By Karlene Turkington

Pumpkin bread, pumpkin spiced latte, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin soup, even pumpkin beer; come autumn there is no shortage of pumpkin flavored yummies to tempt your palate.
With Halloween past, you might be tempted to give in to your pup’s curiosity and allow him to play with the jack-o’-lantern you carved that he’s been sniffing and barking at for the past few weeks. Resist temptation though.
Once the skin of a pumpkin is broken, mold begins to grow inside it and can cause your dog to become ill.  There are, however, many health benefits to be had by giving your dog pumpkin.
Pumpkins are great for overall nutrition.  Pumpkin flesh and seeds are loaded with nutrients like vitamins A, C and E, alpha and beta carotene, lutein, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc.
The nutritional benefits of pumpkin can result in healthier skin, healthier eyes, a healthier coat and a healthier immune system for your dog. They also contain antioxidants, which may prevent some cancers from forming and help your dog stay healthy and young.
Pumpkin is also a great source of fiber. Canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling, can help bulk up your dog’s loose stools or soften his hard ones.
Pumpkin does have beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, which is toxic to dogs if given in excess. Give your small dogs and pups a couple of teaspoons a day, and a couple of tablespoons for the big guys, and keep their digestion regular and balanced.
Pumpkin seeds are thought to be beneficial for urinary-tract health. The oil of pumpkin seeds is rich in antioxidants and fatty acids, which are believed to support urinary health.
Dogs with bladder or kidney stones, or suffering from urinary incontinence, in particular, may benefit from pumpkin seeds in their diet. Although they may enjoy slurping them down fresh, you can also toast them. Spread pumpkin seeds evenly onto a baking sheet, lightly coat them with cooking oil and roast them in a 375-degree oven for five or ten minutes. Let them cool before serving them to your dog.
Pumpkin can also act as a natural de-wormer.  Tapeworms and other intestinal parasites become paralyzed by cucurbitin, an amino acid in pumpkin seeds. The most effective way to prepare seeds for this purpose is by grinding up seeds into a powder. Give your dog 1 teaspoon three times a day, mixed into a small amount of canned food and given as a treat. You can also sprinkle it on his food,  but if you do that he might not eat all of it.
Pumpkin can also be useful for helping your dog lose weight.  Replace a portion of his daily kibble with some canned pumpkin.  Your dog will enjoy the taste, and the fiber will help fill his belly so he doesn’t miss the food that’s not there.
Coprophagia is the nasty habit some dogs have of eating feces.  There are many reasons for this, so it’s a good idea to check with your vet to be sure there isn’t a medical cause.  If there is no medical issue, try adding pumpkin to the food. It’s said to make the poop taste bad, so if you have more than one dog in the house, make sure you add pumpkin to everyone’s food.
Canned pumpkin typically comes in 15-ounce cans, which equals 29 tablespoons, too much for even a couple of large dogs to consume in a week’s time, which is about as long as it will last in the refrigerator. The best way to store the excess is to freeze it. Scoop canned pumpkin into an ice cube tray, freeze it and pop the cubes into a freezer bag or storage container. You can thaw out the cubes daily or thaw out a week’s worth at a time. When the cube thaws, stir it to blend in any separated water.
As you enjoy your pumpkin treats this fall, remember your dog will love pumpkin, too.  It is nutritious and delicious for him and has many health benefits.  Just leave the whipped cream off!
Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.