When you think about autumn, which foods come to mind? Pumpkins, sweet potatoes and nuts are key ingredients in some of our favorite holiday meals. But are these foods appropriate for all members of the family – even the furry ones?
Two practiced veterinarians, Dr. Marty Becker and Dr. RuthAnn Lobos, reveal some little-known facts about these favorite fall foods, as well as guidelines for feeding them as snacks to your dogs.
FIRST, THE 90/10 RULE FOR TREATS
Regardless of what type of treat or snack you’re feeding, it should comprise no more than 10 percent of your dog’s daily calories. The other 90 percent should come from a dog food that’s complete and balanced. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about fall foods.
CAN MY DOG EAT PUMPKIN?
It depends on how you ask the question, according to Dr. Becker. “'Can my dog eat ‘a pumpkin’? Considering many dogs will eat shoes and rocks, a pumpkin doesn’t seem out of the question. And there are many tiny pumpkins and gourds that resemble a pet toy or ball. However, the stem and leaves are covered with prickly hairs that could hurt your pets, and raw pumpkin isn’t particularly digestible for them or us.” So, can your dog eat a whole, raw pumpkin? Probably. Is it recommended? Definitely not!
But, can your dog eat “pumpkin”? Absolutely, according to Dr. Lobos. “Canned pumpkin (NOT canned pumpkin pie mix, which contains sugar and spices) is a fabulous source of fiber and can help with digestive upset. It’s also low in calories and could help with weight loss if it’s substituted for a portion of their daily kibble. It’s also a great source of potassium, vitamin A, iron and beta carotene.”
And how about the seeds of the pumpkin? Pumpkin seeds contain antioxidants that are thought to help with urinary tract health. Try roasting them in the oven and offering them to your dog in small quantities. Unless you observe an adverse reaction, you can let your dog indulge in moderation.
CAN MY DOG EAT SWEET POTATOES?
Sweet potatoes are a great, lower-calorie treat option for dogs, according to Dr. Lobos. “They contain beta carotene, which is an important contributor to vision and growth, as well as vitamins B6 and C. They’re a natural source of fiber too.”
Dr. Becker adds, “A cooked, mashed sweet potato is a tasty addition to a dog’s meals, as long as it’s fed in moderation. Skip the brown sugar, marshmallows, butter, syrup and other human-pleasing additions. Plain mashed sweet potato is delicious enough for most dogs – adding extra fat and calories could make it too much of a good thing.”
CAN MY DOG EAT HAZELNUTS?
According to Dr. Becker, “Hazelnuts are not toxic to dogs, but they present a choking risk, as do all nuts of their size. Even a portion of a hazelnut might overcome the digestive tract of a small dog. Keep the size of the dog firmly in mind when deciding if a bit of a hazelnut is something he or she just has to have. While nuts are delicious, they’re also high in fat – something most dogs don’t need more of.”
In summary, pumpkin and sweet potato can be excellent additions to your dog’s fall snack menu, as long as you stick to the guidelines above.