Your Siberian husky's thick, double coat is his crowning glory. Sadly, the breed is prone to certain ailments that cause balding and skin infections, some of which require lifelong treatment. Take your dog to the vet at the first sign of a skin disorder to get a firm diagnosis.
Huskies are genetically prone to zinc deficiency, as they might lack certain enzymes for proper zinc absorption. Symptoms include hair loss, itching and lesions on the face, genitals and footpads. Only a veterinarian can diagnose zinc deficiency, so don't start supplementing your dog with over-the-counter zinc products if he experiences some hair loss. Many diseases, including mange, produce symptoms resembling zinc deficiency. Your vet performs a skin biopsy to determine the cause of the symptoms. If your husky is zinc-deficient, she can prescribe a veterinary formulation of zinc methionine, which your dog must take for the rest of his life, along with enzymes. If your dog suffers from skin infections, your vet might prescribe antibiotics to clear up the lesions.
Zinc deficiency can also cause nasal dermatitis in huskies. Because it's so common in the breed, this condition is frequently referred to as "collie nose," though other dogs are just as susceptible. Symptoms include hair loss on the nose, pigment loss, nasal lesions and redness. In some huskies, nasal dermatitis is the primary sign of zinc deficiency. However, your vet must conduct tests to ensure your husky isn't suffering from skin cancer or a fungal or bacterial infection. Treatment depends on the diagnosis.
Hypothyroidism, occurring when the thyroid glands don't produce sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone, is especially common in the northern breeds. Since the thyroid glands regulate metabolism, various parts of the body are affected. Symptoms include skin thickening and hair loss, especially around the tail. If your husky suffers from hypothyroidism, his beautiful, full tail could turn into the classic "rat tail" often encountered in the disease. Skin infections, including crusty lesions, might develop. Your vet can test your husky's blood thyroid levels. A dog diagnosed with hypothyroidism should recover, as long as he receives his daily thyroid pills, which you must administer for the rest of his life.
Although your husky is a northern breed, he can cope in a warmer climate. Don't make the mistake of shaving him in hot weather. According to the Southern Siberian Husky Rescue website, shaving a husky opens a pathway for various skin disorders that probably wouldn't occur in an unshaved husky. This includes sunburn, allergies and parasitic infections. Rather than resort to clippers, make sure your dog has access to an air-conditioned or cool area of your home during heat waves.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.