Pumpkin for Pets
by Morieka V. Johnson
Like kids who clamor for every tidbit in a candy store, Val Clows’ Great Danes have their choice of flavorful, high-quality dog kibble. But they still can’t wait to get their paws on new deliveries of pumpkin-based granola arriving at her Holistic for Pets shop in Sarasota, Florida. She reports that her two-legged customers enjoy eating the pumpkin product, too. “Everybody is looking for something tasty that’s low calorie and high fiber,” says Clows, smiling.
Traditionally reserved for grocery store aisles, pumpkin is now showing up in pet stores, too, as human food-grade animal treats, dried kibble and simple purÃ©ed goodness. A growing array of pet food products, from granola to dog biscuits, touts pumpkin for its vitamin A and fiber content.
“We’ve been using pumpkin for a long, long time at our house,” remarks Clows. “But about two years ago, I started seeing pumpkin products labeled for pets, as well as pet treats that are pumpkin based. My dogs particularly love canned pumpkin, laced with a touch of cinnamon and ginger.”
As with all good things, use pumpkin in moderation, suggests Dr. Jennifer Monroe, of Eagles Landing Veterinary Hospital, in McDonough, Georgia. “Pumpkin is good for pets with digestive issues, especially those on a hypoallergenic diet, because it doesn’t typically appear in pet foods,” she says. “But it’s best in small doses, in order to prevent weight gain.” The low-calorie gourd comes loaded with carbohydrates; one cup of purÃ©ed, canned pumpkin has as much as eight grams.
Monroe observes that pumpkin has been a go-to item for pets with digestive issues since she was in veterinary school in the mid-1980s, primarily because it is a relatively inexpensive and readily available item. Bland, white rice is another popular home remedy for settling pets’ stomachs, she notes, but its high fiber content typically makes pumpkin the better choice. Before stocking up on pumpkin, Monroe recommends starting with prebiotic and probiotic products, which have been tested extensively for their health benefits.
When diarrhea strikes, Veterinary Doctor Alice Martin, of Eagles Landing, says it’s best to consult a professional before attempting any home remedies. Monroe adds that cats with constipation need no more than one to two tablespoons of pumpkin per can of cat food. For dogs, the amount of pumpkin should be at least 10 percent of the day’s total caloric intake.
As autumn temperatures drop and pumpkins become readily available, many pet owners prefer the all-natural, do-it-yourself approach. Monroe likes to grow and purÃ©e her garden pumpkins as a good-tasting aid to ensuring a happy, healthy home.
Morieka V. Johnson is a freelance writer in Atlanta, GA. Reach her at [email protected]