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“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”
– Henry David Thoreau  
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  Volume No. 14 Issue No. 10 October 2017  

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Dr. Jim Humphries

  Pumpkin: good for dogs
  By Dr. Jim Humphries
  Veterinarian

   Pumpkin is actually used in veterinary medicine as a treatment for diarrhea. I mean the same pumpkins we carve into Jack-O-Lanterns and use to make my favorite pumpkin pie. But most don’t know that pumpkin, which is a member of the squash family, is very high in fiber. And I know your doctor has told you about the importance of adding fiber to your diet for intestinal health. Fiber is important, so let’s learn how it can be used for different nutritional and intestinal purposes.
   
   Fiber can be thought of as simply “roughage” or “bulk.” It is any part of a plant that cannot be broken down and digested by the body’s enzymes. There are two types of fiber - soluble and insoluble - and most foods contain both.
   
   Soluble fiber slows it down
   Soluble fiber means fiber that breaks down in water. This type of fiber absorbs water from the digestive tract and slows down the digestive process. Therefore, these types of foods help solve problems that cause diarrhea. Soluble fiber is found in foods such as oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, psyllium - and pumpkin. Think soluble fiber = slowing down the intestinal track.
   
   Insoluble fiber speeds up
   Insoluble fiber, because it can’t be broken down, adds bulk to the stool; and, with more fiber in the intestinal track, it speeds everything up. Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and certain vegetables like cauliflower, green beans and potatoes. Think insoluble fiber = speeding up the passage of food through the digestive tract.
   
   Notice some foods have both types of fiber in them. So, as a source of soluble fiber, pumpkin can slow digestion, which is beneficial in the management of diarrhea. And, since it also absorbs water, it “bulks” up the stool, helping to control the loose, watery stools characteristic of diarrhea. Clinical studies show that soluble fiber helps regulate stool frequency and consistency in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS.
   
   Generally speaking, both our pets and their owners don’t get enough fiber in their diets because it contains too much processed food. Overall, fiber of both kinds is good for your pet’s intestinal health. This is especially true for pets needing to regulate their intestinal health, as in the case of puppy diarrhea from parasites; or, for senior pets who need help moving things along, supplemental fiber is a good idea.
   
   You can easily find a good source of supplemental dietary pumpkin at the grocery store. Canned pumpkin has about 7 grams of fiber in a one-cup serving. You will want to be sure that pumpkin is the only ingredient, as some preparations have all kinds of added salt or spices — and you do not want to feed this to your dog. Also, in the same section you will find the pumpkin pie mix, which is not good for your dog, either. Buy just the plain canned pumpkin.
   
   There are other benefits to feeding this as a supplement. Pumpkin is full of nutrients, like beta-carotene, zinc, iron, vitamin A and potassium. Because fiber provides a feeling of fullness, adding pumpkin as a weight-reduction supplement can help achieve weight loss by reducing the overall food/calorie intake.
   
   The amount you use depends on the purpose of the supplementation. As a general rule, you can work up to one tablespoon per day for smaller dogs and two tablespoons per day for larger dogs.
   
   Don’t overdo this
   
   If a little is good, a lot is better - right? It is almost natural to think this for many things, even medicine, but too much canned pumpkin actually causes diarrhea. It can also cause gas and bloating and even cramping, especially in small dogs where we overdo it a bit. So, use common sense on the dosing. Ask your veterinarian for advice related to your specific pet’s needs, and add it in slowly so everything can adjust. Of course, if you are using this for the treatment of a specific issue, then you can simply stop it when things are back to “regular.”
   
   Pound puppies often come home with diarrhea caused by parasites like coccidian, Giardia, intestinal worms and sudden changes in diet. If you are establishing a new relationship with a rescued pup, this may be of real help. Just be sure to have your veterinarian do a “fecal exam” lab test to see exactly what you are treating. As you treat the parasite specifically, the soluble fiber found in pumpkin may really help relieve the symptoms. If the diarrhea is very bad, veterinarians have a variety of medications to slow the GI track down.
   
   Now, you will probably think of pumpkin a bit differently — never thought it could be such a good “medicine,” but now you have the lowdown on an excellent source of fiber therapy.
   
   

    Dr. Jim Humphries is a veterinarian and provides hospice and end-of-life care for pets in the Colorado Springs area. He also serves as a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes. www.HomeWithDignity.com
  
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