!

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