Every dog suffers from diarrhea at least once in his lifetime. And every dog owner knows how messy, smelly, and uncomfortable it is — for the dog and for everyone.
Here is the scoop on the health benefits of feeding pumpkin to dogs with diarrhea, so that you can help get your dog back on track.
What Causes Dog Diarrhea?
Before you reach for that can of pumpkin, you first need to figure out the cause of your dog’s diarrhea.
Diarrhea is one of those symptoms that pops up for all kinds of diseases and infections, from parasites to parvo. Your dog's diarrhea could be a sign of serious, even fatal illness, or it could be something as simple as a mild upset stomach.
Just like us, dogs can get diarrhea from stress or a change in their diets. These mild cases of diarrhea normally resolve on their own, and you can help by adding a dietary supplement like pumpkin or feeding a mild diet designed for upset, canine tummies, such as a homemade bland diet made of three parts white rice to one part protein, such as boiled skinless or boneless chicken, or a prescription bland diet.
If your dog is suffering from consistent diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, you should take him to see your veterinarian. Puppy diarrhea is especially concerning and should always be treated as a potential emergency, just in case it is a serious illness. Once your veterinarian has diagnosed your dog and suggested a treatment plan for the cause, however, pumpkin can be a helpful supplement to get your dog’s diarrhea under control.
Can Pumpkin Help With Dog Diarrhea?
Pumpkin is a fiber-rich food that also contains important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, E, and C, and potassium and iron. Plain, canned pumpkin is available year-round and can be a great addition to your canine first aid kit.
Pumpkin can ease digestion in several ways. The soluble fiber content in pumpkin adds bulk to your dog’s stool by absorbing water, and fiber fermentation produces beneficial fatty acids that supply energy to cells, stimulate intestinal sodium and water absorption, and lower the pH level of the large intestines.
Fiber also acts as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are different from probiotics. They stimulate the growth or activity of these beneficial bacteria in the intestines and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. Fiber does this by lowering the pH level and providing the necessary nutrients these bacteria need.
These traits can all help with some cases of dog diarrhea. Depending on the cause of your dog’s diarrhea, veterinarians might recommend feeding either a highly digestible diet or a diet full of prebiotics (fiber). In some cases, they may also recommend adding probiotics, which are supplements that contain live beneficial bacteria. Pumpkin acts as a prebiotic booster for these probiotics.
How Much Pumpkin Should I Give My Dog?
To help abate your dog’s diarrhea, add 1-to-4 tablespoons of pumpkin to your dog’s meal. It is a good idea to start out with smaller quantities to avoid adding too much fiber to your dog’s diet, and if you have any questions about exactly how much pumpkin to feed your dog, consult your veterinarian.
What Kind of Pumpkin Should I Feed My Dog?
Plain canned pumpkin is the healthiest choice for your dog. Both fresh and canned pumpkin are good sources of nutrients and fiber, but canned pumpkin contains a higher concentration of fiber and nutrients compared to fresh pumpkin. This is because fresh pumpkin has higher water content than canned pumpkin. However, canned pumpkin with added salt, spices, sugar, or other additives can irritate your dog’s stomach further, counteracting the beneficial effects of the pumpkin.
Note that you should NEVER use canned pumpkin pie, as it may contain xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.
Can Pumpkin Help With Dog Constipation?
On the opposite end of the spectrum, pumpkin can also help with constipation in dogs. The Merck Veterinary Manual states that adding 1-to-4 tablespoons of pumpkin per meal to the diet of a dog suffering from constipation can help ease mild constipation. It is important to make sure that dogs are well hydrated any time you increase the fiber content of their food, as dehydration can make constipation worse.
It is also imperative to find out why your dog is constipated. Consult with your veterinarian to make sure your dog doesn't have an enlarged prostate, foreign material or bones in the colon, or another issue that could be an emergency if it isn't dealt with properly.
Pumpkin is a useful and affordable way to help battle your dog’s diarrhea. If your dog is suffering from diarrhea or constipation, a tablespoon of pumpkin can ease his distress. Talk to your veterinarian if pumpkin does not help resolve your dog's diarrhea and see if there are other supplements or medications you can try instead.