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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.

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

Copper is an important component of several metalloenzymes and of proteins used for transport and storage in the body.

Deficiency of copper leads to several clinical signs :

  • Loss of pigmentation in hair - black hair coat turns brown or grey
  • Thinning of the hair coat
  • Dullness of the hair coat
  • The coat appears to be rough, staring and unkempt
  • In addition, skin structure eg elasticity,  is likely to be adversely affected

If the cause of these skin signs is copper deficiency, copper concentrations in tissues (hair, plasma, liver as well as others) are low and can be measured in samples collected for analysis.

The biochemical roles of copper that explain these changes include :

  • Cuproenzymes are important for the conversion of L-tyrosine to melanin
  • Cuproenzymes are important for the formation of keratin from prekeratin
  • Cuproenzymes are important in the conversion of carotene to retinal (vitamin A is important in skin health)
  • Cuproenzymes are important in connective tissue maturation, and
  • Cuproenzymes are important for normal cross-linking of aldehydes in both collagen and elastin tissues.

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 January 2016