Does is it seem like you spend all of your time at your Vet’s office with your Husky? Are you and your vet constantly chasing symptoms in your dog but your vet can never quite manage to solve the medical mystery as to what is wrong with your Husky?
While you should always try to consult and work with your vet, today I am going to give you some information that your Vet may not know about unless he has specialized knowledge of Huskies and Malamutes. Today’s article is about the part that Zinc plays in the mystery illnesses in Snow Dogs.
DISCLAIMER: If your husky is sick, please ensure you take him to the vet. The information in this article is intended to be complimentary.
In this article I will give you information about Zinc Malabsorption and Zinc Deficiency Disorder. Before you take zinc supplementation into your own hands, learn everything you can about it.
Zinc supplementation, if applied incorrectly or for the wrong reasons, can possibly cause lethal zinc toxicity in your dog. What you should not do is to recklessly begin zinc supplementation or changing your dog’s diet without fully understanding the implications of what you are doing.
Wild, reckless, and uninformed choices will only make your dog more ill so please do everything that you can to arm yourself with as much information as you can so that you can make a good informed choice about your dog’s treatment options.
Talk to your vet about what you have learned and discuss different treatment options and supplementation schedules with them first. If you feel that your Vet’s recommendations or course of treatment does not satisfy you or your dog’s needs, then do not hesitate to ask for another opinion from another Vet who has more experience with this specific dog breed.
What Does Zinc Have To Do With My Husky’s Illnesses?
It may have everything to do with your Husky’s illness. While the Veterinary medical field recognizes and understands that Zinc is the second most commonly used mineral in the body, it does not seem to be very good at connecting the dots when it comes to understanding how the absence of available Zinc in your Husky’s body may be behind your dog’s constant source of illnesses.
Ask a savvy and experienced breeder of Northern Breed dogs and they will be able to confirm that Northern Breed Dogs’ diets require more than average Zinc amounts and that Zinc Deficiency and malabsorption can cause be the root cause of a host of illnesses in these dogs. And it’s not just Northern Breed dogs that have a problem with this issue. This condition can also be a factor in many of the Giant Breed dogs like Great Danes and St. Bernards, and also Dobermans, Beagles, German Shepherds, German Shorthaired Pointers, Bull Terriers, and Poodles too.
What Is Malabsorption?
Malabsorption Syndrome occurs when the body fails to absorb vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients through food that has been placed into the body. There can be a number of causes of nutrients not being able to be used by the body but the two most common factors are, impaired digestion (mal-digestion) and impaired absorption (malabsorption). In Huskies and Malamutes Zinc Malabsorption and Zinc Deficiency are problems primarily attributed to the food that these dogs eat. A quality diet high in Zinc is essential to continued good health for these dogs.
Why Is This Disorder So Hard to Correctly Diagnose?
When it comes to Zinc Deficiency and Malabsorption problems it is likely the most misdiagnosed and the most under diagnosed condition in Huskies and Malamutes. The problem with getting an accurate diagnosis of Zinc Deficiency and Malabsorption is that Vets only attempt to control the problem by just addressing the symptoms of what they see.
The symptoms of this affliction are not only varied, but they will differ according to what level the disorder has reached in your Husky. The longer your dog has been in Zinc deficit, the further along the chain of symptoms your dog will likely be.
Also contributing to the challenge of correct diagnosis and treatment is the ever changing spectrum of symptoms that will occur in your Husky as this disorder runs its course. Sadly, many owners of Snow Dogs are going to join the ranks of people who find themselves paying for endless medical tests and for professional guesstimates of cures only to have new symptoms show up as fast as the old symptoms subside.
Vets that are not familiar with the predispositions of certain breeds to Zinc Malabsorption issues, will not likely make the connection between the presenting symptoms and this disorder. And because this disorder is of a nutritional nature, a vet has to be not only well versed in the complex processes of how nutrition works in dogs, but also in the specialized nutritional requirements of these specific dog breeds. Even when vets have some understanding about Zinc Deficiency, it is attributed to being a genetic predisposition without any further knowledge or understanding about why this is so.
It is not only important to know what do to make your Husky symptom free, but it is helpful to understand how and why this disorder happens, beyond the explanation of it being a “genetic predisposition” disorder. Education is the key to not only better health for your Husky but it is also the key to minimizing this disorder from further and unnecessarily spreading through the genetic lines of dogs. Huskies and Northern Breed dogs may have a predisposition to this affliction but this does not mean that with education and proactive measures the occurrences of this disorder cannot be kept to a minimum.
What Is Zinc And What Does It Do In The Body?
Zinc is the second most abundant essential trace mineral found in the body after iron and is required in a dog’s diet to maintain good health. It is considered to be one of the most powerful anti-oxidants and is involved in a variety of metabolic processes in the body. Zinc works alone and with copper, B-complex vitamins, vitamin A, calcium, and phosphorus in many bodily functions.
Because it performs multiple critical functions, it must be supplied at adequate, consistent levels or deficiency states will result. Since the body has no specialized Zinc storage system, a constant, steady, and adequate supply of Zinc becomes crucial for optimal health.
However, a contributing factor in Zinc Deficiency is that Zinc is not considered to be highly absorbable by the body and studies show that only 15% to 40% of the ingested zinc in the mammalian diet is actually well absorbed.
In dogs with additional Malabsorption issues, these absorption percentages are thought to be even lower. Another problem seems to be that there are some foods that can actually interfere with the absorption of available Zinc in your dog’s body further adding to the deficiency problem.
The Process Of How Zinc Is Used In Your Dog’s Body
There is a hierarchy for how Zinc is used in the body. The chain begins at one end of the body processes and it continues on down the line until it arrives at the end processes. Unfortunately if there is either not enough Zinc or when the body processes are left consistently incomplete, the over-all health of the body eventually begins to suffer and erode.
In Huskies and Malamutes the progression of illnesses due to chronic Zinc Deficiency may present as follows:
- Chronic digestive issues (often mistaken for food allergies), often accompanied by bouts of diarrhea, and lack of appetite (often mistaken for being a picky eater).
- Raised itchy crusty patches of dermatitis,( ZRD) ( often diagnosed as allergies or hot spots) around the nose, mouth, eyes, groin, or paws that may respond temporarily to topically applied Zinc Cream. These crusty patches seem to come back with more intensity each time.
- A host of seemingly unrelated illnesses that are actually immune system related. Immune system may under function and not respond well to clearing up infections in the body or it may overreact and your dog’s immune system may be treating everything as if was an invading force. This issue can lead to the development of cancers.
- Thyroid gland malfunctioning causes problems with weight gain or loss, increase or decrease in appetite, skin and coat problems including excessive shedding, a constant cycle of secondary infections, and possible on going cough. Hormone levels in the body become out of balance.
- Major organ failures; liver, kidney, heart from a lack of sufficient support from the Thyroid.
- The last process in line where Zinc is used is in the brain. Adequate Zinc has to be present in order for Taurine to be used as a neuro transmitter smoother. The end result of inadequate available Zinc can be erratic neurotransmitter firings(seizures).
Note: This is a general overview of the hierarchy of how Zinc is used in the body. However, there are exceptions to the rules. You may find that your Snow Dog shows very few of the first few classic symptoms and skips ahead directly to having epileptic seizures. It can happen.
What Is Really Causing These Medical Issues In Your Snow Dog
Chronic Digestive Issues In Huskies and Malamutes
It is usually here that first signs of Zinc Deficiency show up. Huskies having trouble processing their food is a very common complaint among owners. Vets often advise owners to change foods thinking that dogs must be allergic to something in the food, but this seldom fixes the problem. The dogs continue to have cycles of diarrhea, causing Zinc to leave the body too soon without being absorbed. The more digestive issue the dog has, the less of an appetite they have. Lethargy and failure to thrive become concerns. Many vets fail to see the Zinc cycle that is often behind these digestive issues.
The Real Problem: There is one of two issues happening at this point, the lack of available Zinc through their diet or the Zinc that is present is not being absorbed efficiently in the intestine. Huskies that are on a poor diet of cheap food, filled with meat by-products are not getting enough Zinc in their diet. The best sources of dietary Zinc are found in whole meats and fish. Diets that are low in meat quantity or diets that contain meats that are heavily processed will cause Zinc Deficiency and the problems that are associated with it.
The second problem that occurs in poor diets is Zinc Malabsorption. Diets that are high in corn, wheat, and soy, cause Zinc to be unavailable in the body. As these grains are broken down in the digestion they create phytates and phytic acid binds to available Zinc in the intestine and create a Zinc Deficiency through Malabsorption. It should be remembered that only way to reduce the manufacturing cost of dog kibble is for it to be made with cheap grain filler as one of its primary ingredients. Ongoing Zinc Deficiency through Malabsorption will eventually cause the illnesses that are associated with this disorder.
Husky owners who think that they are saving money by feeding their dogs cheap food, will eventually end up losing any money they may have saved on food to ongoing vet bills because of their dog’s endless medical issues caused by long term Zinc Deficiency.
Zinc Responsive Dermatosis
These raised patches of hard crusty areas are not only itchy for your dog but they also spread. Far too often vets focus on trying to make the symptoms of this condition go away without fully understanding the root cause behind the problem. These lesions nearly always respond to topical zinc creams but once the cream is no longer administered the lesions return causing yet another trip to the vet.
The Real Problem: The constant unavailability of Zinc begins to causes issues with the skin and coat. This is due to a disruption to normal cell division (another process that requires Zinc) causing the skin to become dry and flaky. Over time, the scaly lesions related to ZRD begin to form and hair growth also can be affected. These skin changes are also attributed to a depressed immune system functioning (another process that uses Zinc) and as well, secondary bacterial skin infections become frequent in dogs with ongoing Zinc Deficiency.
Below are images of how Zinc Responsive Dermatosis ( ZRD) commonly appears in Huskies.
Immune System Related Illnesses
One of the cells responsible for good immune system functioning are the T-cells. These cells are responsible for a large part of the immune system functioning. Their job primarily is to help recognize foreign invading cells like bacteria, viruses, and even cancer cells.
Without sufficient T-cells or T-cells that do not function well, the immune system has trouble recognizing normal cells and invading foreign cells. This can cause immune system over-reactions (chronic inflammatory responses) or under – reactions (on going infections and wounds that do not seem to be able to heal). The constant use of antibiotics to fight ongoing infections only causes more intestinal issues as all the intestinal bacteria is killed off causing digestive issues.
The Real Problem: Zinc is essential for T-cell factor production. Without adequate available Zinc, the dog will have seemingly endless issues with infections and inflammations. Antibiotics and other drugs serve only as band-aids to address the symptoms of a greater root problem. This problem stems from Zinc Deficiency. When Zinc is made available to the body many of the secondary and tertiary immune system problems dissipate. The rampant inflammation process can attack the Thyroid which will cause endless other symptoms in the body.
Thyroid and Thyroid Gland Problems
The Thyroid Glands are a pair of butterfly shaped glands located at the base of the neck. It is found nestled where the trachea enters the chest. The job of the Thyroid gland is to send a signal to the Thyroid to produce hormones and to secrete and regulate the hormones that are ultimately responsible for metabolism and organ function.
When there is a Thyroid deficiency or when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the Thyroid glands, a host of symptoms begin to manifest in your dog including: brittle hair, hair loss patterns, dry flakey skin, weight issues, persistent infections, organ failure, and digestive issues with lack of normal stool. Your Vet will begin chasing and treating the symptoms as they appear in your dog but unless the root issue is addressed, the dog will continue having endless medical issues.
The Real Problem: In the hierarchy of how Zinc is used in the body, Thyroid is in the middle of the group. Once available daily Zinc supplies have been depleted, the rest of the body processes remain incomplete. This occurs as a direct result of an attempt for the body to remain in Homeostasis (balance body). The body pulls available Zinc to where it feels it is most vitally needed leaving other body processes incomplete.
Eventually the Thyroid gland cannot signal the Thyroid to produce hormones and the Thyroid no long has the ability to produce adequate hormones. Long term hormonal imbalance takes its toll on the health and well being of the body. With sufficient available Zinc levels, this chain of symptoms can be avoided.
Note: It has been discussed in previous articles how neck collars and dogs constantly pulling against the leash can cause trauma to the Thyroid which in turn can cause Thyroid failure. Make sure you protect your dog’s Thyroid by avoiding the use of neck collars on dogs that pull against the leash.
Major Organ Failure
As you move down the hierarchal list of how and where Zinc is used in the body, the support to major organs is nearing the bottom of list. If other body processes are in long term deficit and in a state of incompletion, then they are not able to further support the functioning and well being of the major organs.
As already mentioned, Vets will tend to focus on and treat the symptoms being exhibited by the failing organs. This will be a band-aid effort at best as continued lack of sufficient Zinc causes more and more symptoms to appear in your Husky.
The Real Problem: Without adequate and available daily Zinc to complete all the body processes, over time, the health of body organs will begin to suffer. Often one of the pre-cursors to organ failure was the Thyroid not functioning well.
Trying to treat the individual symptoms of each individual organ without addressing the root cause of the issues, Zinc Deficiency, and the lack of sufficient hormone secretions from the Thyroid, will not solve the medical issues. As a matter of fact, as this disorder progresses, the symptoms will continue to mutate and advance, creating more and more medical issues as overall health as well being declines.
Epileptic Seizures and Idiopathic Seizures Activity
While some vets will tell you that some Huskies and Malamutes are predisposed to having epileptic seizures, not too many of them can explain to you why this is so since there really is no definitive gene marker for this issue making it a true genetic disease. But at the same time it seems that Epilepsy and Seizure Disorder do run in certain genetic lines. Veterinary medicine can tell you the process by which a seizure happens (neuroreceptors in the brain firing erratically) but they know very little about how to control it.
There are a host of drug therapies that are commonly prescribed and they seem to work inconsistently. Even with the introduction of prescribed anti-seizure medication there are no guarantees that your dog’s seizures will be controlled. At best, attempts are made to manage this disorder.
The Real Problem: One part of the problem is that without adequate available Zinc, Taurine uptake is impeded. Without adequate Taurine in the brain, neurotransmitters in the brain are over excited and may fire randomly, causing a seizure episode. Seizures can be very minor (momentary fixed staring) (Petite Mal) to full seizures with loss of consciousness (Gran Mal). Having adequate Zinc available may help in at least part with limiting seizures from happening.
The other part of the problem is that your Huskies genetic makeup and health are primarily inherited from the parent dogs, especially from the mother. Since we know that Zinc needs to be present for DNA and RNA replication and for normal cell division to take place, puppies born to parents with Zinc Deficiency are very likely to already have faulty genes that further predisposes them to the illnesses that were discussed earlier in this article. So it is that Zinc Deficiency can have far reaching effects that can be passed on to future generations of offspring.
This one of the main reasons why breeding of Huskies and Malamutes should only be done by seasoned well informed ethical breeders, who are well aware of the heavy Zinc requirements of this breed. The issue of Epilepsy and Idiopathic seizures in Huskies are best addressed by the prevention of the condition through ethical and knowledgeable breeding practices and by not breeding any dogs that present with symptoms of Zinc Malabsorption.
The other strategy is for potential Husky owners not to purchase or get dogs from back yard breeders and Puppy Mills who have no knowledge of how to support the mothers while the puppies are gestating. The only “cure” for this issue lies in prevention of the problem. Once the problem manifests itself all we have at our disposal are methods of managing the problem.
In this article I discussed why your Husky may always be sick. In the next installment to this article, I will discuss the additions of Zinc Protocols and how best to help your husky to achieve sustainable good health and vitality.
As always, we welcome your comments, questions, and your stories related to this topic. When we share our wisdom and our stories we may well be helping someone who is struggling with their Snow Dog.
Helping All Snow Dogs … one owner at a time.