Zinc plays an important role in regulating cell metabolism, fatty acid synthesis, inflammation, and the health of the epidermis or skin. Zinc deficiency can be seen in our companion animals as two distinct syndromes. The more common syndrome is zinc-responsive dermatosis of Alaskan malamutes and Siberian huskies and appears to be associated with decreased intestinal absorption of zinc. The less commonly seen syndrome of zinc deficiency is seen in rapidly growing dogs or young adult dogs fed a diet deficient in zinc.
Signs & Symptoms
Redness, crusting, scaling, alopecia (localized hair loss), and itch develop typically around the eyes, mouth, and muzzle. Elbows, stifles and other pressure points may also become thickened and crusted. A secondary bacterial or yeast infection may also be present and complicate disease. Skin disease may worsen during times of stress or seasonally. In addition to the above clinical signs, depression, anorexia, decreased sense of smell and taste, or enlarged lymph nodes may also be noted but this is rare.
Causes & Transmission
Hereditary or breed predisposition may lead to inadequate intestinal absorption of zinc in Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes. Dietary deficiency may be the cause of disease in young, growing dogs.
Affected AnimalsHighest incidence in Northern breed dogs such as Siberian huskies, Samoyeds and Alaskan malamutes.
A treatment plan that addresses the deficiency of zinc, any complicating secondary infection, and dietary modifications are typically successful. A diet absent of grains is recommended due to concern for phytates, which may interfere with zinc absorption. Fish oils are also typically recommended as this may aid restoration of the health of the skin. Prognosis is good for most dogs, although life long zinc supplementation may be needed.
Diagnosis is typically made by history, clinical signs, ruling out other disease processes, +/- skin biopsy and a positive response to zinc therapy.