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How Does Pumpkin Treat Diarrhea AND Constipation in Dogs and Cats?

Ehhhhhhhhh, so maybe the cats won’t take Pumpkin but dogs almost always will, as long as they’ll take ANYTHING. (Means that if your dog isn’t eating, he sure won’t eat Pumpkin.)

When soluble fiber hits the large intestine, the colon says “Oh! You feel nice! Let’s Dance!” And the bowel begins to work on the soluble fiber. It takes work, which makes the bowel move, but it also takes time, which slows the bowel down. This is how the Pumpkin can fix BOTH diarrhea *and* constipation.

It’s NOT ROUGHAGE and there’s a huge difference. Roughage is indigestible, fibrous material which is bulky and cannot be dissolved. For the most part, “roughage” is not a “food” for beneficial bacteria in the Colon, either.

Soluble fiber on the other hand IS digestible, (can be dissolved) and the “inulin” that is so rich in soluble fiber is a DIRECT “food” for beneficial bacteria.

While “roughage” is a call for a bulky state of emergency in the GI tract and causes forward motility (laxative) effect, the difference with soluble fiber is:

  1. It grows beneficial bacteria
  2. It makes a hyperactive, diarrheic bowel SLOW DOWN to process the fiber / inulin.
  3. It makes a stopped or constipated bowel REACTIVATE to process the fiber / inulin.

The net effect of pumpkin is to make an irregular bowel work at the PROPER speed, neither too fast, or too slow.

Other things that work SIMILARLY are FOS (chicory root, better than pumpkin) and Sweet Potato (not as good as pumpkin)

At left you see the FOS I buy for myself and for Ajax’s food when he needs a little help with a loose stool. It’s the best price on a couple pounds of high quality FOS. They sell 2.2 pounds for what most companies are selling 8 ounces for.

The net effect of pumpkin is to make an irregular bowel work at the PROPER speed, neither too fast, or too slow.

Pumpkin is given with the food as you may see in the picture above. Ajax waits patiently for his “I’ve got diarrhea” breakfast. I don’t know what he got into but it had his poop pretty loose.

What follows is dosing information on Libby’s Canned Pumpkin. These amounts are conservative by some author’s recommendations but in my hands, is “enough to do the trick” whether you’re keeping an old dog intestinally “limber” or trying to form up some diarrhea.

For dogs that are heavier than this chart, I’m sorry but you have to do math. I doubt I’d give ANY dog more than 1 cup of Pumpkin, frankly I’d defy any dog to need that much.

How Often to Give Pumpkin?

Answer: With each feeding or twice a day

Will Pumpkin aggravate pancreatitis, weight loss diets, food allergies or other gastrointestinal “issues” my pet may be having?

Answer: Yes and No. If your vet has prohibited ANYTHING be given by mouth (pancreatitis acute phase) then you can’t use Pumpkin until your vet says so. After that, since it’s fat free, it will NOT trigger pancreatitis. It will not cause water retention and will not impact cardiac cases, nor liver issues. It’s also low in sugar and will not bump your diabetics. Pumpkin is not a unique nor antigenic protein and has not been associated with adverse or allergic food reactions. Pumpkin is RECOMMENDED for the long term management of Post-HGE, inflammatory bowel disease or other serious diarrheic / immune mediated bowel issues.

Should I use Pumpkin in each feeding all the time?

Answer: You can. I recommend it if you’re feeding raw diets, because meat has no soluble fiber, and the bowel benefits from some “inulin” which is NOT sugar nor “carbohydrate” of metabolic consequence.  I also recommend Pumpkin be incorporated into any ‘home cooked’ diet because diets based on “chicken and rice” also lack calcium, soluble, fiber, water soluble vitamins and carotenoids. Pumpkin rounds those refined diets out.

MOST dog food manufacturers are already ‘sneaking’ pumpkin into their diets. You may see it added in a powdered form to a lot of diets without fanfare. It’s not a “buzz word” yet, so they’re not wasting ad space on the front of the bag, but they ALREADY KNOW that bowels are better and stools are regular and well formed (their customers love that) when they add a little pumpkin to their diet formulations.

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Dr Erik Johnson

Dr Erik Johnson is a Marietta, Georgia Veterinarian with a practice in small animal medicine. He graduated from University of Georgia with his Doctorate in 1991. Dr Johnson is the author of several texts on Koi and Pond Fish Health and Disease as well as numerous articles on dog and cat health topics.

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