Every fall we get pumpkins and save the seeds to roast. The ones we carve will spoil but the rest usually just go to waste. This is a shame because pumpkins are an incredible source of vitamins A and C, the antioxidant beta carotene, zinc, iron, soluble fiber and potassium.
*I should note that pumpkins can spoil quickly. Ones left outdoors may not be good options. This is the only time of year they are easy to get, so this isn’t really about recycling old pumpkins, but utilizing ones that were recently bought maybe right around Halloween. (I’d err on the side of caution and say no more than a week old.)
The first thing people always think of in terms of pumpkin is always treating issues related to digestion, but I assure you there is so much more!
Vitamin A is important for vision. Vitamin C aids in joint health and boosts the immune system. Beta carotene is beneficial to healthy aging. *The antioxidants from the carotenoid family (beta-carotene included) are considered especially useful because they are long acting and absorb more effectively into dog’s cell membranes. Zinc helps coat shine and health. Potassium is a blood electrolyte. It’s something to look out for if your dog has a kidney issue because often they need to limit potassium in their diet. Levels of potassium in the blood stream that are too high or too low are an indication of an underlying problem. (A good thing to look out for in a blood test.) In healthy dogs, potassium is great for muscle and blood vessel function as well as regulating the acidity of body fluids. It is also a great way to replace potassium lost during a bout of diarrhea. Soluble Fiber helps weight management because it slows digestion and helps dogs feel fuller longer. It also helps to regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol.
A lot of people keep plain organic pumpkin around in case of tummy trouble because it’s so good at taking care of both constipation and diarrhea. This is because it absorbs water in cases of diarrhea and the high water content and fiber help the stool pass more effectively.
In cases of diarrhea, it’s important to remember that the diarrhea has a cause. When the body is trying to detox or get rid of something harmful, diarrhea is an effective method. It is very unpleasant but it has a purpose. Pumpkin may be good to help reduce symptoms but I would only use very minimal amounts. The fiber it contains is soluble, so it slows digestion and this is not good in detox. I would prefer to use the seeds in this case to aid in cleansing.
Pumpkin also doesn’t work to fix tummy troubles in every dog. Many do better with slippery elm for example (which I’ll discuss in an upcoming article). I personally like to let nature run its course. Diarrhea usually clears up quickly and if doesn’t, after a few days, it’s time to see the vet.
Dosing is also an important factor when adding pumpkin. Too much is not good and dogs don’t need a lot for it to be effective. The use determines the dose, however, it’s always good to ask your vet! I’ve seen 1 tbs to replace every 1/8c of food for weight loss and for stomach upset:
• 0-15 lbs dog: 1-2 tablespoon
• 15-35 lbs dog: 2-4 tablespoons
• 35 lbs dog or more: 2-5 tablespoons
Again these are just very general guidelines and every dog is different. I always err on the side of less especially in this case because it’s so high in carbohydrates.
Now for my favorite part, the seeds! The seeds are a great source of protein and fiber. They are also a natural dewormer. They contain an amino acid called cucurbitin which paralyzes things like parasites and tapeworms and helps them pass out of the system. The oils in them can help support urinary health, help treat kidney stones and aide with incontinence. They are also anti-inflammatory. The best way to use them is ground plain roasted (no salt).
For years I’ve been adding pumpkin to recipes for dog cookies and purées. It’s an easy thing to bake with and many dogs like the flavor. It never occurred to me to make my own because frankly, I had no idea how to cook a pumpkin… until now! This year I opted to get organic pumpkins for a few extra dollars, just so I could try to use them now, but any pumpkin should work just fine.
Because this is my first year trying, I used directions I found on-line by a woman named Kim Cromptom who had it looked at by a certified vet.
“Choose a small to medium size pumpkin and clean well, removing any dirt. Cook the cleaned pumpkin at 375 °F for 45-60 min (pumpkin should be soft). Remove pumpkin and allow it to sit for 5–10 minutes. Chop pumpkin in half, remove seeds and separate the skin from the flesh. Place hot pumpkin flesh in a food processor or mash by hand or with electric beaters.”
Pretty darn easy! I had no idea! I no longer have to buy expensive organic canned pumpkin because I plan to freeze it. Every holiday I love to make themed treats. I know carbs are not ideal for dogs but sometimes you just want to make something cute! This is a healthy way to do that. Whatever is left over I’ll keep around in case I want to add it to a purée. Below are some simple recipes but there are MANY many more and a quick google search will give you more options than you will know what to do with!
Easy Fall Themed Cookies
*Both of these recipes use natural peanut butter (no xylitol) however you can substitute this with bananas and they will come out just as good! I use all organic ingredients when I can. I also have two versions of each. One is with coconut flour (my favorite!) for grain-free and the other is for whole wheat. They are different because of differences in flour absorption but they are basically the same in flavor.
- 2 1/2 C whole wheat flour
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 C pumpkin purée
- 3 tbs natural peanut butter
- Pre-heat oven to 350 F
- Mix all ingredients together
- Roll thin and cut into desired shapes
- Spread out onto a greased cookie tray
- Bake for 30 min
(Thickness can affect cooking time so I start checking on them after about 25 min)
Coconut Flour (grain-free) recipe:
- 1 cup of coconut flour
- 4 eggs
- 3/4 cup of pure pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup of natural peanut butter
- Pre-heat oven to 350 F
- Mix pumpkin, eggs and peanut butter in a large bowl
- Add in coconut flour and mix well
- Roll and cut into desired shapes and place on a greased baking sheet
- Bake for 20-25 min (cookie thickness may affect this so I start checking after 20 min)
* A great tip for both recipes is to add 1 tbs of raw honey for flavor and/or 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
The good thing about these recipes is that they are basic and leave room for personalized added touches. I even hide vitamins in mine, they are great for that!
No-Bake Flour-free option:
- 1/2 C natural peanut butter
- 1 C natural pumpkin purée
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbs raw honey
*optional: rolled oats, these help a lot with easy handling
- Mix all ingredients together
- Roll into balls (optional: lightly roll through rolled oats)
- Place on a parchment lined tray
- Place in the refrigerator for about an hour, just so they harden a bit
- Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator always (2 weeks max)
* In all cases pumpkin can be substituted with sweet potato, some dogs prefer the flavor.
The size of your ice cube trays or silicone molds sort of determine the amounts here, but the amounts can be easily reduced or doubled.
To fill 1 large tray use:
- 1 C pureed cooked or canned pumpkin and
- 1 C pain yogurt (I use raw goats milk yogurt),
(you can also add a ripe banana if your pup likes them!)
- Fill trays and freeze!
*You can also do this in a Kong
Simple Veggie purée
Trying to pick just one purée recipe is next to impossible because the options for these are endless. This is just one example. I encourage purees because of the ease of digestion and nutrient availability. I didn’t put organic before each item here but as always, organic is definitely the highest quality nutrition and safest option. I also always make sure to wash them.
(Tip: To help get my dog to eat her veggies I usually mix them up pretty well into the rest of her food and don’t give her too much per meal. About 1/4 C or less for a 25 lb dog. Many people also freeze them and their dogs like the crunch!) I also usually add some green Lipped mussels powder into my purées because unlike her other supplements, my dog really hates the taste of these!
- One bag of baby spinach (at least 5 oz)
- Two fresh red beet top greens
- 1 chopped red beet
- 5 leaves of kale
- 5 stalks of parsley
- 1 C puréed pumpkin
- Place all items in a blender or food processor (mine is small so I break the recipe in half and combine and stir at the end)
- Get to the finest level of purée that you can and
I’m no culinary expert, that’s for sure, but I hope this provides a good jumping off point! Best wishes and happy fall! Love Jeanne & Jersey Girl