The Shar pei dog is not one of the most commonly seen breeds here in the UK, but these unusual Chinese dogs with wrinkled skin and short ears nevertheless have a strong following of enthusiasts, and the breed is currently on the rise in popularity here and across the world.
Speculative, calm and very loyal, the Shar pei is a bold and fearless breed that can be very protective of their owners, and take a while to warm up to new people!
However, the breed is not one of the most long lived of all dogs, and the Shar pei is also prone to developing a fairly wide range of breed-specific health problems, with few Shar pei dogs failing to exhibit the signs of at least one of these. In this article, we will look at some of the most common diseases and health conditions seen in the Shar pei dog breed in more detail. Read on to learn more.
The Shar pei breed is one that often suffers from problems with their joints, specifically the elbows and hips. This means that a reasonable number of dogs of the breed will develop either hip or elbow dysplasia, or in some cases, both.
Dogs with either hip or elbow dysplasia will have problems with normal movement and potentially, pain as well, and in some cases, the problem may require surgical correction.
Hip and elbow dysplasia are hereditary conditions, and it is wise to find out about the health of both parent dogs and if they underwent hip score testing prior to breeding, in order to give you the best chance of picking a healthy pup. Generally, hip and elbow problems in the Shar pei will become apparent before the dog reaches the age of two years old, and if they appear to be fine after this time, it is highly unlikely that they will develop either condition later on.
Shar pei fever is the term commonly used to refer to swollen hock syndrome, which is a congenital condition that is prevalent across the breed. This condition involves a high fever for up to 24 hours at a time, accompanied by a build-up of fluid around the feet and ankles, giving them a swollen appearance. A range of other symptoms also accompany the condition in some dogs, including lethargy and general malaise, a loss of appetite, and stiff, swollen and painful limbs.
Amyloidosis is related to Shar pei fever, a condition caused by unprocessed amyloid proteins within the body’s organs. It most commonly affects the kidneys and liver, and can, in the long term, lead to kidney failure. This means that the condition requires careful monitoring and management for the duration of the dog’s life, but assuming that the condition is kept under control, affected Shar peis can generally lead an otherwise normal life.
Eye problems are also common across the Shar pei breed, and many of the potential conditions that can occur are again congenital.
Entropion and ectropion are two of the most common issues that face the Shar pei, due to the shape of the eyes and the loose skin surrounding the eye. Entropion refers to an inward folding of the eyelids, pressing and rubbing on the eye itself, while ectropion involves the opposite effect, with the eyelids folding outwards, exposing the sensitive mucous membranes of the eye.
In some cases, surgical correction of the problem may be required, as both conditions can be very irritating and painful for the dog, affecting their vision and comfort levels. Left untreated, either condition can lead to painful ulcers developing on the surface of the eye, which may ultimately lead to irreversible blindness.
The loose, wrinkled skin and harsh, almost sharp coat of the breed makes them prone to a range of skin problems, including a particular sensitivity to the Demodex canis mite, which causes a skin condition called demodetic mange. The condition is contagious between dogs, and can be challenging to fully eradicate successfully. The condition causes patchy hair loss and a generally unkempt coat appearance, with the most common areas of the body to be affected including the head, trunk and legs.
Because the condition can be hard to treat, a combination approach is usually taken, which may involve a range of cleansing shampoos, topical ointments, immune system stimulant medications, and antibiotics.
The loose skin folds of the dog also mean that these must be thoroughly cleaned and dried on a regular basis, as dirt, irritants and parasites can thrive within the dog’s skin folds. Left unchecked, this can lead to the development of sores and irritations, and even mould building up in the folds of the skin of dogs that are incorrectly cared for.
The skin folds of the Shar pei should be checked and cleaned, as well as thoroughly dried, on a daily basis in order to prevent this.