Can Pets and Livestock Eat Leftover Halloween Pumpkins?

by Caitlyn Andrews November 12, 2019

 animals that can safely eat halloween pumpkin

Fall is here and that means it's time for pumpkin-everything.¬†ūüéɬ†

But what do you do with your pumpkins once the season is over? If you throw them out your pets could be missing out on a tasty snack.

For livestock, pumpkins can even stand in as an additional feed source.

Whether you have a patch of leftover pumpkins that didn't sell for Halloween or you just have a few that decorated your porch, it's time to re-purpose them.

What animals can eat pumpkin?

Pumpkins are a safe treat for many animals - from pets to livestock. Make sure the pumpkins aren't rotting, covered in candle wax, or painted before feeding.

These are some of the animals that you can feed your leftover pumpkins:

  • Cattle
  • Chickens
  • Ducks
  • Turkey
  • Geese
  • Horses
  • Goats
  • Sheep
  • Pigs
  • Dogs
  • Cats

Here we'll cover how to safely feed pumpkin to each of the animals listed above.

Cattle

Cows love pumpkins and usually have no problem figuring out how to break them open on their own.

"Pumpkins are high in crude protein and DM digestibility, and also have high moisture content which makes them a great feed supplement when mixed with dry forages." - Karla H. Jenkins, University of Nebraska Extension Cow/Calf, Range Management Specialist.

beef cattle eating pumpkin

How to feed:

It's safe to feed raw pumpkins to cattle. Simply smash them open or feed them whole. Bring the pumpkins to your cows or set them loose to clean up a pumpkin patch.

Chickens / Poultry

Pumpkins are packed with beneficial vitamins and minerals. They're particularly rich in Vitamin A. This vitamin is crucial for birds. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, a Vitamin A deficiency can cause drops in egg production, increased embryonic mortality, and emaciation. It can lead to lesions that block the ducts of mucous glands, causing infection or even destroying the eye.

Some people claim that pumpkin is a natural dewormer for chickens. However, this hasn't been proven. While pumpkin has great nutritional benefits, it's best to feed it as an occasional treat and not rely on it as a wormer.

backyard turkeys chickens eating pumpkin

How to feed:

It's safe to feed raw pumpkins to your backyard flock - including chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese. Your birds may peck a whole pumpkin open, but it's best to break it up in pieces. This is especially true if your birds have never had pumpkin before. Your flock will likely eat the insides of the pumpkin, including the seeds, and leave the shell behind.

Horses

Not all horses enjoy the taste of pumpkin, but for those that do, it's a great treat in moderation! Feed no more than a cup or two a day of pumpkin.

Pumpkins are high in potassium, so it's best to avoid giving them to horses with HYPP. However, the sugar content is low enough that it's generally safe for horses with metabolic issues in small amounts. Even so, if your horse has Cushing's, Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS), PSSM, or Insulin Resistance then you should consult with your veterinarian to be safe.

Stick to pumpkins as other related gourds can be toxic to horses. If you aren't sure if it's a pumpkin, it's best not to feed it.

horses can safely eat pumpkin

How to feed:

It's safe to feed raw or cooked pumpkin to horses. If using canned pumpkin, stay away from pumpkin pie mixes. These contain added sugar and spices that aren't good for your equine friends.

Feeding raw pumpkin: Chop the pumpkin into small pieces to prevent choke. Both the shell and insides are safe to feed. The stem should be removed.

Feeding cooked pumpkin: Bake cooked pumpkin into treats or add cooked pumpkin directly into your horse's feed bowl.

Here's an easy horse treat recipe to try with pumpkin:

Goats / Sheep

Pumpkins make a great treat for goats and sheep. As with the chickens above, there are some claims that pumpkin seeds act as a natural dewormer. Again, there is no definitive research behind this yet, so it's best to use a deworming program recommended by your veterinarian.

goat eating halloween pumpkins

How to feed:

It's safe to feed raw pumpkin to your sheep and goats. Your livestock may be able to break open smaller pumpkins or those with softer shells on their own. It can help to break or slice the pumpkin into bite-size pieces.

Swine

Pigs love pumpkins - even potbellied pigs! They usually aren't picky and are happy to break open the pumpkins themselves. Pigs won't normally eat too much pumpkin at once, but be sure to provide their regular food source along with the pumpkins.

swine eating pumpkin pieces

How to feed:

It's safe to feed raw or cooked pumpkin to pigs. They'll eat the whole pumpkin and might even roll the pumpkins to play with their food. Smash open the pumpkins to help out with larger or hard shells. If you give them cooked pumpkin as a treat, make sure to not feed pumpkin pie mix.

Dogs

Pumpkin can help your dog with digestive issues and even weight loss. It's a good source of fiber, but be careful to not feed too much. Pumpkin is loaded with beta-carotene which the body converts to Vitamin A. Excess Vitamin A is toxic to dogs.

pumpkin safe for dogs

How to feed:

It's safe to feed dogs cooked pumpkin or pumpkin puree. Stay away from pumpkin pie filling that's loaded with sugar and spices.

Either mix it in with their food, stuff a toy, bake into treats or feed it on its own.

For weight loss, replace equal parts of their regular food with pumpkin.

Feed no more than a couple of teaspoons a day for small dogs or a few tablespoons a day for large dogs.

Here are a few dog treat recipes with pumpkin to try:

Cats

You might be surprised to learn that your feline friends can enjoy pumpkins, too. The zinc in pumpkin can contribute to a healthy coat. Similar to dogs, pumpkin can replace a portion of their regular food as a weight loss aid. It can also help with mild cases of constipation, anal sac issues, and hairballs.

cats can eat pumpkin

How to feed:

It's safe to feed cats plain, canned pumpkin. Make sure you aren't feeding raw pumpkin or the pumpkin pie mix. The added sugars and spices aren't good for your cat.

Stick to a couple of teaspoons a day. Feeding too much pumpkin is unlikely to cause an upset stomach, but it can result in diarrhea.

How to find pumpkins after Halloween for your animals 

Just ask!

Check with friends and family nearby to see if anyone has uncarved and unpainted pumpkin leftover from the season.

For larger quantities, call around to local pumpkin patches and see what they're doing with their pumpkins that didn't sell. Some places will offer delivery or pumpkins at a reduced cost to clear them out. You might even get lucky and find someone that's giving them away for free.



Caitlyn Andrews
Caitlyn Andrews

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