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Caring For A Shar Pei Dog

The Shar-pei dog hails from china, and was once listed in the Guinness book of world records as the rarest dog breed in the world! It is equally famous for its distinctive wrinkled skin and rather aloof demeanour, and today, enjoys considerable popularity as a pet among dog owners who are looking for something a little different. The Shar-pei has a range of breed-specific care and wellness special needs that can make it challenging to keep, but nevertheless, the Shar-pei is no longer the incredibly rare sight that it once was. Interest in this breed within the UK and worldwide has led to a large increase in the number of these dogs bred and kept as pets, and it is now a viable option for the would-be owner to consider without having to wait for years to find an available puppy or adult dog to buy!

You can read some general information on the breed itself and its history here, but in this article we will cover some of the specific health, temperament and welfare requirements of this still-unusual dog breed.

Shar-pei special needs

The Shar-pei requires rather more preventative care and maintenance than most other dogs, and ongoing attention must be paid to their health and wellness to minimise the likelihood of any problems developing.

The coat and skin of the Shar-pei is very sensitive, and these dogs must undergo a regular grooming and hygiene routine in order to keep them healthy and well. They require frequent bathing, sometimes as often as once a week, and also daily brushing and grooming, and cleaning and drying of the skin folds. An effective flea prevention routine is also vitally important, as the Shar-pei is very sensitive to fleabites and flea allergies. They should also be kept in a clean, hygienic environment at all times, and be fed a top quality nutritionally complete diet. The Shar-pei may even require a special veterinary- recommended sensitivity diet to be fed, in order to account for any particular sensitivities to different ingredients or food additives that are commonly found in dog foods.

Caring for the coat

The Shar-pei’s coat is single layered, and can come in a variety of lengths. Shorter Shar-pei coats are often rather wiry and can be irritating to the skin of people, potentially even causing rashes, which makes the longer coat lengths that are rather softer very desirable.


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Skin problems

Any wrinkled areas of the coat or skin of the dog can be prone to developing sores, lesions or infections, and so special attention must be paid to keeping the Shar-pei’s skin folds scrupulously clean and dry at all times. As well as regular bathing, the skin folds of the Shar-pei should be cleaned and dried on a daily basis, by wiping the interior of the folds of skin with a damp cloth and thoroughly drying them to prevent bacterial growths and sores. The exaggeratedly wrinkled skin around the face and muzzle are the areas most prone to potential bacteria growth and infection, although any wrinkled area of the body may be affected if incorrectly cleaned, dried and cared for.

Genetic predispositions to health problems

The Shar-pei dog breed as a whole has elevated risk factors for a range of potential inherited health conditions that the prospective owner should be aware of.

  • Entropion is a condition that causes the inner lids of the eyes to rub on the surface of the eye itself, causing sores, ulcers and even blindness. This usually presents itself in puppies, and may be outgrown as the puppy grows and develops, but it may require multiple surgeries to correct.
  • Hypothyroidism, a condition caused by insufficient production of the thyroid hormone T4, can lead to problems with the digestive system and weight management, and also manifest in problems with the skin and coat. One in five Shar-pei dogs are estimated to have a deficiency with the thyroid’s hormone production, and so this condition is very prevalent within the breed.
  • Toe infections caused by the short, sharp hairs of the Shar-pei may manifest if the hairs between the toes of the dog become impacted and lead to an infection of the follicles.
  • Ear infections are also rife across the breed, compounded by the fact that the ear canal of the Shar-pei is very narrow, meaning that it is hard for the veterinary surgeon to examine. In some cases, corrective surgery may be required to address this and avoid ongoing and recurrent ear infections.
  • Swollen hock syndrome, also known as “Familial Shar-pei Fever” is a genetically inherited condition associated with amyloidosis that leads to fever, joint swelling and in some cases, kidney failure. Generally, swollen hock syndrome will begin to manifest in puppies and adolescent Shar-pei’s, although the full extent of any kidney damaged caused may not be apparent until the dog is several years old. The occurrence rate of swollen hock syndrome in the Shar-pei is currently estimated to be as high as one in ten dogs of the breed.

Temperament

The temperament of the Shar-pei can best be described as “specialist,” and they are rather unlike most other dogs. They tend to be rather aloof and guarded around strangers, and have acquired something of a reputation for being unfriendly and even in some cases snappy with people they do not know. However, they do bond strongly with their families, often to the point of being possessive and bossy with the children of the household! This means that their suitability as a family pet should be considered carefully, although many families with children find that their Shar-pei is a wonderful and positive addition to the family and bonds strongly with the children in their “pack.”


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