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Whole Food Sources of Zinc For Dogs

Zinc regulates gene expression which in layman’s terms, means that zinc decides what a cell becomes part of such as your dog’s eye, their brain, their kidney, muscles, etc.

Zinc is a constituent or activator of more than 200 enzymes, so it is involved in many diverse physiologic functions.  

In the Small Animal Clinical Nutrition book, it lists zinc’s primary functions as:

  1. nucleic acid metabolism
  2. protein synthesis
  3. carbohydrate metabolism
  4. immunocompetence
  5. skin and wound healing
  6. cell replication and differentiation
  7. growth and
  8. reproduction

What Happens When There is a Zinc Deficiency 

When there is a deficiency, you see it in the skin and coat of dogs; these signs have been described as dull, coarse hair coat and skin lesions that show parakeratosis and hyperkeratinization, and fading coat color.  

Dogs with a zinc deficiency will also experience grown retardation, loose stools, nails that don’t grow well, loss of hair or fur, loss of weight, low fertility, and sensory disturbances.

What Happens When There is Excess Zinc

When there is an excess, you see a calcium and copper deficiency.  

Breeds Prone To Zinc Deficiencies

Northern breeds like malamutes, Samoyeds, and huskies need more zinc than other breeds. Telltale signs that they are zinc deficient are crusting around the eyes, nasal lesions and crusty, scaley skin.  

Zinc responsive lesions have also been associated with rapidly growing puppies such as Great Danes, Doberan pinschers, German shepherd dogs, German shorthaired pointers, beagles, standard poodles, Rhodesian ridgebacks, and Labrador retrievers.

Generic, Low Cost Commercial or Private Label Brands

Cheap food high in cereal content have been implicated in causing zinc deficiencies.

Best Sources For Zinc

Animal sources of zinc are more easily absorbed than plant sources.  

Whole Food Sources Of Zinc

Zinc (Zn) [mg/100g]

Oyster (cooked) 78.6 (caution with oysters – some dogs are allergic)

Hempseed 9.9

Pumpkin seed 7.81

Cashews (raw) 5.78

Beef liver 5.23

Turkey liver 4.53

Lamb liver 4

Chicken liver 3.98

Beef 3.96

Crab 3.54

Turkey thigh 3.26

Almonds (roasted) 3.31

Lamb 3.23

Pork heart 3.09

Chicken heart 3.1

Beef heart 2.87

Pork 2.79

Bison 2.73

Egg yolk 2.3

Chicken thigh 1.92

Lentils 1.6

Yogurt 0.89

Spinach 0.75

Avocados 0.64

Chickpeas 0.59

Mushroom 0.53

Keep in mind the amounts above are in 100 g of food. One large egg is about 70 g. One small egg is about 50g. One bunch of kale is about 100 g. Two bunches of spinach is about 100 g.

Food sources for zinc are absorbed about six times more than their mineral form.  

How Much Zinc Does Your Dog Need?

The National Research Council states dogs 15mg of zinc per 1000kcal.

Nutrient Interactions


If there’s too much zinc then copper needs to be raised too. The ideal zinc to copper ratio is 10:1. Too much zinc affects copper status and absorption.  

And too much copper can cause toxicity and a zinc deficiency.

Feeding high copper liver without enough zinc to create the correct ratio can lead to copper toxicity. This dog will have loose stools, bad skin health, lose fur, and experience skin infections.


Too much phytate reduces the absorption of zinc. Cereal-rich kibble, generic or cheap kibble has been associated with zinc deficiencies.

Calcium and Iron

When a dog eats too much calcium (in their raw meaty bones) it can affect the absorption of zinc.

Note: Some links in this article are affiliate links (Amazon Associates or other programs I participate in). At no charge to you, as an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  

Zinc Supplements

Zinc Piconolate is the most bioavailable supplement for zinc but these typically come in tablets or capsules and are not ideal for small breed dogs due to the size. 

Ionic Zinc drops work best for small breed dogs because you can dose by the drop.  

Kibble, cooked and raw meals that are formulated to AAFCO’s standards do not need additional zinc supplemented.  

Food that is labeled “for supplemental feeding” may or may not have sufficient levels of zinc. Look at the label to verify zinc levels or contact the manufacturer for the information.  

If you are feeding DIY cooked, raw, or using unbalanced commercial grinds or mixes you will want to supplement or feed food sources that contain zinc.

Need help? Book a wellness call + balanced recipe with me.


Small Animal Clinical Nutrition 

Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats – National Research Council 

Canine and Feline Nutrition, Linda Case

Animal Diet Formulator

Zinc-responsive dermatosis in northern-breed dogs: 17 cases (1990-1996)

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