Sadly, zinc deficiency in huskies and malamutes is relatively common yet can go undiagnosed. So are you and your vet constantly chasing symptoms in your dog, but your vet can never quite manage to solve the medical mystery of what is wrong with your Husky?
While you should always consult and work with your vet, your vet may only know about zinc deficiencies in huskies and malamutes if he has specialised knowledge of the breed.
Zinc deficiency in huskies and malamutes is common. Ask any savvy and experienced breeder of Northern Breed dogs who can confirm that their diets require more than average Zinc amounts and that Zinc Deficiency and malabsorption can cause the root cause of a host of illnesses in these dogs. However, it’s not just Northern Breed dogs that have a problem with this issue. This condition can also factor in many Giant Breed dogs like Great Danes and St. Bernards.
Table of contents
- Important Foreword
- Zinc Deficiency Basics
- Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency in Huskies
- Zinc Deficiency Treatment in Huskies
- In Conclusion
If your husky is sick, please take him to the vet. The information in this article is meant to be supplementary.
Zinc supplementation can cause lethal zinc toxicity in your dog, so please only apply what you learn under vet supervision. It would be best if you did not recklessly begin zinc supplementation or change 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 you can to arm yourself with as much information as possible so you can make a well-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 do not satisfy you or your dog’s needs, do not hesitate to ask for another vet.
Zinc Deficiency Basics
What is Zinc and why is it Important?
Zinc is the second most abundant essential trace mineral found in the body after iron. Zinc is required in a dog’s diet to maintain good health.
It is considered one of the most potent antioxidants 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. In addition, since the body has no specialised zinc storage system, a steady and proper supply of zinc is crucial for optimal health.
Zinc is not considered highly absorbable by the body. Studies show that only 15% to 40% of the ingested Zinc in the mammalian diet is well absorbed.
These absorption percentages are thought to be even lower in dogs with additional malabsorption issues. Another problem is that some foods interfere with the absorption of available Zinc.
How Dogs Bodies Utilise Zinc
There is a hierarchy for how Zinc is used in the body. The chain begins at one end of the body processes and continues down the line until it arrives at the end processes. Unfortunately, if there is not enough Zinc, the body’s overall health eventually begins to suffer and erode.
What is Zinc Malabsorption?
Malabsorption Syndrome occurs when the body fails to absorb vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients through food placed into the body. There can be several causes of nutrients being unable to be used by the body. Still, the two most common factors are impaired digestion (mal-digestion) and absorption (malabsorption). In Huskies and Malamutes, Zinc Malabsorption and Zinc Deficiency are problems primarily attributed to the food these dogs eat. Therefore, a high-quality diet rich in Zinc is essential to continue good health for these dogs.
When it comes to Zinc Deficiency and Malabsorption, it is likely the most underdiagnosed condition in huskies and malamutes. Unfortunately, the problem with getting an accurate diagnosis of Zinc Deficiency is that vets only attempt to address the symptoms they see.
Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency in Huskies
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.
The ever-changing spectrum of symptoms in your husky contributes to the challenge of correct diagnosis and treatment. Sadly, many owners of Snow Dogs will join the ranks of people who find themselves paying for endless medical tests and professional guesstimates of cures only to have new symptoms show up as fast as the old symptoms subside.
It is not only essential to know what to do to make your Husky symptom accessible, 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 better health for your husky and vital in minimising 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, you cannot keep the occurrences of this disorder to a minimum.
It is usually here that the first signs of Zinc Deficiency show up. Huskies having trouble processing their food is a widespread 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 diarrhoea, causing Zinc to leave the body too soon without being absorbed. The more digestive issue the dog has, the less appetite they have. Lethargy and failure to thrive become concerns. Unfortunately, many vets fail to see the Zinc cycle that is often behind these digestive issues.
How Does Zinc Deficiency Cause Digestive Issues?
There is one of two issues happening at this point, the need for more available zinc through their diet or the present zinc needs to be absorbed efficiently in the intestine. Huskies on a poor diet of cheap food filled with meat by-products need more zinc. The best sources of dietary zinc are found in whole meats and fish. Therefore, husky diets that are low in meat quantity or diets that contain meats that are heavily processed will cause Zinc Deficiency and the associated problems.
The second problem that occurs in poor diets is zinc malabsorption. Diets high in corn, wheat, and soy cause zinc to be unavailable in the body. As the huskies’ digestive system breaks down these grains, they create phytates, and phytic-acid binds to available zinc in the intestine and causes Zinc Deficiency through Malabsorption. You should remember that the only way to reduce the manufacturing cost of dog kibble is to make it with cheap grain filler as one of its primary ingredients. Ongoing Zinc Deficiency through Malabsorption will eventually cause the illnesses associated with this disorder.
Husky owners who think 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 ongoing medical issues caused by long-term Zinc Deficiency.
Zinc Responsive Dermatosis
These raised patches of challenging crusty areas are not only itchy for your dog but also spread. Far too often, vets focus on making the symptoms of this condition disappear 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 constant unavailability of Zinc causes zinc deficiency in huskies, which leads to issues with the skin and coat 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). Secondary bacterial skin infections also become frequent in dogs with ongoing Zinc Deficiency.
Below are images of how Zinc Responsive Dermatosis (ZRD) commonly appears in Huskies.
An Immune System-Related Illness
One of the cells responsible for good immune system functioning is the T-cells. These cells are responsible for a large part of the immune system’s functioning. Their job primarily is to help recognise foreign invading cells like bacteria, viruses, and even cancer cells.
The immune system has trouble recognising normal cells and invading foreign cells without sufficient T-cells that do not function well. This can cause immune system over-reactions (chronic inflammatory responses) or under–reactions (ongoing infections and wounds that seem unable to heal). In addition, the constant use of antibiotics to fight persistent infections only causes more intestinal issues as all the intestinal bacteria are killed off, causing digestive problems.
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 more significant root problem. This problem stems from Zinc Deficiency. When Zinc is made available to the body, many secondary and tertiary immune system problems dissipate. The runaway inflammation process can attack the Thyroid, which will cause endless other symptoms in the body.
Thyroid issues are a severe problem for huskies suffering from zinc deficiency. 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 Thyroid gland is to thyroid gland’s job is to send a signal to the thyroid to produce hormones and 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 problems.
In the hierarchy of how zinc is used in the body, the 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 stay in Homeostasis (balance body). The body pulls available zinc to where it feels most vitally needed leaving other body processes incomplete.
Eventually, the Thyroid gland cannot signal the thyroid to produce hormones, and the thyroid can no longer produce adequate hormones. As a result, long-term hormonal imbalance takes its toll on the health and well-being of the body. However, your husky can avoid zinc deficiency with sufficient available zinc.
Note: It has been discussed in previous articles how neck collars and dogs constantly pulling against the leash can cause Thyroid trauma, which can cause Thyroid failure. Ensure you protect your dog’s thyroid by avoiding using neck collars on dogs that pull against the leash.
Zinc deficiency in huskies can be deadly. As you move down the hierarchal list of how and where Zinc is used in the body, the support to significant organs is nearing the bottom of the list. If other body processes are in a long-term deficit and incomplete state, they cannot further support the functioning and well-being of the major organs.
As already mentioned, Vets will tend to focus on and treat the symptoms the failing organs exhibit. Unfortunately, this will be a band-aid effort at best, as the continued lack of sufficient Zinc causes more and more signs to appear in your Husky.
Often one of the pre-cursors to organ failure was the Thyroid not functioning well. With adequate and available daily Zinc to complete all the body processes, the health of body organs will improve over time.
Trying to treat the individual symptoms of each organ without addressing the root cause of the issues, insufficient zinc, and the lack of sufficient hormone secretions from the Thyroid, will not solve the medical problems. In addition, as this disorder progresses, the symptoms will continue to mutate and advance, creating more and more medical issues as overall health and well-being decline.
Epileptic seizures in huskies and malamutes are common. While some vets will tell you that, not too many of them can explain why this is so since there is no definitive gene marker for this issue, making it an actual genetic disease. But at the same time, it seems that Epilepsy and Seizure Disorder run in certain genetic lines. Veterinary medicine can tell you how a seizure happens (neuroreceptors in the brain firing erratically), but they know little about controlling it.
A host of drug therapies 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.
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 overexcited and may fire randomly, causing a seizure episode. Seizures can be minor (momentarily fixed staring) (Petite Mal) to full attacks with loss of consciousness (Grand Mal). Having adequate Zinc available may help in limiting seizures from happening.
The other part of the problem is that your husky’s 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 have already faulty genes that further predispose them to the illnesses that were discussed earlier in this article.
Zinc Deficiency Treatment in Huskies
Zinc and The Husky Diet
While it makes sense to add sufficient Zinc levels back to the diet of the Husky to overcome Zinc Deficiency, it makes even better sense to make sure that we find the best and easiest to absorb forms of Zinc for our Snow Dogs.
While every Snow Dog needs a higher than “average” amount of Zinc, not every husky diet automatically needs massive amounts of Zinc supplementation. If your Snow Dog shows the symptoms, you can rightly assume that your Husky’s diet could use some extra supplementation. How much Zinc does your dog need and how best to introduce it to your dog’s diet?
It is not understood why these Snow Dogs have such a high Zinc requirement, but it is commonly believed that it has something to do with the Prey Model diet. A wild canine’s diet is rich in fish, meats, and offal. While we may have domesticated dogs, the dietary requirements of some breeds still heavily reflect their origins.
Before resorting to mineral supplementation, check your dog’s diet to see if improvements can be made.
Important Dietary Factors
- Could you make sure that your Snow Dog is on a grain-free diet? Kibble diets high in wheat, corn, or soy will tie up available Zinc and can be one of the most significant contributing factors to the Zinc Deficiency problem. However, sometimes removing this one factor is enough to correct the Zinc Deficiency in your Husky.
- Not all protein bases will yield the exact amounts of Zinc in your dog’s diet. Kibble diets that rely on meat by-products or heavily processed meat as their protein base will NOT yield sufficient daily Zinc total. Diets that use whole meats as their protein base yield much more available Zinc to your dog. Adding fresh meat to your dog’s diet can increase Zinc levels naturally. For example, adding 100 grams of beef, salmon, or chicken can supply 100mg of Zinc to your dog.
- Mediocre dog food manufacturers add zinc to dog food but add a cheap source of Zinc Oxide or Sulphate to their food. These forms are not easily absorbed or used by the body, so it can be easy to assume that your dog is getting enough Zinc in his diet because of what it says on the dog food label.
Dog Food Advisor is an excellent source of information regarding your dog’s food, and they review the most commercially available foods.
Foods Naturally High in Zinc
- For most meats, 100 grams yield 100 mg of Zinc (beef, chicken, duck, pork, and salmon)
- Turkey 120mg (per 100 grams)
- Lamb 150mg (per 100 grams)
- Liver 130mg (per 100 grams)
- Tuna in oil 120 mg (per 100 grams)
- Eggs 70mg (per 100 grams)
- Apples, blackberries, and strawberries 100mg (per 100 grams)
- Plain yoghurt 200mg (per 100 grams)
- Carrots (raw) 50 mg (per 100 grams)
- Pumpkin 100 mg
- Potato (baked) 120 mg (per 100 grams)
- Sweet potato and yams 100mg (per 100 grams)
Adding Kelp and Seaweed To Your Husky’s Diet
Kelp and other green food products benefit your dog’s diet as they provide Zinc ( 100gr = 1.23 mg of Zinc) and a wide range of different vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Adding a tablespoon of this green food to your dog’s diet 2 or 3 times a week can help naturally support your Snow Dog’s thyroid and top up and avoid zinc deficiency.
Because fish naturally contains Zinc, so will fish oil. Along with the Essential Fatty Acids found in the oil, this is a wonderful nutritional additive for the Snow Dog diet. However, there is such a thing as too much fish oil. More oil is not necessarily better for your dog. Healthy doses of this oil should remain 100 mg to 150mg per 10 pounds of dog weight, administered 2 or 3 times a week.
Too much fish oil can deplete necessary Vitamin E in the body, causing other health problems, can supply too much Vitamin A to the body, causing other health problems, and cause an imbalance between critical omega 3 and 6 fatty acids ratios in the body, also causing other health problems. Remember to factor in all the different sources of Essential Fatty Acids in your dog’s daily diet when choosing how much fish oil to give your dog.
If you have adjusted your husky’s diet to address zinc deficiency and have not seen any improvement, you may consider adding a Zinc supplement to your dog’s diet. There are several types of supplements for you to choose from.
A commercially produced product, Zinpro, is used to supplement Zinc to a Husky’s diet. Zinpro is an organic supplement that links Methionine with Zinc to create Zinc Methionine. This product is easily absorbed directly into the bloodstream. This product also helps to produce and support healthy coats and skin in Snow Dogs.
Important Note Before Supplementing with Zinc
Zinc is the second most utilised trace mineral in the body, second only to iron. Unfortunately, the body needs a way to store or bank Zinc, so you must introduce sufficient daily levels. Dogs need more daily Zinc than humans do. A human needs only 15 mg of daily Zinc, while dogs, especially Huskies, require substantially more minerals in their diet, sometimes up to 100mg. Calculating how much Zinc your Snow Dog gets in his diet is complicated, and this amount varies slightly between Huskies.
Usually, the only way to know that your husky is suffering from zinc deficiency is when they develop one of the abovementioned illnesses or other health conditions. However, before supplementing Zinc, you also need to know how Zinc interacts with other nutrients in the body.
Nutrient Interactions with Zinc
Adding the mineral Zinc to your dog’s diet, when done incorrectly and for the wrong reasons, can cause other medical problems in your dog because Zinc will interact with the copper, iron, calcium, and Vitamin A levels in your dog’s system.
- High Zinc levels can cause problems with copper availability and absorption. Copper is needed in several body processes. It aids in the absorption of iron, developing red blood cells, and forming collagen, bone, and connective tissue. It also acts as an antioxidant in the body.
- Iron and Calcium levels are affected by too much Zinc, and too much Zinc affects the iron and calcium levels in your Husky’s body. Too many raw bones fed can cause too much calcium in the diet. Calcium is necessary for strong bone health. It also helps the heart muscle to contract efficiently and helps with nerve transmission and hormone secretion. The primary function of iron is that it combines with copper and protein to create haemoglobin to oxygenate red blood cells. Iron works synergistically with some enzymes to create and maintain many normal body functions.
- Vitamin A and Zinc also work synergistically. Zinc is a component of a retinol-binding protein that is necessary to transport Vitamin A in the blood. This protein is also required for the eye to see well in low-light conditions.
- Feeding a Raw Diet that is not well balanced can further cause a problem with Zinc, calcium, and copper levels in your Husky. Likewise, feeding a disproportionate amount of raw bone, liver, and heart will cause adverse interactions between these minerals, so ensure you understand how to feed a well-balanced Raw Food Diet.
Zinc Toxicity Levels in Huskies
Zinc does have a toxicity level in the body, but because there is no way to store Zinc in the vital organs, toxic levels come from one-time large doses. For example, single doses of 225mg to 450mg will cause vomiting in a dog. Lethal amounts of Zinc begin at about 900mg.
The signs of zinc toxicity in dogs are vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, jaundice, excessive panting, and rapid breathing with rapid or erratic heart rate. They will also have excessive haemoglobin levels in their blood and urine. Emergency medical intervention is necessary to deal with the rapid destruction of red blood cells and the high possibility of organ failure, so ensure that you keep zinc tablets out of the reach of dogs.
Best Form of Zinc
There are several forms of zinc. Not all forms will work the same way, and some forms absorb much better than others. The below list is ranked in order of preference. When buying your supplement, select the best quality you can afford.
- Zinc citrate, picolinate and gluconate are well absorbed and utilised by your dog’s body. (25mg up to 100mg daily)
- Chelated Zinc does not bind to iron so it tends to upset the stomach less than some other forms of Zinc but is slightly less absorbable than picolinate and gluconate forms. (25mg up to 100mg daily)
- Zinc Methionine combines Zinc with Methionine and is reasonably well utilised in most dogs (40mg daily).
- Zinc Sulphate tends to be very hard on the stomach causing unnecessary stomach upset. For that reason, it is recommended that it be crushed and added to food but this also makes it less absorbable. (200mg daily dosage)
- Zinc Oxide is cheap and much more difficult to absorb. Sadly this is the form of Zinc used by most mid to low-end dog food manufacturers.
Did you know: while Zinc is less likely to cause stomach upset when given after food is in the stomach, it works best when given 4 hours after a meal has been eaten? The reason for this is that calcium interferes with the efficiency of Zinc absorption.
Dosage is weight dependent, so before starting supplementation, it’s essential to work out your husky’s daily requirements. Then, stay under 100mg with vet supervision.
The calculation formula for zinc dosage is a complicated mathematical process guaranteed to leave anyone without a Mathematics degree scratching their heads. Therefore, the National Research Council recommends the following protocol for arriving at the Recommended Daily Allowance for dietary zinc for dogs.
2.0mg / KGbw / 0.75. This translates as follows; to figure out the ideal dosage for your dog, take the dog’s body weight in kilograms to the power of 0.75 and then multiply this by 2.
If all that sounds like hard work, there is an easier way. Simply calculate 25mg of Zinc per 50 pounds (23kg). Since zinc toxicity levels, even mild ones, do not start until after 220mg and lethal toxicity doses occur after 900mg, you do not need precise totals for this process.
The average husky weighs around 23kg, so starting with 25mg of zinc is a sensible start. If you don’t see improvement within a few weeks, you can safely double the amount to 50mg. Then, remember to make the necessary adjustments to your dog’s diet.
As you’ve learned, zinc deficiency in huskies and malamutes can be a real problem. The symptoms are vast and chronic, often leaving vets confused and dogs misdiagnosed.
Remember, diet plays a crucial role in the malabsorption of zinc. Therefore, correct any problems in your huskies diet while supplementing with a quality zinc supplement.
If you own a northern breed dog and believe it has a zinc deficiency, please take it to the vet as a first port of call. Feel free to share the information in this article with medical professionals.