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Can Dogs Eat Pumpkins? Health Benefits of Pumpkin for Dogs

If you were to ask a veterinarian how to help a dog with an upset stomach, they’d be the first to suggest you add some pumpkin to your dog's diet.

This may sound like a minor addition, but pumpkin can help prevent some major problems facing your dog.

So, let's talk about the benefits of pumpkin for your dog's health!

We'll cover a few major topics like:

  • Can dogs eat pumpkin?
  • Why are pumpkins so nutritious for your dog?
  • How does pumpkin fibre help improve your dog's health?
  • An extra benefit of adding pumpkin to your dog's diet.

Can dogs eat pumpkin?

Yes, pumpkin is a safe food for dogs and provides high nutritious value to improve your dog’s health (9).

At NutriCanine, we recognize the health benefits of pumpkin and squash for our dogs. That's why we've worked closely with animal nutritionists to incorporate the right proportions of these superfoods into every single one of our recipes. You can find our variety of raw and gently cooked meals here (LINK).

Too much pumpkin and your dog may develop constipation.

Too little pumpkin and your dog may have loose stools.

It's important to find the perfect balance.

If you are supplementing pumpkin to your dog's diet at home, it's always best to consult with your veterinarian to make sure you're giving the right amount.

 

Why are pumpkins so nutritious for your dog?

Pumpkins are a nutrient-dense superfood from the Cucurbitaceae family of fruit - this also includes squash and gourds.

The main nutritional value of pumpkin can be split between two components: pumpkin pulp and pumpkin seeds (1).

Pumpkin Pulp - High in carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins, minerals.

Pumpkin Seed - Concentrated levels of protein and healthy fats.

Considering the biological activity of pumpkin, studies have shown both pumpkin pulp and seeds have roles in antioxidant, antifungal, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory processes (1). These findings support that adding pumpkin to your dog's diet can help prevent disease and improve overall health.

Here is a list of the most important biologically active components that you can find in pumpkins:

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds your dog's body needs to fight off free radicals (molecules that damage DNA and lead to disease). Pumpkin pulp contains antioxidants like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin (1).

For example, beta-carotene is a molecular compound that provides the intense orange colour that we often see in pumpkin and carrots. It's a powerful antioxidant that your dog's body will metabolize and convert to vitamin A (2).

Several studies have associated the consumption of foods rich in beta-carotene to reduce the risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and delay aging by neutralizing reactive oxygen species (2).

Essential Amino Acids

Once your dog eats a meal, the proteins and nutrients aren't accessible in their initial state. This is because your dog's digestive system has to first break down the food into usable nutrients that can be absorbed through the intestines - these are known as amino acids (3).

There are a total of 20 amino acids that exist. Your dog can synthesize half of these on its own, but the other half can only be obtained through diet. These are referred to as the ten essential amino acids, and they help ensure physiological mechanisms function properly.

When we look at the amino acid profile of pumpkin, we find every single essential amino acid in this superfood (3).

Full of Minerals

Minerals are elements that come from the earth like iron, magnesium, potassium, etc. So when your dog eats pumpkin, it's gaining a significant amount of minerals that are essential for good health.

When we focus on pumpkins, we find high amounts of magnesium - an essential component in tissue regeneration, muscle contraction, and nervous system regulation. For your dog, this means the added magnesium will have a protective effect that prevents muscle damage (4).

The mechanisms of your dog's body have also been tuned to function efficiently using a diet high in potassium and low in sodium. Fortunately, pumpkin contains more than 500 mg of potassium per cup - more than bananas! This added potassium will help maintain homeostasis in your dog's organ systems (5).

High in Fibre

Fibre is a complex carbohydrate found in plant cells and is essential to your dog's diet. After your dog eats pumpkin, the fibrous compounds resist complete digestion and make their way towards the large intestine, where gut bacteria ferment fibre-generating short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs)(6). These SCFAs are important because your dog utilizes them as an energy source.

The indigestible portion of fibre is equally beneficial because it helps maintain proper bowel function and digestive motility (6). Without indigestible fibre, food will pass through the intestines more rapidly. This makes it difficult for your dog to extract as many nutrients as possible from their diet.

In just one cup of pumpkin, we can find 7g of fibre!

How does pumpkin fibre help improve your dog's digestion?

The main reason veterinarians suggest pumpkin to aid your dog's digestion is because of its high fibre content.

But, how does your dog's body utilize this added dietary fibre to promote optimal health in the first place?

To find out, let's look closely at the different types of fibre that are in pumpkin.

Different Types of Pumpkin Fibre

The most common fibre classification is based on soluble and insoluble types - both are found in pumpkin.

Soluble fibres tend to gel and thicken when they come in contact with water. They also draw more fluid into your dog's digestive tract, which helps make stools regulate bulkiness. Soluble fibres are high in pectin, oat hulls, nuts, some vegetables (pumpkin, carrots, and green beans) (7). 

Insoluble fibres don't gel or dissolve easily. They cause your dog to have more frequent bowel movements, which leads to softer stools with a smaller diameter (i.e., less constipation). These types of fibres are found in pumpkin and often contain high amounts of cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, and waxes (7).

Both the soluble and insoluble fibres found in pumpkin work together to provide benefits to your dog's digestive system.

Properties of Pumpkin Fibre

In addition to soluble and insoluble dietary fibre from pumpkin, we also have a couple more properties to consider.

  1. Viscosity

Viscosity refers to how runny or thick a liquid is. Soluble dietary fibre from pumpkin will increase the viscosity of the contents inside your dog's intestines and help make it thicker (8).

This is a beneficial property of pumpkin because the increased viscosity will help slow down digestion, prolong transit time, and enhance nutrient absorption

The effect pumpkin fibre has on viscosity can be useful to provide consistency to your dog's bowel movements.

  1. Fermentability

Fermentability is the ability of gut bacteria to ferment the pumpkin fibre and produce SCFAs for energy (8). Whether the fermentation rate is rapid or slow depends on both the type of fibre, and the composition of your dog’s intestinal microflora.

Since the gut bacteria are feeding on the fibre, pumpkin provides a prebiotic effect. Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that benefit your dog by providing food for the probiotics to eat. The more active these probiotics are, the more your dog's digestive system will benefit (10).

An extra benefit of adding pumpkin to your dog's diet.

In addition to providing a rich source of nutrients and assisting with your dog's digestive health, pumpkin also has a role as an antiparasitic!

Veterinarians have focused on treating zoonotic diseases that can also affect human health - for instance, parasites like Echinococcus granulosus (dog tapeworm).

A recent study used a pumpkin seed extract to treat tapeworm infestations and assess the antiparasitic mechanism of action. As little as 23 grams (the equivalent of 73 pumpkin seeds) was enough to create an extract capable of damaging integral structures of the tapeworms (11).

The primary mechanism of action appears to be a proteolytic effect that interferes with motility, leading to paralysis of the tapeworms. When extending the study to tapeworm larva, scientists also found pumpkin seed extract caused destruction of parasitic eggs (11).

Similar studies focusing on the antiparasitic effects of pumpkin seed were also effective against parasitic diseases like taeniasis and schistosomiasis (12).

Not only does supplementing your dog's diet with pumpkin help improve digestive health, but these findings also suggest a greater role of pumpkin as a preventative nutraceutical against parasitic infections.

Final Thoughts

As a superfood, adding pumpkin to your dog's diet can help improve their overall health and longevity.

But, it's important to give pumpkin in the right proportions!

Our veterinary formulated recipes provide a balanced meal that meets all the nutritional requirements of your dog. We’ve made healthy eating simple for you and your dog with convenient pre-portioned meals delivered right to your door!

If you're looking for a recipe with the added health benefits of squash and high fibre content, then try our True Turkey+ raw food for your dog. This meal is packed with up to 5% fibre sourced from fresh ingredients. Always hormone, antibiotic, and preservative-free.

We want to help you make an educated decision, so contact us if you have any questions!


References:
  1. Valdez-Arjona LP, Ramírez-Mella M. Pumpkin Waste as Livestock Feed: Impact on Nutrition and Animal Health and on Quality of Meat, Milk, and Egg. Animals (Basel). 2019;9(10):769. Published 2019 Oct 8. doi:10.3390/ani9100769
  2. Rahman, M. & Juahir, Hafizan & Islam, M. & Khandaker, Mohammad & Ariff, Tengku & Norsani, Wan. (2019). Prophetic vegetable Pumpkin, Its impressive health benefits and total analysis. Bioscience Research. 16. 3987-3999. 
  3. Yadav M, Jain S, Tomar R, Prasad GB, Yadav H. Medicinal and biological potential of pumpkin: an updated review. Nutr Res Rev. 2010 Dec;23(2):184-90. doi: 10.1017/S0954422410000107. PMID: 21110905.
  4. Córdova A, Mielgo-Ayuso J, Roche E, Caballero-García A, Fernandez-Lázaro D. Impact of Magnesium Supplementation in Muscle Damage of Professional Cyclists Competing in a Stage Race. Nutrients. 2019;11(8):1927. Published 2019 Aug 16. doi:10.3390/nu11081927
  5. McDonough AA, Youn JH. Potassium Homeostasis: The Knowns, the Unknowns, and the Health Benefits. Physiology (Bethesda). 2017;32(2):100-111. doi:10.1152/physiol.00022.2016
  6. Donadelli RA, Titgemeyer EC, Aldrich CG. Organic matter disappearance and production of short- and branched-chain fatty acids from selected fiber sources used in pet foods by a canine in vitro fermentation model1. J Anim Sci. 2019;97(11):4532-4539. doi:10.1093/jas/skz302
  7. Williams, B.A., Mikkelsen, D., Flanagan, B.M. et al. “Dietary fibre”: moving beyond the “soluble/insoluble” classification for monogastric nutrition, with an emphasis on humans and pigs. J Animal Sci Biotechnol 10, 45 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40104-019-0350-9
  8. Schroeder N, Marquart LF, Gallaher DD. The role of viscosity and fermentability of dietary fibers on satiety- and adiposity-related hormones in rats. Nutrients. 2013;5(6):2093-2113. Published 2013 Jun 7. doi:10.3390/nu5062093
  9. Masino SA, Freedgood NR, Reichert HR, Director CJ, Whittemore VH, Zupec-Kania B. Dietary intervention for canine epilepsy: Two case reports. Epilepsia Open. 2019;4(1):193-199. Published 2019 Feb 14. doi:10.1002/epi4.12305
  10. Wernimont SM, Radosevich J, Jackson MI, et al. The Effects of Nutrition on the Gastrointestinal Microbiome of Cats and Dogs: Impact on Health and Disease. Front Microbiol. 2020;11:1266. Published 2020 Jun 25. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2020.01266
  11. Díaz Obregón D, Lloja Lozano L, Carbajal Zúñiga V. Estudios preclínicos de cucurbita máxima (semilla de zapallo) un antiparasitario intestinal tradicional en zonas urbano rurales [Preclinical studies of cucurbita maxima (pumpkin seeds) a traditional intestinal antiparasitic in rural urban areas]. Rev Gastroenterol Peru. 2004 Oct-Dec;24(4):323-7. Spanish. PMID: 15614300.
  12. Hesari Z, Sharifdini M, Sharifi-Yazdi MK, et al. In Vitro Effects of Pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata) Seed Extracts on Echinococcus granulosus Protoscoleces. Iran J Parasitol. 2020;15(1):76-83.

Reference Links:

  1. (Valdez-Arjona) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6826842/
  2. (Rahman) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338539932_Prophetic_vegetable_Pumpkin_Its_impressive_health_benefits_and_total_analysis
  3. (Yadav) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21110905/
  4. (Cordova) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723322/
  5. (McDonough) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5337831/
  6. (Donadelli) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6827402/
  7. (Williams) https://jasbsci.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40104-019-0350-9
  8. (Schroeder) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3725495/
  9. (Masino) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6398089/
  10. (Wernimont) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7329990/
  11. (Obregon) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15614300/
  12. (Hesari) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7244846/
500 mg AND 7 g https://www.mashed.com/198424/the-reason-pumpkin-is-considered-a-superfood/