Familial Shar-Pei fever is also known by other names including swollen hock syndrome and simply Shar-Pei fever, and is a hereditary condition that affects only the Shar-Pei dog breed, and some cross-breed dogs with Shar-Pei ancestry. While the condition does not affect all dogs of the breed, it does affect a significant number, and as such, is something that all Shar-Pei owners or potential Shar-Pei owners should be aware of.
It is thought that the condition happens due to an abnormal response of the immune system, and as well as posing a problem in and of itself, the condition can also increase the chances of an affected dog developing kidney problems or liver disease in later life. The abnormal immune response produced as part of the condition is thought to lead to an overproduction of white blood cells, which causes inflammation.
In this article, we will look at familiar Shar-Pei fever in more detail, including its causes, symptoms and treatment. Read on to learn more.
Familiar Shar-Pei fever occurs only in dogs of the Shar-Pei breed, and mixed or cross breeds with Shar-Pei ancestry. It affects both male and female dogs with an equal rate of occurrence, and generally becomes symptomatic in dogs that will be affected by the condition before they reach the age of eighteen months, but less commonly, can be diagnosed later on in older dogs too.
Familial Shar-Pei fever leads to recurrent, frequent bouts of fever and inflammation, which affect the joints, most commonly the hock joints. Flare-ups will not necessarily affect the same joint or joints every time, and can affect one or more joints in combination.
Dogs suffering from familial Shar-Pei fever usually present with one or more symptoms, which commonly include:
Attacks or flare-ups of bouts of familial Shar-Pei fever generally last for between one and two days at a time, and the most common and obvious indication of a flare-up in progress is swollen joints in the hind legs, most commonly around the hocks. However, some dogs will show clear signs of pain and stiffness without any obvious inflammation accompanying it.
The very evidence of your dog’s breed is often one of the clearest indicators to the vet of a potential diagnosis of familial Shar-Pei fever, although a range of other conditions that generally present with similar symptoms, including Lyme disease, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus will also need to be ruled out.
Your vet will run a range of diagnostic tests, potentially including blood and urine panels, biopsies and x-ray examination in order to get a full picture of your dog’s health and what is going on, and to determine the cause of their symptoms.
Familial Shar-Pei fever cannot be cured, but there are various different ways to manage it on an ongoing basis in order to ease the pain and discomfort of symptoms, and help your dog to lead a normal, happy life.
Exactly what your vet can do for your dog will vary from case to case, but in severe flare-ups, your vet may need to hospitalise your dog and provide a range of supporting therapies, including IV fluids, anti-inflammatory medications, and medications to help to manage pain.
Feeding a low-protein diet can sometimes help to lessen the symptoms of familial Shar-Pei fever, and make flare-ups less pronounced when they do occur.
In pronounced, severe presentations of the condition, familial Shar-Pei fever can ultimately lead to kidney failure and liver disease, which can of course shorten your dog’s lifespan and lead to the need for supportive therapies, such as dialysis and fluid therapy. Feeding a prescription diet designed to help with these conditions can help to prolong your dog’s viable lifespan and improve their quality of life.
There is no pre-breeding screening test available at the present time to detect hereditary familial Shar-Pei fever within the breed line, but dogs with the condition are highly likely to pass it on to their offspring, and so should not be used for breeding.
If you own a Shar-Pei, you should familiarise yourself with the symptoms of the condition and talk to your vet immediately if your dog becomes symptomatic, and if your dog has been diagnosed with familial Shar-Pei fever, you should monitor them closely at home, including taking their temperature regularly, in order to identify and act in the case of flare-ups.