Zinc deficiency is a serious health condition for our pet friends, especially huskies and some other large/giant breeds. Zinc deficiency in huskies is common, so as a husky owner, it’s wise to arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can about this potentially-fatal health condition.
This article has been created with care and caution and should provide owners with a fairly good understanding of this health issue, how it affects dogs and ways to deal with it.
Zinc Deficiency in Huskies
Zinc Deficiency happens when your dog does not absorb or digest an adequate amount of Zinc. Zinc is the second most important mineral used in your dog’s body and is essential for the normal functioning of a lot of bodily processes.
Zinc works by itself and with iron, copper, calcium, and vitamin A. Zinc deficiency can also lead to imbalances of other vitamins and minerals.
Either through malabsorption or mal-digestion your dog may not have enough Zinc present in their system, eventually leading to serious health issues and even death.
The condition of Zinc Deficiency is more commonly found in Siberian Huskies and Malamutes. These breeds tend to require more than the average amount of Zinc, compared to other breeds.
Malabsorption vs Mal-digestion
Although there are many reasons as to how and why Zinc Deficiency can happen in huskies, the main two reasons are because the mineral is not being absorbed properly OR it’s not being digested properly.
According to the msdvetmanual.com the difference between Maldigestion and Malabsorption is as follows
Maldigestion occurs when food cannot be properly broken down within the intestinal lumen. Malabsorption occurs when nutrients fail to pass from the intestinal lumen into the blood.By Edward J. Hall , MA, VetMB, PhD, DECVIM-CA, Langford Vets, Bristol Veterinary School for the msdvetmanual.com
One other important point to mention is that Siberian Huskies are known to have sensitive stomachs and find it hard to digestion many types of food. This can clearly be a contributing factor to a lack of Zinc being absorbed or digested in huskies.
Zinc Deficiency and Illness in Huskies
Zinc is an important mineral needed in your dog’s body and without it can lead to a wide range of health issues.
It is understood and accepted that Zinc is the second most important mineral in your dog’s body. It’s a strong antioxidant that helps a lot of metabolic processes in the body.
Interestingly enough, Huskies have a very efficient metabolism which although has not been confirmed, could be why huskies and northern breeds require higher than average amounts of Zinc.
When you have a mineral that is responsible for the proper functioning of so many different processes, it can cause MANY different health issues if not present.
Zinc deficiency has earned its name of being a “silent killer” due to the wide range of health issues it can cause
A regular supply of zinc is needed! An interesting fact is that even though Zinc is so important, the body has no way of storing it. Therefore a constant supply is needed. Source DogTime
Zinc Deficiency Symptoms in Huskies
There are various symptoms of Zinc Deficiency and they generally follow an order of severity. Generally speaking, Zinc deficient huskies/dogs will show the following symptoms in the same order I list below. The longer the dog is Zinc Deficient the chances of the next, more severe symptoms will occur.
List of symptoms of Zinc Deficiency in Huskies and dogs:
- Chronic Digestive Issues
- Zinc Responsive Dermitios
- Immune System Related Illness
- Thyroid and Thyroid Gland Issues
- Major Organ Failure
Chronic Digestive Issues
Symptoms of Diarrhea or lack of appetite are the two common signs which could suggest chronic digestive issues.
This can be hard to monitor especially in Huskies considering the fact that they usually already have a sensitive stomach with a lack of appetite, this is common for huskies and doesn’t always suggest chronic digestive issues.
The problem with diarrhea is that the body isn’t able to digest and properly take in the nutrients your dog eats through their food. If your husky/dog has diarrhea and isn’t eating, it’s very important to address this as soon as possible. Changing diet and trying to find a food that works for your dog needs to happen quickly before the lack of Zinc causes worse symptoms.
Although this isn’t a diet for the novice dog owner, and proper research needs to be done first, a raw food diet is a known favorite amongst huskies. Not only do huskies digest this type of diet well, but raw meat also contains high amounts of easily digestible Zinc.
Zinc Responsive Dermatosis (crusty lesions)
Adequate amounts of Zinc are also needed for normal cell division. If cell division becomes disrupted, this can lead to ZRD (Zinc Responsive Dermatosis).
ZRD causes the skin to become dry and flaky, if left untreated it can develop further which creates raised crusty lesions of the skin. This is itchy and uncomfortable for your dog.
A common issue when trying to treat ZRD comes from the use of topical cream. Although it will initially work, as soon as the cream is no longer applied, the symptoms will come back. Unfortunately, a lot of vets give out cream without properly treating the underlying issue which is Zinc Deficiency. Ultimately resulting in reoccurring issues
Immune System Related Illness
T-cells are one of the important types of cells responsible for proper immune system functioning. T-cells are responsible for detecting invading cells like viruses, bacteria, and also cancer.
How does Zinc relate to T-cells?… Well, Zinc is responsible for the production of T-cells. If there is a deficiency in Zinc then the production of T-cells will be affected.
If the body does not have enough T-cells OR the T-cells do not function correctly, the immune system will be forever compromised and your husky/dog will be riddled with illnesses that the immune system cannot handle.
On top of this, antibiotics are often administered to treat a lot of the negative effects caused by a lack of T-cells, the bad news here is that antibiotics kill the living bacteria found in the intestines. This makes it even harder to digest food, and huskies in particular already have digestion issues, this is a fast-track way to make all matters worse.
The good news is that if the Zinc levels are corrected. These issues will go away.
Thyroid and Thyroid Gland Issues
The Thyroid is in charge of producing and secreting hormones that are responsible for metabolism and organ function.
The job of the Thyroid Gland is to send a signal to the Thyroid telling it when to make and secrete the hormones for normal metabolism and organ function.
If there is a thyroid deficiency OR the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland (due to an already compromised immune system) your husky can experience things like hair loss, weight loss, constant infections, organ failure, and further digestive issues.
The Thyroid and Thyroid gland is particularly vulnerable when your husky is deficient in Zinc. This is because there is an order in which the body uses Zinc, and the thyroid although being important, is not a priority. This means that if there isn’t enough Zinc, to begin with, it’s very unlikely the thyroid will receive the necessary amount. This will create thyroid issues very quickly.
Major Organ Failure
Getting close to the end of issues, we have major organ failure. If Zinc deficiency continues to be a problem for your husky or dog it’s completely possible that certain organs will literally shut down and fail.
Without enough Zinc in the body, many important bodily processes cannot be completed, and if left long enough will eventually cause major organs to shut down. This usually comes after thyroid issues.
Taurine is needed by the brain in order to regulate neurotransmitters. If Zinc is not available in enough quantities then the taurine uptake can be disrupted which could lead to the neurotransmitters becoming over-excited and fire randomly. The result of this is a seizure.
Seizures can range from being minor (Petite mal) to major (Gran mal)
Best Diet for Huskies With Zinc Deficiency
Before I begin this portion of the article, just remember that if you suspect your husky or dog has any kind of health issue and is displaying any symptoms, you should seek professional advice from a veterinarian.
So, if you believe you are seeing symptoms like this with your husky then you could quite rightly assume that a little extra zinc in the diet could help.
Raw food is likely the best diet to help zinc deficiency. But if you aren’t in a position to try it, you’ll find this article helpful. It covers the 4 best commercial dog foods that help with zinc deficiency.
Here are some interesting things to think about…
- Huskies, malamutes, and some other northern breeds use to consume a wild canine’s diet consisting of a lot of raw meat, bones, organs, and glands. This is what would have been their diet for thousands of years, before domestication.
- Despite domestication happening, the quality of commercial dog food doesn’t match the quality of diet these breeds are accustomed to eating. Raw meat, bones organs, and glands contain not only a higher amount of zinc but a more easily absorbing form of Zinc.
- Before automatically supplementing their diet with Zinc, first, you must think about what Zinc absorbs the easiest, and where you get that Zinc from. The issue with a lot of commercial dog food now is that they add in a cheap form of Zinc Oxide or Zinc Sulphate. Your Husky’s body does not absorb this form of Zinc very well.
What should you do next?…
- Make sure your Huskies diet does not contain things like Wheat, Corn, Soy, or any kind of grains.
- Look at your current dog food and make sure it does not contain heavily processed meat by-products
- Take the time to research the raw food diet and consider adding this to the diet plan. You can switch to a 1/2 raw food 1/2 kibble diet, just don’t mix kibble and raw food together at the same time. (digestion rates differ)
- Seek advice from a professional armed with as much knowledge on Zinc Deficiency as possible.
The best diet for huskies with Zinc Deficiency will be a raw meat-based diet, due to the quality of the Zinc. Furthermore, Zinc from raw meat also gets absorbed easier by your husky’s body compared to commercial store-bought dog food.
The best types of raw food that contain high-quality Zinc includes: (when consumed raw)
Can You Give Zinc Supplements to Dogs?
Only after you have addressed your dog’s diet should you think about supplementing Zinc. Usually, a change in diet will be sufficient and also healthier. However, if a change of diet is not quite cutting it, you can look for a Zinc supplement.
Three important things to remember when looking for a Zinc supplement:
- Ensure the supplement is organic
- Ensure the form of Zinc is either Zinc Citrate, Picolinate, Gluconate, Chelated or Methionine. These forms of Zinc are the easiest for your dog to absorb. Avoid other forms!
- Take note of the dosage, research has shown dogs can need up to 100mgs a day, compared to humans at just 15mgs.
Although supplementing Zinc is commonly done, it can be a tricky task with further risks. The reason supplementing can be risky is because Zinc affects a lot of other vitamins and minerals in the body. If your dog absorbs too much Zinc, it could cause an imbalance of iron, copper, calcium, or vitamin A (the main vitamins and minerals that Zinc interacts with)
Fish oil is a very common supplement for dogs and contains a high amount of Zinc that is easily absorbed. However, always follow the guidelines as too much fish oil can create an imbalance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Vitamin E and vitamin A can also be affected in negative ways.
Spinach, Broccoli, Kelp are leafy green vegetables that can be added to your huskies diet to increase Zinc levels. These veggies are not only high in Zinc but they contain a great natural source of other antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Important Points Summarized
After going through this article I have summarized key points about Zinc deficiency in huskies
- Zinc deficiency happens due to either malabsorption or mal-digestion
- Zinc is the second most important mineral responsible for MANY bodily processes
- Zinc does not get stored in the body, so a constant supply is needed
- There are different types of Zinc, some are low quality and not easily absorbed. Others are higher in quality and easier to absorb
- The first symptom is Chronic Digestion Issues (diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite)
- Symptoms get more serious as time goes on
- Zinc is not shared evenly throughout the body, there is a hierarchy of where the zinc get used first
- A change of diet is the first step to take to correct the deficiency
- Supplementing zinc is ok, but be careful to use organic zinc, the correct form of zinc, and the right dosage
- Zinc works with other vitamins and minerals, too much or too little of Zinc can create an imbalance of other important vitamins and minerals
- Zinc deficiency is hard to diagnose and often goes mistreated for a while
- Northern breeds like Siberian Huskies and Malamutes as well as some Giant breeds are much more prone to Zinc deficiency than other breeds.
- Always seek professional help if you see any above symptoms
Unfortunately, Zinc Deficiency can be difficult to accurately diagnose, the symptoms can range and also be related to something else entirely.
It can sometimes take a while before veterinarians accurately diagnose Zinc Deficiency and oftentimes find themselves chasing ongoing symptoms. Veterinarians are not to blame in this situation and the difficulty in diagnosis is very real.
If you have a husky, or northern breed, it’s important you know about the common Zinc issues these breeds are susceptible to. If you have great knowledge on this issue then you will be able to speed up your fluffy friend’s recovery process quickly.
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Professional Sources Used:
Dog Time https://dogtime.com/dog-health/57291-silent-killer-zinc-deficiency-dog
US National Library of Medicine
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