Pumpkin: This nutrition powerhouse can be a healthy addition to your pet’s diet, providing a variety of benefits. Pumpkin flesh and seeds are loaded with beta-carotene, vitamin A, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, copper, and zinc. They also contain antioxidants, which may prevent some cancers from forming and help your pet stay healthy and young. Just don’t overdo the portion sizes, since minerals like iron and fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A can accumulate to unhealthy, even toxic, levels. A teaspoon or two per day is plenty. Use canned or cooked fresh pumpkin, not the sweetened or spiced pie filling.
- Urinary Tract Support: The oils contained in the seeds and flesh of pumpkins support urinary health in dogs and cats. Anyone whose pet has had kidney or bladder stones (or the horror of both) can attest to how much suffering they cause your pooch or kitty. Regularly adding pumpkin to your pet’s diet can help avoid this painful condition.
- Furballs: The fiber in pumpkin can help move furballs along through your cat’s digestive tract and into the litter box, rather than hacked up onto the carpet. Over a period of time, regularly including about a teaspoon a day of pumpkin in your cat’s diet will also help prevent the formation of new furballs. Try giving it to her right out of the can – most felines enjoy the flavor and will eat it plain. But if she turns up her nose at it, mix it with food and watch it disappear.
- Skin and Coat: The antioxidants and essential fatty acids contained in pumpkin seeds help moisturize your pet’s skin and fur from the inside out. Although they may enjoy slurping down the fresh, slimy version, grinding them up and mixing with food may be the easiest way to serve them.
- Parasites: Tapeworms and other intestinal parasites become paralyzed by cucurbitin, an amino acid in pumpkin seeds that acts as a natural de-worming agent. The most effective way to prepare seeds for this purpose is by grinding up fresh or properly preserved pumpkin seeds into a powder. Give your cat or dog 1 teaspoon three times a day, mixed into a marble-sized portion of food and given as a treat. You can sprinkle it on your pet’s food at mealtime instead, but doing so runs the risk of the full dosage not being consumed each time it’s administered.
- Weight Loss: Obesity is a common issue that is just as dangerous for animals as it is for humans. Switching out a spoon full of their usual food for a spoon full of pumpkin is an easy way to put them on a diet without cutting down their serving size. The pumpkin fiber helps their tummy feel full, but the calorie content is far less.
Storing Leftover Pumpkin
The typical 15-ounce can in which pumpkin is usually packed contains 29 tablespoons – obviously too much for one pet (or even two) to consume within one week. So, unless your pet family is particularly large, a significant amount will end up in the garbage unless the extra is dealt with.
The best way to store leftover canned pumpkin is to scoop it into an ice cube tray, freeze, and then pop out the serving sized cubes. Thaw one out when you need it, mix with a spoon to blend any separation of water, and refrigerate any leftovers. If you don’t want to retrieve pumpkin cubes from the freezer every other day, count out a week’s worth of servings into small containers to freeze, and take them out one week at a time.