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.