"Everything looks good so far," says Roz O'Hearn, spokeswoman for . Libby's pretty much has the market cornered on the canned stuff. The trick is, Libby's grows one kind of pumpkin — the — on one big plot of land — 6,000 acres in Morton, IL. And so far, no natural disasters have threatened this year's crop. Harvesting began in August, and will continue through November. But back in 2009, flooding rains across the Midwest made harvesting Libby's pumpkins virtually impossible.

In other cases (like mine) owners replace a portion of their pet's regular food with lower-calorie pumpkin to help our pudgy doggies lose weight without letting them feel like they're starving. A similar principal of bulking up on healthy stuff applies to people diets, too, by the way.

As a result, says O'Hearn, "you had acres and acres of pumpkins that couldn't be picked." And what followed was a major shortage. Last year's harvest was "acceptable," she says, but buyers who were spooked by the year before quickly scooped up all the product as it appeared on store shelves. Fascetti says that's often a helpful strategy for owners with overweight animals. "People don't like to feel they're depriving their pets." But she does offer some recommendations and warnings: — Always talk with your vet first before changing your pet's diet. Many dogs or cats may have food sensitivities that can make some human foods problematic. For example, pets with kidney problems need a diet low in phosphorous. — Don't substitute more than 10 percent of your pet's food with a human supplement. 

There's recommending the pumpkin-for-pets practice, to treat everything from constipation to diarrhea to weight loss. But is it really a good idea? "It's certainly not uncommon," says , a veterinarian and professor of nutrition at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. "Some of it is vet-prescribed, some is owner-prescribed." Fascetti says the primary benefit of pumpkin is that it's high in fiber patch cord, which is why it can aid in, ahem, "fecal issues."

As a result, while there was enough for the 2010 holiday bakers, there was none leading up to this year's harvest. The 2011 crop began hitting store shelves, by the way, just last week. Why does it matter? It turns out that pumpkin isn't just a holiday food anymore. More and more consumers are using the canned stuff year round, including an apparently growing number of pet owners (including me) who feed canned pumpkin to their pets. There's even specialty companies that now market canned pumpkin just for .