Q: My dog Grover is always getting constipated. Last week he was so backed up we had to take him to the emergency room. Luckily, they were able to make him feel much better pretty quickly.
One of the emergency vets even gave me a tip she says works for her dog all the time: canned pumpkin. My vet says it has too much sugar, but I checked and the can says it has none in it. My dog loves it! Is it OK or do you agree with my regular vet?
A: Your regular veterinarian might have assumed you were talking about pumpkin pie filling, a sweetened canned product popular this time of year. Unfortunately, this stuff contains a whole lot of sugar (and calories) you probably don’t want to feed your dog.
What the ER veterinarian suggests is an unsweetened pumpkin product that’s available all year long in the vegetable and baking aisles. Though typically labeled 100 percent pumpkin, canned “pumpkin” is a puree made not from pumpkin but from a combination of sweet winter squashes (like butternut and Hubbard, which are from the same general class of vegetable as pumpkin).
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People may use canned pumpkin as a convenient way to make everything from muffins and pies to pumpkin soup and vegetable stews, but it has become a popular food additive for dogs, too. In fact, you can’t even Google canned pumpkin without finding a reference to its use for dogs. Here’s why:
Canned pumpkin is low in saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol and calories. It’s also full of Vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. But, most of all, it’s an excellent source of dietary fiber. This fiber supports healthy canine digestive tracts by feeding the “good” bacteria found within their intestines, thereby aiding in nutrient digestion and absorption and regulating the consistency of their stool (whether it’s too soft or too firm).
Because it’s such a low-calorie, convenient source of nutrients, canned pumpkin is also used to support urinary tract health and even for weight loss in dogs (discontinue treats and substitute a third of your dog’s regular diet with an equivalent amount of canned pumpkin).
How much canned pumpkin should you use? If your dog is small, try adding a couple of teaspoons to her meal. If she’s bigger, a couple of tablespoons is probably more appropriate.
Either way, be sure you work with your veterinarian to address the underlying cause of your dog’s constipation.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.