Zinc Deficiency In Huskies: Causes, Symptoms & Remedies

Zinc deficiency in huskies is something that often goes misdiagnosed and affects huskies (and malamutes) more frequently than other breeds of dog.

Zinc deficiency is typically observed as zinc-responsive dermatosis in Siberian Huskies, as well as Alaskan Malamutes, and is due to a lowered intestinal absorption of zinc. Typical symptoms include dry skin around the eyes, mouth, and muzzle, and it is treated with a tailored plan to address zinc deficiency.

There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to zinc deficiency and huskies, so let’s get right into it.

A Quick Disclaimer

If your husky is sick – or if you suspect that they might be suffering from zinc-related issues – you need to speak to your veterinarian.

Supplementing with zinc can have adverse effects if your husky either does not need extra zinc or if you supplement with too much zinc for their body weight. Zinc poisoning can be potentially lethal, so you should always supplement with zinc under the supervision of a veterinarian.

This guide is intended as an educational article explaining what zinc deficiency in huskies actually is, the most common symptoms, and what treatment usually looks like.

Why Is Zinc Important For Huskies?

Zinc has an acknowledged and essential biological role for all living organisms.

It is crucial for enzymatic, structural, and regulatory functions. In dogs, zinc is important for immune system function and thyroid function (something which huskies are susceptible to problems with).

A lack of zinc can lead to a range of issues, including a compromised immune system, problems with breeding, and many more.

To put it simply, zinc is absolutely essential if you want your husky to be healthy. Luckily, the vast majority of commercial dog food options include zinc already, but there are certain types of zinc deficiency that aren’t caused by a lack of zinc in the diet.

What Is Zinc Deficiency In Huskies?

Zinc deficiency in huskies is most commonly seen as zinc-responsive dermatosis.

Zinc-responsive dermatosis is usually split up into three types:

  • Type 1 – The first type is what primarily affects huskies and malamutes. In this case, your husky is getting fed a diet that contains enough zinc, but they are unable to absorb it due to an intestinal absorption issue.
  • Type 2 – The second type affects fast-growing large to giant dogs like the Great Dane or Doberman and is related to dietary supplements that interfere with zinc absorption.
  • Type 3 – The third type falls under ‘generic food disease’ and is, unfortunately, due to a lack of zinc and overall nutrients in their diet.

Is Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis In Huskies Common?

Huskies and malamutes are at a higher risk of zinc-responsive dermatosis than most other dog breeds. Other breeds, such as the Doberman, can also suffer from it, but it is not as common as it is for the husky or malamute.

In terms of frequency, it is not a super common problem amongst huskies, but it is one that often goes misdiagnosed.

4 Common Symptoms Of Zinc Deficiency In Huskies

Here are four common symptoms of type 1 zinc-responsive dermatosis in huskies to look out for.

1. Dry Skin And Skin Lesions

The most common symptom of type 1 Zinc-responsive dermatosis (skin abnormalities) in dogs can be divided into three categories: in huskies is dry skin patches that are most commonly seen around the eyes, mouth, muzzle, and elbows.

An example of zinc-responsive dermatosis on a husky's eye
An example of zinc-responsive dermatosis around a husky’s eye – image source

These patches will appear dry and red and can also develop infection quickly.

2. Stomach Issues

Severe diarrhea, as well as vomiting, has also been associated with zinc deficiency as well.

Diarrhea can also interfere with treating zinc deficiency and make the symptoms worse as it reduces the amount of zinc that your husky is absorbing.

3. Dry Or Dull Coat

Another symptom commonly associated with type 1 zinc-responsive dermatosis is a dry or dull coat.

4. Illness Becomes More Common

Zinc deficiency can compromise the immune system, which makes other illnesses become more common.

If you notice that your husky is constantly falling ill and having symptoms such as low energy and lethargy, diarrhea, and/or sickness, then zinc deficiency could be part of the problem.

How Is Zinc Deficiency In Huskies Identified And Treated?

Zinc deficiency can be hard for vets to identify because blood samples to test for zinc can be misleading for several reasons, such as other common diseases like hypothyroidism falsely lowering zinc levels or due to contamination from the tubes.

A veterinarian will typically examine your husky, ask questions about their diet and use any physical symptoms as a starting point for diagnosing zinc deficiency.

They will rule out other diseases and possibly use a skin biopsy as well. In some cases, a positive reaction to zinc supplementation is often used to confirm it.

Once it has been diagnosed, the treatment involves supplementing with zinc, which can be done with oral tablets or via IV in more severe cases.

Remember that it is highly likely that huskies will suffer from type 1 zinc-responsive dermatosis, which cannot be dealt with directly.

This means that unlike in the cases where zinc deficiency is a result of a poor diet, supplementing with zinc will not suddenly ‘cure’ your husky, and it will instead become part of a lifelong treatment plan.

Can You Prevent Zinc Deficiency In Huskies?

The first thing to do is to make sure your husky is eating a well-balanced diet packed full of all the nutrients they need.

As popular as raw diets have become, high-quality commercial dog food is a better choice for the majority of meals as they are designed to contain a full-nutrient profile.

Getting nutrition right will certainly help, but it doesn’t fully prevent zinc deficiency in huskies, as type 1 zinc-responsive dermatosis is related to an intestinal digestion issue.

The only thing you can do in this case is to speak to your veterinarian so they can start a treatment plan that increases the amount of zinc available for your husky to absorb.

Does Zinc Deficiency Affect Lifespan?

The prognosis for zinc deficiency – specifically type 1 zinc-responsive dermatosis in huskies – is usually positive, although lifelong supplementation of zinc may be required.

Other types of zinc deficiency, particularly in puppies, can often result in death or euthanasia.

In Summary

As a husky owner, it’s important to know about zinc deficiency as it is often misdiagnosed due to how uncommon it is for other breeds.

Fortunately, if you can get treatment for it relatively quickly under the supervision of a veterinarian, the prognosis is positive in most cases.

Type 1 zinc-responsive dermatosis cannot be treated purely with a well-balanced diet, but you should always aim to meet your husky’s nutritional needs by providing the right type of high-quality dog food that contains all the nutrients that they need.

Sources & Recommended Reading

I highly recommend checking out these studies and resources on zinc deficiencies:



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About The Author

Caitlin is the owner and lead writer for The Malamute Mom. She has over 10 years of experience with Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies. She is currently working on getting her PhD in materials science but continues to write for The Malamute Mom in her spare time.

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