Is pumpkin safe for dogs and cats?

How to share the season’s most popular flavor with your best friend

A young girl carves a pumpkin with a cat nearby

Fall is upon us, and that means pumpkin season is here! Not only are pumpkins a great addition to your front porch and lattes, they’re actually quite good for you. And not just you — they provide a host of benefits to dogs and cats as well.

But before you offer up the discarded pumpkin pulp and pieces from your Halloween jack-o-lantern, make sure you know what’s suitable to share with your four-legged friend — and what’s not.

The benefits of pumpkin for pets

Pumpkin is a low-calorie superfood chock-full of vitamins and nutrients. Its high fiber content is particularly helpful for combatting both diarrhea and constipation. According to Dr. Graham, Chief Veterinarian at Animal Humane Society, “Most pets with inconsistent GI tract issues could typically benefit from pumpkin in their diet. Though you’ll want to be sure to coordinate any diet changes with your veterinarian.” 

It’s naturally low in calories and sodium, which — in combination with its fiber content — makes pumpkin useful for weight management. It helps your pet feel more full without the calories, which also makes it a great fat substitute when making homemade treats.

Pumpkin also contains beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, and potassium to support healthy eyes, skin, and coat. Plus, it can serve as an immune system booster to help fight off illness. 

How to add pumpkin to your pet’s diet

A large white dog surrounded by fall leaves sits with a pumpkin

Whether you use fresh pumpkin or canned, this versatile fruit can be incorporated into your pet’s diet several ways. But first, let’s be clear what parts of the pumpkin are safe to give your pet, and which are not.

When it comes to fresh pumpkins, avoid giving your pet the stem, leaves, skin, or raw seeds. While it’s okay if Fido sneaks a small bit of pumpkin flesh or laps up some raw pulp or seeds during your Halloween pumpkin carving festivities, too much pumpkin — especially the fiber-rich pulp — can actually cause stomach upset. You’ll also want to ensure they don’t enjoy any bites of your jack-o-lantern in the days after it’s been carved as pumpkin and its seeds can spoil quickly.

You can make your own pumpkin puree for treats by steaming or roasting your pumpkin flesh, or roasting and grinding up well-rinsed seeds to sprinkle over your pet’s food. Just be sure to skip the oil, salt, and spices as these aren’t good for your best friend.

To keep things simple, you can pick up canned pumpkin puree from the grocery store to mix into your pet’s food or treats. Make sure to buy plain, unsweetened pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling which contains added sugars. Pie filling may also contain xylitol, which can be fatal for dogs, or allspice and clove, which are toxic to cats.

And while it may be tempting, don’t share any pumpkin goodies intended for human consumption, or any of these other seasonal favorites, with an animal.  

As with all good things, moderation is key. Avoid introducing too much pumpkin too quickly to give your pet time to adjust to the new food, and recognize that a little goes a long way — working up to no more than a few tablespoons per day for dogs and about a teaspoon a day for cats.

With all of these health benefits, pumpkin’s utility isn’t just limited to fall. Your pet can benefit from this superfood year-round.

Sign up for AHS email

If you found this article helpful and want more information about pet parenting, sign up for email from AHS. You'll receive behavior tips, stories about adorable, adoptable animals, and more!

SIGN UP NOW

For caring, compassionate advice and resources to address all your animal concerns.

Contact the Pet Helpline