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If you’ve asked for advice at the Barkery to treat your dog’s diarrhea, we’ve probably mentioned before that pumpkin is a good way to help resolve the issue. In this article by holistic veterinarian Dr. Jean Dodds, we’ll take a closer look at pumpkin, why it’s used for management of diarrhea, and whether it might make sense for your companion animal.

Before we begin, however, please be aware that if your pet is experiencing diarrhea, a veterinarian should first determine if an underlying medical condition exists. Just like humans, pets can get diarrhea for many reasons, and you should know what you’re dealing with before trying to manage it. Severe diarrhea can also result in dehydration and loss of electrolytes, which can have serious consequences without medical intervention.

Once your veterinarian gives the “all-clear” to manage your pets diarrhea naturally, you can consider whether pumpkin is a viable alternative.

What is pumpkin?

Pumpkins are actually a fruit in the squash family. Like many fruits, pumpkins contain high amounts of fiber, which is important to digestive health.

What is fiber?

Fiber, also referred to as “roughage” or “bulk,” is any part of a plant that cannot be broken down and digested by the body’s enzymes (Mayo Clinic, 2012). Dietary fiber is found in all plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, beans, and seeds.

There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble – and most foods contain a combination of the two.

  • Soluble fiber – As the name implies, this fiber is “soluble,” or breaks down in water. Soluble fiber absorbs water from the digestive tract, forming a gel-like substance that slows down the digestive process. Soluble fiber is found in foods such as oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, psyllium, and pumpkin.
  • Insoluble fiber – This fiber adds bulk to the stool and tends to speed up the passage of food through the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans, and certain vegetables like cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes.

The soluble fiber in pumpkin slows digestion, which is beneficial in the management of diarrhea. And, since it absorbs water, it “bulks” up the stool, helping control the loose, water stools characteristic of diarrhea. Clinical studies show that soluble fiber helps regulate stool frequency and consistency in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

While insoluble fiber can benefit those suffering from constipation, it’s best to avoid feeding too much insoluble fiber to animals suffering from diarrhea, since it can act as a natural laxative.

Incorporating pumpkin into¬† your pet’s diet

Canned pumpkin is an excellent source of dietary fiber, with about 7 grams of fiber in a one cup serving, and it’s conveniently available at your nearest Barkery or grocery store. Just be sure that pumpkin is the only ingredient, you don’t want any added salt or spices.

Feeding your pet pumpkin has additional benefits. It’s packed full of nutrients, including beta-carotene, zinc, iron, vitamin A and potassium. And, since fiber provides a feeling of fullness, it can be used as a supplement for overweight pets when reducing daily caloric intake.

The amount of canned pumpkin you feed will depend on your dogs weight. We suggested working up to 1 tablespoon per day for smaller dogs and 2 tablespoons per day for larger dogs. However, be sure you don’t add too much too soon. Too much canned pumpkin can cause diarrhea, gas, bloating, and cramping. To avoid these effects, incorporate small amounts of pumpkin slowly and work your way up to the suggested dose. This will allow the bacteria in the digestive tract to adjust to the increased fiber.

The bottom line

If your dog or cat suffers from mild to moderate diarrhea, and your veterinarian has ruled out a serious underlying condition, the soluble fiber found in pumpkin may help relieve the symptoms. Just be sure to introduce it slowly and feed in moderation. Also, encourage your pet to drink plenty of fresh water. Proper hydration is key in helping the soluble fiber do its job.

If your pet could use some fiber in his or her diet, stop in your nearest Barkery and speak with a nutrition specialist today.