The occasional upset stomach is normal in pets. Maybe they ate too many table scraps, or they just can’t seem to stay regular. Whatever the cause, pumpkin is a good place to start.
This fiber-rich food is the gold standard for treating mild cases of constipation and diarrhea. Every pet parent should keep a can of pumpkin puree in their pantry!
Check out the science behind pumpkin’s healing powers and how to add it to your pet’s diet to help their digestion.
How pumpkin heals the digestive tract
Pumpkin is the best natural remedy for diarrhea in pets. This magical food is packed with soluble fiber, which means it absorbs lots of water in the pet’s intestines. Soluble fiber treats diarrhea by adding bulk to the stool and reducing its water content. For this reason, many vets recommend a few scoops of pumpkin whenever pets experience an upset stomach.
On the flip side, pumpkin is also an effective treatment for constipation. The soluble fiber loosens hard stool, making it easier to pass through the intestines. The softening abilities of pumpkin help prevent more serious conditions like impacted feces in the colon. In just a few days, pumpkin can get your cat or dog’s bowel movements back into a consistent rhythm.
Pumpkin also regulates bowel movements by promoting a healthy gut microbiome. The fiber in pumpkin is a prebiotic that activates and feeds healthy bacteria in the pet’s intestines. Soluble fiber protects these good bacteria by maintaining a lower pH level. A large population of healthy bacteria limits how many pathogens dwell in the digestive tract. Balanced gut microbiomes reduce digestive problems like constipation and diarrhea.
How to give pumpkin to your pet
There are several forms of pumpkin you can give to your cat or dog. Canned pumpkin is the most popular option because it’s widely available at grocery stores. Be sure to buy plain pumpkin puree—not pumpkin pie filling. Canned pie filling contains spices, added sugar, artificial flavors and xylitol. Xylitol is a sweetener that’s very toxic to cats and dogs. Even a small amount can prove fatal. Get plain pumpkin without the extra stuff!
If your pet is a picky eater, you might try feeding them pumpkin powder. Pet stores sell pumpkin in powdered form to make it more palatable. Alternatively, pet parents could steam fresh pumpkin. The only downside to fresh pumpkin is it contains more water and less fiber compared to canned pumpkin puree. Canned pumpkin is a lot more concentrated and yields the best results.
The amount of pumpkin you give depends on the pet. For example, the average medium-sized dog can tolerate somewhere between one and four tablespoons of pumpkin puree at each meal. On the other hand, cats should only eat one to four teaspoons per day. Start with the lowest dose, then monitor how your pet responds to the pumpkin. If their digestive system tolerates it well, you can slowly increase the dose at each meal time.
Always consult a vet before making changes to your pet’s diet. While pumpkin is safe for cats and dogs, administering the wrong dose can exacerbate digestive symptoms. A vet can determine the correct dose of pumpkin based on the pet’s weight, medical condition and severity of the digestive upset. Depending on the cause of constipation or diarrhea, your vet may recommend treatment beyond a few scoops of pumpkin.
When to see a veterinarian
Pumpkin is a wonderful remedy for mild digestive problems. However, it can’t solve every health concern in the gastrointestinal tract. Some situations are considered an emergency and require prompt medical attention. For instance, a pet may experience diarrhea due to an intestinal blockage. Foreign materials like plastic or chicken bones can get stuck, which irritates the intestinal lining and produces excess mucous in the pet’s stool. If your pet is having diarrhea for longer than a day or two, seek veterinary help.
Also speak with a vet if your pet goes three or more days without producing a bowel movement at all. In severe cases, pumpkin may not be enough to relieve constipation. Cats, in particular, are at risk for impacted feces because they need less water to survive. Unfortunately, impacted feces can eventually lead to megacolon. Megacolon occurs when hard feces accumulate and stretch out the colon. This weakens the colon muscles, making it difficult to pass stool. Megacolon is a serious condition that may require surgery to correct.
No pet parent likes seeing their fur baby in distress. The reality is that every pet will experience mild digestion problems to some extent. When your pet has an upset stomach, pumpkin might be the perfect solution.