Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis in Dogs

Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis?

A rare scaling skin disorder, zinc-responsive dermatosis is the result of zinc deficiency, zinc malabsorption or incorrect utilization of zinc. Zinc is imperative for over 300 enzymes, structural proteins and hormones. It is critical for numerous biological functions, to include regulating the immune system’s response, cell replication and regenerating the intestinal mucosa, adjustment in regards to keratogenesis and the healing of wounds, maintaining typical reproductive function, turning over epithelial cells that are needed to keep skin, hair and nails healthy and the sharpness of the dog’s taste and smell. When zinc deficiency occurs, certain immune responses are reduced (those handled by T cells) and antibody production is decreased.

Zinc-responsive dermatosis may occur as a result of several causes and can lead to redness, scaling, crusting and hair loss among other symptoms.

Symptoms of Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis in Dogs

In both Syndrome I and Syndrome II, redness (as a result of congestion in the capillaries in the lower layers of the skin) will be present at the mucocutaneous junction and pressure points. In addition, scaling, crusting, hair loss, pyoderma and lichenification mainly involving your dog’s head can occur.

Should your dog experience a severe case of either syndrome, you may see the following:

  • Lack of interest in eating
  • Stunted growth
  • Lethargy


Several clinical presentations of zinc-responsive dermatosis are seen in dogs:

Syndrome I - Usually only found in northern breeds like Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes; this condition is inherited and results in something going awry in the absorption or metabolization of zinc

Syndrome II - Occurs in quickly growing puppies of a larger breed that ingest a diet that is high in phytate and deficient in zinc or a diet that has parts that can inhibit zinc being absorbed

Generic Dog Food Disease - Scaling and crusting as developed in some dogs after being fed a generic dog food for two to four weeks; these foods did not meet the National Research Council requirements and did not have an optimal level of zinc (in addition to the skin symptoms, puppies with this condition had fever, depression and swollen lymph nodes)

There are also hereditary zinc deficiencies that can occur, for example:

  • Nasal hyperkeratosis in Golden Retrievers
  • Congenital follicular parakeratosis in Rottweilers and Siberian Huskies

Causes of Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis in Dogs

Syndrome I is the result of a genetic defect in your dog’s intestinal absorption. Syndrome II occurs when large-breed puppies consume a diet that is high in phytate and deficient in zinc; or the diet may include things that can inhibit zinc absorption, leading to the deficiency. Generic dog food disease can occur when generic dog food that does not include the appropriate amount of zinc is fed to your dog for as little as two weeks.

Diagnosis of Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis in Dogs

Should you notice any unusual symptoms in your dog, you will want to visit your veterinarian. Your dog will receive a complete physical examination and your veterinarian may choose to take samples of his blood and skin for further analysis. Zinc-responsive dermatosis can be diagnosed by looking at affected skin cells under a microscope as well as reduced amounts of zinc in the dog’s blood and his response to treatment. It has been found that low amounts of zinc in the serum and hair of your dog is not conclusive and must be seen in conjunction with a positive response to treatment.

Conditions that your veterinarian will look to rule out include:

  • Lethal acrodermatitis (seen in Staffordshire Bull terriers)
  • Demodectic mange
  • Vitamin A-responsive dermatosis
  • Lupus erythematosus
  • Malassezia dermatitis

Treatment of Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis in Dogs

Supplementing zinc and retinoid is typically successful for dogs experiencing zinc-responsive dermatosis. Zinc may be administered as an oral supplement on a daily basis and should the case be severe, your veterinarian may recommend your dog receive an injection of zinc sulfate. Your dog should undergo treatment for a month to see how he is responding to treatment. Should it not lead to improvement, your veterinarian may want to increase the dose by 50%. Antimicrobial therapy may be recommended as well as regular bathing with keratolytic shampoos like sulfur and salicylic acid.

Petted logo

Worried about the cost of treating your pet's symptoms?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Get a quote

Recovery of Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis in Dogs

Dogs with Syndrome I have a fair prognosis though it is recommended that they not breed out of concern for passing on the condition. An excellent prognosis is expected for dogs experiencing Syndrome II. Symptoms will usually resolve after a few weeks of your dog receiving zinc supplements. 

Your veterinarian will likely recommend a follow up appointment so that he can determine whether treatment is effective and make treatment changes if necessary. Working closely with your veterinarian is important to ensure the best outcome for your dog.

Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals






7 Years


2 found this helpful


2 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Hair Loss
Hair Loss, Crusting Scratching
Hair Loss, Crusting
Our husky was just diagnosed with ZRD and I am finding conflicting information on what to feed her and what not to feed her. I read no phytates and then another says feed brown rice, lentils etc that are not ok in other information. Please clarify and also why are some saying varying kinds of zinc supplements yet vet said zinpro?

July 20, 2018

2 Recommendations

There is conflicting information online for almost every medical condition with many people putting out misinformation based on their own opinion (this is how fads start); I’ve linked below two articles from reputable sources on Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis which will give you an overview on what to do, feed and supplement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.vettimes.co.uk/app/uploads/wp-post-to-pdf-enhanced-cache/1/zinc-responsive-dermatosis.pdf http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/canine-zinc-responsive-dermatosis

July 21, 2018

Was this question and answer helpful?

Siberian Husky




1 Year


0 found this helpful


0 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Scaling Skin Around Eyes
Hair Loss Around Eyes And Mouth
Appears Dark, Sometimes Red
Generally Not Itchy, Ocassional
Is supplementing my dog with ZRD by administering 50mg zinc with breakfast and 50mg of zinc with dinner enough? She also receives 1200mg or more of salmon oil, a few carrots daily, sometimes dog-friendly fruit and occasionally we give raw chicken livers or other meats. She is on a wheat/grain-free diet and eats a quality food with about 75mg zinc per serving. We give her 1-2 eggs per day as well.

June 8, 2018

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

0 Recommendations

It sounds like you are treating Leia's ZRD appropriately. Unfortunately, without knowing her weight, I can't comment on the dosage of medication that she is getting. It would be best to check with your veterinarian, as they are familiar with her and would have a current weight.

June 8, 2018

Hello! Could you please tell me what is a Zinc norma in blood of Siberian husky (3 years old)? Thank you very much in advance.

July 10, 2018

Anna T.

Was this question and answer helpful?
Need pet insurance?
Need pet insurance?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews


© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.

© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.