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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Zinc is an important mineral which is involved in many biochemical pathways - some of which explain its important role in the maintenance of healthy skin

Zinc is an important component of several metalloenzymes in the body.

Deficiency of zinc leads to several clinical signs :

  • Dermatitis
  • Thinning of the hair coat - alopecia due to hair loss
  • Slow rate of hair growth
  • Dullness of the hair coat
  • Increased scurf formation
  • The coat appears to be rough, staring and unkempt
  • Ulceration of the skin
  • Thick crusty parakeratotic hyperkeratotic skin lesions
  • Acanthosis

Non-specific signs may include :

  • Anorexia
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Lymphadenopathy
  • Poor growth rate

These lesions affect several sites :

  • Axilla
  • Ear canals
  • Distal extremities including the footpads - also have paronechia, fissures and cracks
  • Groin
  • Mucocutaneous junctions
  • Over joints
  • Tail

Several recognised clinical syndromes have been shown to be responsive to zinc therapy including :

  • Juvenile hyperkeratosis (also called dry juvenile pyoderma) - thought to have been due to zinc deficiency in the diet
  • Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute syndrome - lesions develop in early adulthood
  • Bull Terrier acrodermatitis - due to abnormal zinc absorption and metabolism
  • German Shepherd dogs have been reported to develop the disease in rapidly-growing individuals fed zinc-deficient diets

The biochemical roles of zinc that explain these changes include :

  • Zinc is an important component of metalloenzymes (eg carbonic anhydrase)
  • Zinc is important for cell replication and differentiation
  • Zinc has an important role in protein synthesis, nucleic acid synthesis and carbohydrate metabolism
  • Zinc is important for normal essential fatty acid (EFA) metabolism - and EFAs are very important in maintaining normal skin health.
  • Zinc has an important role to play in the production , storage and  secretion of hormones including adrenal corticosteroids insulin, and testosterone
  • Zinc is important for normal hormone receptor response
  • Parakeratosis is due to delayed nuclear degeneration
  • Zinc deficiency affects nucleic acid and collagen synthesis leading to fissures in pads, and loss of hair

Copper deficiency is not common. It occurs most often in young puppies or kittens due to one of 3 scenarios :

  • Poor nutrition with inadequate copper in the food - most likely to occur on a home-made or "fad" diet
  • Poor bioavailability of copper in food
  • Competition from other minerals in the diet (eg zinc) which reduce the bioavailability of the copper.

Treatment is to feed a complete and balanced ration and avoid excess mineral supplementation.


Updated October 2013