Pumpkins are an inescapable part of the fall season. You’ll see them on porches, as coffee flavors and on cereal boxes in stores, and even as a David S. Pumpkins Halloween special on NBC. But some pet owners don't wait until the holiday is in full swing: They serve up canned pumpkin to their dogs and cats year-round, having heard it’s an excellent source of fiber. Is it true?
According to veterinarian Lisa Freeman, who authored a piece for Tufts University, domesticated pets don’t actually require fiber as part of their diet, but some might benefit from fiber’s ability to ease bowel issues or contribute to satiety on a low-calorie diet. The problem with using pumpkin as a source of that fiber, Freeman writes, is that there’s simply too little of it to be of much use. A medium-sized dog would need 12 cups of pumpkin a day in order to see any benefit.
Compounding the questionable wisdom of feeding pets pumpkin is the fact that the canned varieties often have additives that might not sit well with your furry friend. Pumpkin pie mix is loaded with sugar, which can lead to weight gain; dogs or cats with heart or kidney issues might also see adverse effects from the sodium found in processed pumpkin. (There’s also the fact that canned pumpkin is often comprised of different squashes, which may or may not have the same intended health benefits.)
If you think your pet would benefit from more fiber, ask your vet for recommendations—and save the pumpkin for the two-legged members of the family.