The Truth about Pets and Pumpkin

Is pumpkin good for dogs?

With the bright leaves dancing in the breeze and whiffs of pumpkin pie, fall truly is a beautiful and delicious time of year! As you probably know pumpkin is not only limited to pie delicacies for us, but it is also commonly given to our furry friends for a plethora of reasons, such as to aid in digestive & bowel issues, preventing fur balls, and firming stool (adding fiber) for anal gland problems. But what is the science behind canned pumpkin? Is it a key missing ingredient in our pet’s diet?

We connected with Dr. Julie Churchill, a veterinary nutritionist and professor at the University of Minnesota (GO GOPHERS!). She gave us the skinny on this popular pet diet additive.

Pumpkin in Pet Diets

  1. Canned pumpkin is relatively low in calories, ~ 85 Calories / Cup— so if fed judiciously, it won’t add much to the waistline in healthy pets.

  2. It should be added in small amounts, similar to any other treat. As a general rule, it shouldn’t make up more than 5% of your pet’s total daily calorie intake. If your pet is eating too much, it could negatively impact nutritional balance.

  3. CAUTION if Kidney disease is present. Canned pumpkin is HIGH in Potassium and generous in Phosphorous; This combination is not good for a pet with renal compromise.

  4. Be Aware for added sodium. Canned pumpkin without salt contains ~ 12 milligrams of sodium per cup, but some canned pumpkin brands with salt contain nearly 600 milligrams of sodium per cup! The high amount of added sodium would negatively affect a dog or cat with heart or kidney disease.

  5. Canned pumpkin is dense in water and overall adds fluid to the diet.

  6. It is NOT an effective source of fiber. An entire cup of canned pumpkin only has 7gms of fiber…so a tablespoon, a more usual dose given to a pet, contains a negligible amount of fiber.

    In conclusion Dr. Julie considers the benefits of pumpkin to be more of a myth. She says “I consider it much more of a placebo- people use it to manage diarrhea or other GI conditions and add fiber… A tablespoon contains such a negligible amount of fiber. There are many more effective fiber sources.” Dr. Julie does not routinely add canned pumpkin to a pet’s diet unless a pet truly loves it as a treat or some people use it to administer medication.

Special thanks to:

Julie A. Churchill DVM, PhD, DACVN

Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist TM 

Associate Professor, Veterinary Nutrition

Associate Medical Director