Zinc Deficiency in Dogs

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Zinc deficiency can cause serious skin problems and hair loss, because this substance has beneficial effects on the production of the enzymes, proteins and hormones, as well as the function of the immune system.

The Importance of Zinc for Canines

Zinc is an essential mineral that should be present in a dog's healthy diet. Zinc deficiency causes the condition called zinc responsive dermatosis. Certain dog breeds are more predisposed to this disease.

Zinc also controls certain physiological processes and many aspects of the immune system. Some metabolic functions, including the thyroid metabolism, can't function properly without zinc. Zinc deficiency can lead to:

  • Artrophy of the tymus, responsible for the function of  T-lymphocites, which is vital in the proper functioning of the immune system
  • Disturbances in the cell replication process, such as the regeneration of intestinal mucosa, the regeneration of the epithelial cells (responsible for healthy hair, nails and skin, and the healing of wounds)
  • Sexual disturbances

Daily Zinc Recommendation for Dogs

Growing puppies need a minimum of 120 mg/kg of food eaten. The puppy should receive a maximum of 1,000 mg/kg. Adult dogs require about the same amounts of zinc, provided they have a medium activity level. Racing and working dogs need between 150 mg/kg and 300 mg/kg of ingested food.

How Zinc Is Absorbed

Zinc isn't absorbed very easily in the dog's body. Only 5 to 40 percent of the consumed zinc is absorbed. There are certain factors that cause the malabsorption of zinc:

  • Phytate, a substance that is present in many plants, hinders zinc absorption. Animals kept on a plant diet can develop zinc deficiency.
  • A high quantity of zinc may prevent the normal absorption of zinc.
  • A calcium-rich diet can lead to zinc deficiency, because calcium interferes with zinc absorption.
  • Certain dogs, specifically from the northern breeds such as the Alaskan Malamutes or the Siberian Husky, have a genetic inability to absorb zinc properly.
  • Dogs with inflammatory stomach problems can have zinc absorption problems.

Zinc Deficiency in Dogs

The main symptom of zinc deficiency is the presence of skin lesions, or the so-called zinc responsive dermatosis. The symptoms may be different in Huskies, Malamutes or puppies kept on an inadequate diet (high in calcium content, low in zinc content). Some zinc deficiency symptoms are:

  • Alopecia (hair loss)
  • Scaling/crusting of the skin around the face, head and legs (paw pads)
  • Occasional purulent exudation around the eyes and mouth

 Besides these symptoms, puppies kept on a deficient diet can have some other symptoms as well:

  • Diminished cellular immunity
  • Internal infection such as pneumonia
  • Anorexia
  • Depression and lethargy

Zinc Supplements

A good natural zinc source is meat. Compared to the zinc concentration of plants, the difference in percentage is considerable.

A rice meal gives approximately 24.4 mg/kg, and a soybean meal provides 57.9 mg/kg, whereas meat contains 101 mg zinc/kg and fish 157 mg/kg.

Puppies and dogs from the northern breeds should get supplements containing extra zinc. You can find products for improving your pet's skin and hair condition on the market. Look for high-quality vitamins and fatty acid supplements as well, which can be combined with zinc supplements.


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