A few years ago, I noticed our Alaskan Malamute, Beckham, had a semi-bald spot on his chest. The rest of his fur looked fine; however, there was just this one weird spot where fur wouldn’t grow. It was a bit weird, but I chalked it up to the fact that he had just moved in with us and he was a bit stressed. It wasn’t until he started losing patches of fur and losing weight that I started researching what was causing his hair and weight loss. In my research, I came across the fact that he could have a zinc deficiency… Wait, what?! Zinc deficiency in dogs?
What is Zinc Deficiency in Dogs?
Zinc is an important mineral in our dog’s diets. It is responsible for keeping their immune and thyroid systems functioning optimally as well as helping regulate hormones, enzymes, and proteins. Not only does it help immunity, zinc is integral to our keeping our pet’s skin and fur healthy.
So, can dogs actually be deficient in zinc?
It is true. Dogs can have a zinc deficiency called Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis. This condition is caused by malabsorption in your dog’s small intestine. It is fairly rare for your pup to have true-zinc deficiency, especially since there are many high quality foods that contain easily absorbed zinc; however, it can happen.
There are three types of Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis.
Type I: This type is generally seen in Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies; however, it has been reported in Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, and other breeds. These breeds tend to eat a healthy diet containing adequate zinc, so it is comes down to their intestines being unable to absorb the needed mineral.
This is the type of zinc deficiency Beckham had/has. He had a steady diet of good quality dry food, but also ate mackerel or tuna, eggs, and chicken. Even with these zinc rich foods, his symptoms persisted.
Type II: Fast growing large / giant breed dogs, such as Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and other large breeds are more prone to this type of zinc-responsive dermatosis. According to the VCA Animal Hospital, the main cause of the deficiency is due to supplements; primarily phytates (plant based antioxidants) and calcium supplements, that bind with the mineral keeping the dog’s body from absorbing the needed zinc.
Type III: This deficiency is known as the “generic food disease”. Type III is due to a mediocre or poor diet that does not have enough bioavailable zinc.
What are the Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency in Dogs?
Common symptoms of zinc-responsive dermatosis can be found on your dog’s skin. You may see lesions, crusting, scaling, and hair loss. Type I symptoms are lesions around the eyes, nose, mouth, scrotum, and in transitional areas between skin and mucous membranes. Type II symptoms are similar; however, your dog may have crusting or scaling on his or her paw pads. Type III symptoms would be similar.
Uncommon symptoms could include:
- Hair Loss (immune system issues)
- Poor appetite
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Digestive Issues
- Thyroid problems
How is the Zinc Deficiency Diagnosed?
In Beckham’s case, he had hair loss, appetite loss, digestive issues, and skin lesions. Before the vet and I knew Beckham had zinc-responsive dermatosis, we tried treating him with different antibiotics and different high zinc diets. We ran blood tests and thyroid tests and everything came back normal!
One day, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and came across one of my Alaskan Malamute groups posts regarding this very topic. Beckham ticked off so many of the symptoms listed in the post…so back to the vet we went!
If you are concerned your dog may have zinc-responsive dermatosis, it is imperative to consult with your vet. They will consider your dog’s breed, diet, any blood work that has been done, auto-immune diseases, and then will do a skin biopsy and physical examination.
IMPORTANT: Consult with your vet regarding ANY diagnosis. Researching possible conditions is ok; however, do not..under any circumstance…diagnose your dog yourself. (it’s like searching Web MD for ourselves…we either have cancer or are pregnant, right?)
The first step in treating zinc deficiency in dogs is to ensure their diet consists of food that contains adequate bioavailable zinc. If you are feeding your dog dry / wet food, be sure it is high-quality, AAFCO approved foods. Home cooked or raw food diets can include foods such as red meats, chicken, fish, spinach, eggs, etc. Talk to your vet regarding the best options for your dog.
The second step is to consider any supplements that your dog takes. Are any of the supplements prohibiting the absorption of zinc?
Thirdly, your vet may advise on zinc supplements. These are generally given orally; however, your vet may opt to give your dog injections. You can find quality zinc supplements through Howling Dog Alaska’s website or through Amazon. Do your research and consult with your vet to find the best option…especially if your dog will need to take supplements for life.
Lastly, keep a conversation going with your vet if you notice any changes in your dog’s condition. Let your vet know if something is not working. They will be able to help you find the best solution for your dog.
After discussing Beckham’s zinc supplement options with my vet, we opted to purchase Nutrazinc through Howling Dog Alaska. It has made a huge difference in Beckham’s skin and coat. (He now looks like a big bear!) Nutrazinc is not the only option though. I have also used Boreal Nutriceuticals Zinpro Organic Zinc which did a fabulous job. The biggest reason I switched to Nutrazinc is because it came in powder form that I mixed into Beckham’s food. He was just picky and wouldn’t chew the tablets.
As with any supplement or medication, dosage is key. Dosage will be determined by your dog’s weight. In general, it will be 25mg of zinc per every 50lbs; however, consult your vet and read the dosage information on the zinc container.
Remember: Zinc toxicity is lethal to your dog, so be sure to give the correct dosage every time. It only takes 1 large dose to cause problems. If your dog exhibits the following symptoms, take him or her to the vet right away. Fur babies with severe poisoning risk heart failure, seizures, organ enlargement, and even death.
Zinc Toxicity Symptoms
- increased heart rate
Zinc-responsive dermatosis is not super common; however, it can affect our large/giant and northern breeds. If you suspect your dog may have this condition, consult with your vet right away. The sooner you talk to your vet, the sooner your dog will feel much better!
I know Beckham feels 100% better! His skin is clear, his coat is shiny, and he has gained weight back. He is also able to keep up with his annoying little sister, Chai these days!
Does your dog have zinc-responsive dermatosis? What do you feed your dog to help alleviate the symptoms? Do they take supplements? I would love to hear your experiences.
- VCA Hospitals: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/zinc-responsive-dermatosis-in-dogs
- Howling Dog Alaska; https://howlingdogalaska.com/collections/nutrition
- Animal Allergy and Dermatology of CO: https://animalallergycolorado.com/animal-disease-index/zinc-responsive-dermatosis
- Breeding Business: https://breedingbusiness.com/zinc-deficiency-in-dogs/
- Better Pet: https://betterpet.com/dog-zinc-deficiency/