Zucchinis are popular for summer grilling and winter squash make you think of fall decorations. But squash are more than just a seasonal decoration and a tasty summer treat. They are one of the many human healthy food alternatives because they are packed with nutrients.
Naturally, there are also amazing health benefits of squash for dogs. One of the questions you are asking is probably “Can I give squash to my dog?”
Yes, and it is nutritious too! According to the ASPCA, acorn squash is non-toxic and it has a lot of nutritional benefits for dogs.
Facts About Squash
From a botanical standpoint, squash are actually considered a fruit because they contain the seeds of the plant. However, we are including them in our vegetable series because most people identify squash with vegetables.
Its name originates from the word pepon, which is Greek for "large melon", something round and large. The term squash is used interchangeably with "pumpkin" and "winter squash" in some areas.
Squash are native to North America. There are both summer varieties such as zucchini, crookneck, and straightneck, and winter varieties such as acorn, spaghetti, butternut, Calabaza, and Hubbard. Winter squash are actually grown through warm seasons as well, but get their name due to the fact that they can be stored through the winter months.
Squash is 90% water composition which adds to its therapeutic benefits.
How is Squash Good for Your Dog?
In short, squash provides lots of good nutrients for your dog:
Vitamins A, C, E and B6
Minerals - Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium
Lots of Dietary Fiber
Powerful Antioxidants - Beta Carotene
All These Nutrients Benefit Your Dog's...
Tips for Serving Squash
Here’s a few tips on how to give your dog squash:
Gradually add it to your dog's diet
Do not feed raw - it's tough to digest
Remove the skin and seeds
Cook and bake it
HOW MUCH SQUASH SHOULD I FEED MY DOG?
It is recommended that you gradually add squash into your dog's diet. It is generally recommended that cats and small dogs get about a teaspoon of squash mixed in with each meal. Larger dogs can handle up to a tablespoon or so. Once your dog gets used to the squash, you can feed it alone as a treat.
WHY SHOULD I NOT FEED RAW SQUASH?
While both raw and cooked squash are safe for dogs, raw squash may be tough for some dogs to swallow. It may also be harsh for a dog’s digestive tract, making them get a stomach ache and/or indigestion. Cooking the squash alleviates this issue.
HOW TO COOK SQUASH
Baking squash is one of the easiest ways to cook it.
Prepare a cookie sheet by placing aluminum foil over it – this makes clean up a breeze too.
Cut the squash in half and scrape out the seeds. You can bake the seeds separately for a tasty treat for you (but not for your dog).
Place both halves upside down on the cookie sheet. Do not add any spices or sweeteners. You can lightly oil it if you feel you need to.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until fork tender. Timing may vary depending on the size of your squash.
Scoop out the squash in a sealable container or freezer bag.
** Squashes retain most of their nutrients even after baking or steaming. **
WHAT IF MY DOG DOESN’T LIKE SQUASH?
If your dog doesn't care for the taste of squash, we suggest you add it to a treat recipe. Here's an easy, simple recipe:
Squash Dog Treats Recipe
3/4 cup squash puree
2 Tbsp peanut butter
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour for rolling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix eggs, squash and peanut butter in a large bowl.
Incorporate flour until you have a stiff, dry dough.
Knead with you hands if necessary. (This dough is much drier then cookie dough for humans; about the consistency of pie crust.)
Roll the dough out with a rolling-pin on a floured surface until 1/2 inch thick.
Cut with the cookie cutter of your choice or just use a knife to cut into squares.
Bake on a cookie sheet until hard, approximately 25 mins. Move treats to wire rack and allow to cool.
Deeper Dive Into Health Benefits of Squash for Dogs
Great source of Beta Carotene & Vitamin A
The yellowish/orangish color of many squash is due to the presence of orange carotenoid pigments, including beta-cryptoxanthin, alpha and beta carotene. Once your dog absorbs beta carotene, it gets converted to vitamin A.
Vitamin A is critical for maintaining healthy vision and promoting healthy skin. It plays an important part in healthy bone growth and supports the immune system. As an antioxidant, Vitamin A also fights free radicals and slows down aging naturally.
Squash are not the only source of this important nutrient in your dog’s diet. Other vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and broccoli also contain beta carotene.
Warning on Vitamin A: Too much Vitamin A can harm blood vessels and cause dehydration and joint pain especially in large-breed puppies. Thankfully, reaching a toxic level of vitamin A would require a very high dose over a long period of time.
Healthy Digestion - Constipation or Diarrhea
Squash is loaded with fiber, especially soluble fiber and water. As such, dogs that suffer from constipation or diarrhea may benefit by adding squash into their normal food.
Stronger Immune System - Vitamin C
Dogs can naturally produce Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid in their bodies. However, exposure to stress or certain diseases can deplete dog's Vitamin C levels. Squash contains 20% of the daily value for vitamin C. Incorporating squash in your dog’s diet can help keep their Vitamin C level normal.
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that helps in collagen formation which plays an essential part in the growth and development of skin, teeth, bones, cartilage and connective tissue. It also supports eye health and prevents degenerative damage to eyesight.
It helps the body fight against free radicals and toxins. It aids in fighting infections like common colds and flu. It speeds up healing of wounds, and reduces the chance of gums and tooth disease. Vitamin C is also found to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Lastly, Vitamin C helps in the absorption of minerals in the body like Iron.
Healthier Urinary Tract
The extracted oils of squash seeds and flesh are believed to support urinary health. Squash seeds also help dislodge kidney stones.
They have been found to especially help male dogs suffering from benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH.
BPH is a condition wherein the prostate gland that surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body, is enlarged. The oils are also helpful for dogs suffering from incontinence.
It is important to keep your dog's bladder & kidney healthy. Many dogs suffer from kidney failure, incontinence, and other urinary issues as they age.
Obesity is the number 1 dog health problem in the US. Being overweight brings a lot of complications to your dog. They are a great addition to your dog’s diet because squash contain only 0.17 grams of fat and…no cholesterol!
Your dog will not feel like they are being deprived because they will love the creamy goodness of squash.
Squash contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, riboflavin, potassium, copper, and manganese, thiamin, B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, niacin, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. Here's just a few ways that these vitamins and minerals help your dog...
Vitamin E keeps dog’s skin and coat healthy and shiny.
A deficiency in riboflavin or Vitamin B2 in dogs can impair puppy growth and can lead to anorexia. Deficiency in adult dogs can lead to bilateral corneal opacities.
Vitamin B2 has been proven to be essential to normal growth, muscle development, and hair coat.
The presence of copper in dogs is important in the formation of collagen, absorption or iron and development and maturation of red blood cells.
Manganese plays an important role in the actions of enzymes responsible for energy production.
Thiamine or Vitamin B1 functions for the metabolism of carbohydrates, maintenance of normal growth, and transmission of nerve impulses. Thiamine deficiency results in loss of appetite, weakness, loss of reflexes, loss of nerve control, and eventually death.
Vitamin B6 helps the body metabolize fats and proteins.
Pantothenic acid or Vitamin B5 is required for the synthesis of certain proteins and fatty acids.
Niacin or more commonly known as Vitamin B3 also helps with the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Niacin deficiency can cause weight loss, inflammation around the mouth and throat, black tongue, salivation, blood in the saliva and bloody diarrhea and stomach ulcers.
Iron is important in the blood production, and a low iron level can lead to anemia.
Magnesium regulates calcium movement into smooth muscle cells, and is important for the muscle's capability to contract.
Phosphorous works together with Calcium in the body to maintain the growth and structure of the skeletal system.
With all the nutritional value squash contains and the amazing health benefits of squash for dogs, there is no doubt that this is a super food. After knowing how this simple squash plant can do so much to your best friend, you will never look at those fall decorations the same way again.
Do you feed your dog squash? Or have you in the past?
If so, let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear your experience and hear any great squash recipes you have for your dog.