There are many food items that can safely be included in your dog’s diet that are both satisfying and nutritious. One of these is pumpkin seeds, a popular snack for pet owners but one that can also be enjoyed by your four-legged friend.
Can dogs eat pumpkin seeds? Yes, dogs can eat pumpkin seeds, especially if they are raw and not salted. Besides being very palatable to dogs, they are also packed with health benefits, are high in fiber, and can promote digestive and urinary health for dogs as well as offer a host of other health benefits.
What are pumpkin seeds?
Pumpkin seeds are the edible seeds of pumpkins and other squash relatives. They are flat, dark-green seeds that are sometimes encased in a whitish husk. In North America, they are often referred to as “pepitas”.
They are soft and chewy and are most often enjoyed roasted when their consistency becomes crisper. They have a sweet, nutty flavor.
Pumpkin seeds belong to the Cucurbitaceae (gourd) family, which includes cucumber, watermelon, squash and pumpkins, and the genus Cucurbita, which contains all pumpkins.
The most common pumpkin species, generally used for pumpkin seeds, are Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita mixta and Cucurbita moschata.
Pumpkin seeds are highly nutritional and are often referred to as a “superfood” because they contain so many beneficial nutrients. Pumpkin seeds are most often consumed dried and roasted.
How to Prepare Pumpkin Seeds for Your Dog
Many stores sell pumpkin seeds prepared in various ways, but they are also easy to prepare yourself.
If you start with fresh pumpkin seeds that have been scooped from a pumpkin, they need to be removed from their husks, wiped to remove any excess pulp and then dried out overnight.
If you buy raw pumpkin seeds, then this part of the task will have been done for you. To roast pumpkin seeds, lay them flat on a baking tray and place them in a cool oven (160º – 175ºF/ 75ºC) for up to 20 minutes.
It is important not to leave them in the oven for longer because recent studies have shown that the fat structure of the seeds alters when roasted for longer periods. Do not salt the seeds as this is not healthy for your pet.
How Much to Give Your Dog
Seeds can be fed whole or ground and added to meals. You can give your dog a quarter teaspoon per ten pounds of body weight per day.
How to Store Pumpkin Seeds
Once roasted, it is important to correctly store pumpkin seeds because they can spoil. They need to be completely dried and then placed in an airtight container. Pumpkin seeds can last up to a week on the shelf or up to two months if stored in the refrigerator. They can also be frozen and kept for up to six months in the freezer.
Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds for Dogs
Pumpkin seeds have been extensively studied in human clinical trials and their many health benefits outlined because of the interest in how they benefit humans.
Many of the human benefits could be similar for dogs (although you should always check with your vet). Veterinarians have now started recommending them as part of a dog’s diet, either as a snack or ground up and added to their food.
Dogs can eat both the pumpkin flesh and the seeds and there are many associated benefits, which are outlined below:
Promote Urinary Health
Pumpkin seeds contain antioxidants and fatty acids that aid in promoting urinary health and preventing urinary tract infections. They can also help to avoid kidney stones, or in the case of existing kidney stones, they can assist with dislodging them.
Pumpkin seeds contain an amino acid called cucurbitacin, which is an extremely effective deworming agent. It paralyzes worms, allowing the intestine to easily eliminate them.
Pumpkin seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which allow them to fight inflammation. This is helpful for common canine complaints such as arthritis and hip dysplasia.
Benefit for Prostate Gland Enlargement
Pumpkin seeds have been seen to regulate benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate gland enlargement) and to increase comfort for male dogs suffering from this condition.
Contain Healthy Fats
Pumpkin seeds contain lipids, which are essential fats that bodies need to survive. Pumpkin seeds are high in both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, making them capable of lowering bad cholesterol levels and increasing good cholesterols.
Promote Cardiovascular Health
Pumpkin seeds contain Vitamin E & K, which have been shown to assist with cardiovascular health. Vitamin E lowers blood pressure and protects cells from free radicals, while Vitamin K causes blood to clot after tissue damage and prevents bleeding.
Potential Harmful Effects of Pumpkin Seeds for Dogs
Most research is focused on the positive effects of pumpkin seeds, of which there are many, but there are still some risks that one should be aware of.
These all relate to the preparation and storage of pumpkin seeds, so it is therefore important to pay attention to these factors and avoid any unwanted negative effects.
Pumpkin seeds are often commercially prepared with salt. Added salt can pose health risks for dogs and can upset sodium levels in the body. When feeding pumpkin seeds to your dog, always ensure that there is no added salt.
Raw Pumpkin Seeds Can Spoil
Fresh seeds can rot very quickly, which would be toxic to your pet. It is better to roast seeds because they last significantly longer and are also more palatable that way.
Seeds that are not stored in sealed containers can spoil and become toxic. Properly stored and roasted pumpkin seeds can last for months.
For quick learning, see this video below:
History of Eating Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkins are native to the Americas, and indigenous species are found across North, South and Central America.
The word pumpkin originated from the Greek word “pepon”, meaning “large melon”.
The French then changed the word to “pompon”, the English altered it to make “pumpion” and American colonists changed it to “pumpkin”. Pumpkins were used widely by Native American tribes as a diet staple.
The flesh and seeds of pumpkins were used by Native Americans to:
- Heal wounds with an emulsion of ground seeds
- Cure kidney & urinary ailments by easing urination
- Treat parasites
The word “pepita” comes from Mexico and the Spanish phrase “pepita de calabaza” which means “little seed of squash”.
Seeds from related plants have been found in Mexico dating back to 7000 to 5500 BC (source) and their use in South America can be traced back to the Aztec cultures of 1300 – 1500.
The vegetable has developed since those early times when it was small and hard and able to sustain harsh weather. The popularity of pumpkins spread from the Americas through trade and exploration.
Today, they are widely used across the globe, especially in Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, India, and parts of Asia.
China is now the largest producer of pumpkins and pumpkin seeds, with other major producers including India, Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, and the U.S.
Within the U.S., the five states producing most pumpkins are Illinois, Texas, California, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. It is estimated that more than 100,000 acres of U.S. farmland is planted with pumpkins.
Uses by Herbalists
Pumpkin seeds’ medicinal uses were discovered by Ayurvedic herbalists in the 17th century and have since been used to treat many gastrointestinal conditions.
They are a natural diuretic, which allows them to relax irritated tissue, expel worms and reduce pain. They have also been found to assist lactation and reduce swelling after childbirth (source).
Other Pumpkin Products
Dogs can also eat pumpkin flesh and many veterinarians recommend it to treat various stomach ailments. It contains high quantities of soluble fiber which allow for the following benefits:
- absorbs excess water in the digestive tract for cases of diarrhea
- has a laxative effect when dogs are suffering from constipation
- allows for a feeling of fullness, which assists in weight control
If serving pumpkin to your dog, it should either be plain, canned pumpkin or mashed, baked pumpkin with nothing added to it.
Related Article: Can Dogs Eat Spoiled Meat? See if it could bring harm to your dog.
Pumpkin seeds are often thrown out with the trash once the Halloween jack-o-lantern has been carved but it would seem they should rather be rinsed and roasted and fed to the family and pets.
For something so small, they certainly pack a punch. You can safely give them to your dog, comfortable in the knowledge that they contain important vitamins and minerals.
As long as you prepare them properly and give them in moderation, they are totally safe to keep your dog’s tail wagging even more.