Zinc is a mineral and antioxidant that plays a key role in dozens of metabolic processes. It's especially important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Certain dog breeds are prone to zinc deficiency and malabsorption. What does zinc do for dogs? How much zinc does your dog need to stay healthy? How is zinc deficiency in dogs treated? We'll explore everything you need to know about this essential nutrient.
Zinc is essential for more than 300 bodily processes, which means its list of functions is a long one! Here are a few ways zinc keeps your dog healthy:
- promotes healthy skin and coat
- strengthens the immune system
- assists in cell division, DNA and RNA replication
- improves eyesight
- boosts cognitive function, learning, and memory
- helps produce a variety of hormones
Daily Recommended Intake
How much zinc do dogs need? That depends on a variety of factors, including age, breed, weight, risk of deficiency, and environmental stressors. The recommended zinc intake for adult dogs set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is 120 mg of zinc per kg of dry-matter diet. Pregnant/nursing dogs and those at risk of deficiency or malabsorption typically require more zinc.
Most processed kibble contains the minimum amount of zinc dogs need to stay healthy. However, some ingredients in kibble, like phytates and calcium, can interfere with the body's ability to absorb zinc.
Zinc is also abundant in fresh meat, seafood, vegetables, dairy products, and grains, including:
- Fish oil
Worried your dog isn't getting enough zinc from their kibble? Talk to your vet about transitioning your pup to a varied diet that's rich in zinc and other essential nutrients.
Signs of Zinc Deficiency in Dogs
Zinc deficiency and malabsorption often appear as a skin condition called zinc-responsive dermatosis. There are 3 types of zinc-responsive dermatosis. Type 1 typically occurs in dogs whose intestines aren't able to absorb zinc properly. It's common in certain breeds, like the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute.
Type 2 zinc-responsive dermatosis is caused by dietary issues, including inadequate zinc intake. Diets high in or supplemented with phytates, phosphorous, and calcium also inhibit the body's ability to absorb zinc. Several giant breeds are predisposed to type 2, including Poodles, Great Danes, and Doberman Pinschers.
Type 3 zinc-responsive dermatosis is rare and occurs in dogs who eat dog food that lacks the minimum recommended amount of zinc.
Signs of zinc deficiency in dogs include:
- frequent/recurring infections due to a weakened immune system
- slow wound healing
- crusty sores on the paws, lips, eyes, ears, or mouth
- excessive itching/scratching
- dull coat
- hair loss
- decrease in sexual function
Puppies and pregnant/nursing dogs may show other symptoms, including:
- birth defects
- stunted growth
- giving birth to stillborn puppies
Signs of Zinc Overdose in Dogs
The maximum recommended amount of zinc for dogs is quite high — 1,000 mg/kg of dry-matter diet, according to AAFCO standards. Overdose rarely occurs as a result of ingesting dog food or supplements high in zinc (provided these are administered as directed). However, dogs can overdose on zinc after eating non-food items like pennies, batteries, and skin creams.
An untreated zinc overdose can be life-threatening for dogs. Onset symptoms are mild but will get worse within a few hours or days of ingestion. Symptoms of zinc overdose include:
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- pale/yellow gums
- irregular heartbeat
- kidney and liver damage
Treatment will vary depending on your dog's symptoms and the item(s) ingested. Your vet may induce vomiting, prescribe medications, administer IV fluids, or perform surgery depending on the severity of toxicity. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to ensure a good prognosis.
Most pet insurance companies don’t cover pre-existing conditions. To avoid stress and high veterinary care costs, insure your pet today. To avoid high veterinary care costs, securepet health insurance today and save up to $273 each year.
Zinc Supplements for Dogs
Dogs receiving adequate amounts of zinc from their diet likely won't benefit from supplements. However, zinc supplements can help prevent and treat zinc-responsive dermatosis and malabsorption. Your vet may recommend dietary changes in addition to supplements. Crushing up zinc tablets and adding them to your dog's food may aid absorption.
Oral zinc supplements are readily available over-the-counter at online retailers and big-box pet stores. Always consult your vet before supplementing your dog's diet. Never give your dog zinc supplements formulated for human use unless explicitly instructed to do so.
Concerned about your dog's nutrition? Chat with a vet now for expert advice!
Curious about which health plan is right for your dog? Head over to our breakdown of the best pet insurance plans.