Background Dietary zinc oxide is used in pig nutrition to combat post weaning diarrhoea. Recent data suggests that high doses (2.5 g/kg feed) increase the bacterial antibiotic resistance development in weaned pigs. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the development of enterobacterial antibiotic resistance genes in the intestinal tract of weaned pigs. Findings Weaned pigs were fed diets for 4 weeks containing 57 (low), 164 (intermediate) or 2425 (high) mg kg−1 analytical grade ZnO. DNA extracts from stomach, mid-jejunum, terminal ileum and colon ascendens were amplified by qPCR assays to quantify copy numbers for the tetracycline (tetA) and sulfonamide (sul1) resistance genes in Gram-negative bacteria. Overall, the combined data (n = 336) showed that copy numbers for tetracycline and sulfonamide resistance genes were significantly increased in the high zinc treatment compared to the low (tetA: p value < 10−6; sul1: p value = 1 × 10−5) or intermediate (tetA: P < 1.6 × 10−4; sul1: P = 3.2 × 10−4) zinc treatment. Regarding the time dependent development, no treatment effects were seen 1 week after weaning, but significant differences between high and low/intermediate zinc treatments evolved 2 weeks after weaning. The increased number of tetA and sul1 copies was not confined to the hind gut, but was already present in stomach contents. Conclusions The results of this study suggest that the use of high doses of dietary zinc beyond 2 weeks after weaning should be avoided in pigs due to the possible increase of antibiotic resistance in Gram-negative bacteria.