Before I go into all the reasons why I love pumpkin and its many uses, I want to mention that this blog is about canned pumpkin, specifically, because I am sharing what I feed MY dogs. If you have the time to prepare fresh pumpkin and have easy access to it, then by all means, give them fresh pumpkin, including the seeds and flesh. Fresh pumpkin will provide them with all of the same nutritional value that I am sharing here, and then some. The reason why I choose PLAIN canned pumpkin (not the kind with sugar and spices added) is because I want them to have it every day and canned is convenient, versatile (I will explain this more later) and easy to find all year. So, to recap, canned pumpkin is great, but fresh pumpkin is even better. And pumpkin seeds are a very nutritious treat for pets and their humans and have been known to prevent urinary tract infections. For dogs, I would grind them up and sprinkle them on their food, so that they get the nutrients from them before they pass through their short digestive tract.
These are the five reasons why I always have canned pumpkin in the house and feed it to my dogs every day:
1. Nutritional Value - Pumpkin is a great source of beta-carotene, anti-oxidants and fiber. Just a couple tablespoons mixed into your pet's food daily (use a teaspoon for small dogs or cats) will greatly improve their nutrients and fiber intake, which is especially important if you are only feeding them kibble food. Even if you are feeding a top quality kibble with limited ingredients, you should still enhance it with additional nutrients, because processed pet food is just like processed human food - not very nutritious on its own. Most dogs love the taste too, which makes them feel like they are getting a special treat. I have not had the opportunity to feed it to a cat, so all of you cat owners out there will have to leave a comment about your experience once you've tried it!
2. Healthy Stools - okay, I couldn't resist making #2 about healthy stools. After having a cancer dog who had to take a lot of supplements, I have become a little obsessed with my dogs' poop and I promise you that a little pumpkin daily will give them the perfect poop every time. What is so great is that pumpkin will clear up diarrhea from an upset stomach AND it will also take care of constipation! I'm telling you, it is your magic potion for perfect poops. This works for humans too! If I had human children, they would also be eating lots of canned and fresh pumpkin.
3. Weight control - if you have a porky piglet for a dog or cat, that loves to eat, it may be for the same reasons that humans over eat, because they aren't eating nutritious food. Their bodies want more and more because they aren't getting necessary nutrients to feel satisfied - much like when we inhale a bag of chips and still want more. I hope that you are purchasing the best quality dog/cat food that you can afford, and even if you are, enhancing it with foods like canned pumpkin will help your dog/cat to feel more satisfied and full after they eat. This allows you to feed a little less kibble food, while giving them more satisfaction, thus, managing their weight.
4. Stimulates appetite on a sour stomach - Our little Suri has the most finicky stomach of any dog I've ever owned. Many times, in the mornings, if her stomach is too empty, she simply will not eat. I will hear her stomach gurgling and begging for food, but she won't touch it. I have found that all I have to do is give her a spoonful of canned pumpkin, sometimes with a little Milk Kefir mixed in, and she is good to go. She starts gobbling up her food within the hour.
5. Medicinal Properties - I saved the best for last because the medicinal properties of canned pumpkin is my favorite aspect of it. The first thing I do, when researching the nutritional value of food, is refer to my Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) charts to learn the energetics of the food and what paths it takes in the body. This gives me a better understanding of how the body uses it and what kind of medicinal properties it has. This type of knowledge helps me to use food as medicine in many different ways. I mentioned in the beginning that canned pumpkin is very versatile and I already shared a couple other ways that I use it medicinally, for healthy stools and upset stomachs, but pumpkin has a few other very important medicinal uses that is important to share. According to TCM, one of the paths that pumpkin takes in the body is through the lungs, and the conditions that it helps in the body are blood circulation, cold conditions (chronic cold body temps), damp conditions (the body's failure to burn off or transform moisture), and phlegm. So what does this mean? This means that if you or your dog are sick with a head cold with lots of phlegm, congestion and chills, then have some pumpkin. The other paths that it takes in the body are through the large intestine, stomach and spleen, which explains why it is so helpful for healthy stools and digestion.
Every year, late winter, Suri and I seem to get the same symptoms at the same time. We get a runny nose with chest congestion, which I treat with ginger and lemon and it knocks it out very quickly for both of us. The only problem is that I can't get Suri to drink the tea on its own. Knowing that pumpkin is easy to feed and more importantly, that it takes a path through the lungs and helps phlegm conditions, I decided to mix a little of the tea (including some bits of ginger) into some canned pumpkin for her and the combo helped her pretty much over night, saving us a trip to the vet or prescription medications with no nutritional value. I like to use food to remedy the symptoms before they turn into full blown illnesses that require further medical attention.
My last and favorite tip on how to use canned pumpkin medicinally is to use it to administer supplements, in the same way that I used it to feed the lemon and ginger tea, since canned pumpkin is so easy to feed to your dog - even the hastiest dogs. This probably works for cats too, but I don't have a lot of experience hand feeding cats, so I'm not sure how easily they are to spoon feed. I would say that it is definitely worth a try. Hiding supplements into your pet's food will work for some, but if your pets are like my dogs, who only eat what smells good, then that isn't going to fly and it is going to waste a lot of bowls of food that they won't eat. Instead, you can empty the contents of the capsules into the pumpkin and spoon feed. Put one scoop at a time into their mouth and gently hold their mouth closed, which will make them immediately swallow the pumpkin - it just slides right down their throat. I try to use as little pumpkin as possible so that it isn't more than 1 to 3 spoonfuls at a time. The sweetness of the pumpkin also helps to counter the bitter taste of some supplements. Feel free to put a little raw honey in, to make it taste even better and add additional medicinal properties. If you make it tasty enough, you will turn "medicine time" into "tasty treat time" and have a much happier experience.
Don't be afraid to think outside the medicine cabinet and go to the fridge for your cures, because food IS medicine!
When my dog, Nola, was diagnosed with cancer I began a journey of holistic healthcare and proper nutrition. This blog is a forum for me to share ways that pet owners can live a healthy lifestyle alongside their pets. Most natural remedies yield the same results for animals and their humans, so it makes sense to incorporate them into both your diets. The biggest lesson I learned during Nola's battle with cancer is it is much easier to prevent cancer than it is to fight it. Mother Nature gives us everything we need to combat most all diseases and learning about medicinal herbs and spices is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.