Pumpkin pets

Pumpkin can be healthy for both cats and dogs when given in moderation.

SIOUX CITY | Before tossing out those painted and ornamental pumpkins from Halloween, consider re-purposing them as healthy snacks for pets.

Pumpkin provides numerous health benefits when given in moderation.

For example, the oils contained in pumpkin flesh support the urinary tract and can avoid painful kidney or bladder stones in dogs and cats. Fiber-rich pumpkin is also good for healthy digestion and avoiding furballs in cats. Also, the antioxidants and fatty acids in pumpkin are good for healthy skin and coat in cats and dogs, according to PetMD.

In addition, pumpkins are an excellent source of vitamin C which helps to support the immune system and carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, which have been shown to help prevent cancer, said PetMD. Potassium is also prevalent in pumpkin and it's helpful in activity recovery, which makes it an important electrolyte for active dogs and cats.

Harvesting flesh from the pumpkin is time consuming but not too difficult. Jack-o'-lanterns often harbor bacteria and shouldn’t be used as a treat.

If the pumpkin is still fresh and firm, simply cut off any parts from the inside that have been burned by the candle or look discolored.

To prepare the pumpkin, cut off and throw away the stem. Next, cut the pumpkin in half and throw away the pulp. Place the two halves face down in a shallow baking dish and cover with foil.

Bake at 375 degrees F for about an hour and a half for a medium pumpkin, or until tender. Cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces for a shorter cooking time.

Once the pumpkin has cooled, peel off the rind or scoop out flesh and chop, puree or mash it.

Canned pumpkin is also an option for less kitchen-savvy pet parents, but be sure to use pumpkin without added sugars and spices. Pumpkin pie filling, for example, is too high in sugar to be considered healthy.

Also, be sure not to overfeed pumpkin if serving it plain. A few teaspoons for dogs and 1 teaspoon for cats spread throughout the day mixed with their normal food is plenty, otherwise they can get diarrhea or eat too much iron which can be dangerous, according to PetMD.

A safer way to get the benefits of pumpkin without worrying about overfeeding is by making it into biscuit treats. This way, pets can get a healthy snack along with the benefits of pumpkin.

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