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Pumpkin is a seasonal vegetable available from September to December; pumpkin pulp can make a nice addition to your dog’s dinner during the Winter months. Nature always knows best and provides us with beneficial nutrients coming into the Winter months. Pumpkin contains vitamin C which supports immune health; whilst dogs produce their own vitamin C pumpkin can provide an extra boost during the Winter months as well as obtaining nutrients to support eye and skin health. I love giving my guys a little pumpkin as the carotenoids -zeaxanthin, lutein and betacarotene, which pigment the foods with a yellow-orange colour act as antioxidants; their purpose is to absorb excess sunlight to reduce damage to the plant. In the body antioxidants provide stability to damaging radicals; reducing inflammation in the body which is associated with ageing and chronic dis-ease. Found in high concentrations within the eye they provide protection from eye degeneration and cataracts. Beta carotene, the plant version of vitamin A, is also vital for correct cellular replication. Pumpkin also contains potassium which is vital to cellular health as well as supporting the muscles and nerves. Copper and manganese support bone health and are also needed as co-factors to support the work of antioxidants - so overall a great little package of colour and taste! Perhaps pumpkin is best known as a source of soluble and insoluble fibre; the latter supports the beneficial bacteria found in the gut, aiding a healthy digestive tract and relieve constipation. Insoluble fibre provides bulk to the stool and helps to pass a firm stool removing toxicity from the body and cleansing the colon. That said, excessive amounts of soluble fibre can lead to diarrhoea and sometimes aggravate allergies whilst insoluble fibre can cause constipation, so it is important to be moderate. I like to rotate pumpkin during the season with other sources of fibre such as buckwheat, quinoa and brown rice, rather than solely relying on pumpkin; this helps to remove the potential excesses of soluble fibre whilst still obtaining valuable antioxidants. For our pug friends, I add one or two spoons of pumpkin pulp in combination with oily fish or a fatty meat; betacarotene is fat soluble and therefore absorption will be increased when combined with oil to obtain the most benefit. Beta-carotene is the plant form of vitamin A, most often found in organ meat, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Excessive amounts of vitamin A have the potential to be toxic but this is usually down to excessive supplementation; given plant conversions are less effective in the dog compared to a human and they would have to eat a lot of pumpkin for this to be a problem. Having said that I always find it best to be moderate for many reasons and feed a few times a week within a balanced meal. Happy Halloween and enjoy your pumpkin dinners for healthy eyes and immunity with your furry friend! Mozaffarieh, M., Sacu, S., & Wedrich, A. (2003). The role of the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, in protecting against age-related macular degeneration: a review based on controversial evidence. Nutrition journal, 2, 20.

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