Debarking Pet Myths: Canned Pumpkin is Great For Tummy Troubles
Welcome to “Debarking Pet Myths,” a monthly series dedicated to addressing common myths, misconceptions and old wives’ tales about dogs and cats.
October means colorful leaves, cool temperatures, Halloween and all things pumpkin and pumpkin flavored — pies, lattes, ice cream, bread, pancakes and even beer. As you indulge in this season’s delights, consider this widely accepted use of pumpkin:
Pumpkin can soothe a pet’s upset stomach.
The truth is, many veterinarians recommend adding canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling with all of the spices and sugar added) to the diet of a dog or cat with certain intestinal issues — typically constipation and diarrhea.
How can one food help both constipation and diarrhea?
It’s all about what makes pumpkin … well, pumpkin: water, fiber, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, vitamins A, C and K, and several other vitamins and minerals. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s national nutrient database, canned pumpkin without salt is about 90 percent water and 3 percent total dietary fiber, which includes both soluble and insoluble forms.
Soluble and insoluble fiber affect the gastrointestinal tract differently. Soluble fiber acts like a sponge, soaking up the excess water that’s present during diarrhea. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools and draws water into the intestines when a pet is constipated. Canned pumpkin’s high water content also helps soften stools in constipated dogs and cats. Yes, pumpkin’s fiber can help regulate bowel movements, but “fiber” is actually complicated and not a one-size-fits-all remedy.
A better way to increase a pet’s dietary fiber
If you think your pet might benefit from more dietary fiber, talk to your veterinarian before adding canned pumpkin to his or her food. Your veterinarian can recommend a therapeutic diet that contains increased amounts of specific fiber types — soluble, insoluble or a mix of the two — depending on your pet’s particular needs. Or, instead of a different food, your veterinarian may recommend an over-the-counter fiber supplement that contains the type of fiber that would provide the greatest benefit.
Pumpkin isn’t a cure-all
Some dog and cat owners swear by a spoonful of pumpkin as a cure-all for their pets’ tummy troubles. As with all good things, you can give too much canned pumpkin and make your pet’s problem worse. More likely, the small amount of fiber in a spoonful of canned pumpkin isn’t going to be enough to help your pet unless you have a small dog or a cat and your veterinarian recommends how much pumpkin to feed.