Chinese Shar-pei Health Problems and Raising a Chinese Shar-pei Puppy to be Healthy
By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2014
The most common health problems in Chinese Shar-peis:
It's been said that if you feel like supporting your vet with great chunks of money, get a Chinese Shar-pei, because this breed is deformed in so many ways:
The loose folds of skin provide dark, warm, moist hiding places for bacteria and yeast, making Shar-Peis extremely prone to allergies, repeated bacterial infections (pyoderma), and seborrhea. Demodectic mange can also occur, along with an unusual skin condition in young Chinese Shar-peis, called cutaneous mucinosis. Mucin is a thick, clear fluid that is responsible for the skin wrinkles and padded muzzle of this breed. When a Shar-pei has too much mucin, it causes excessive skin folds and large bubbles and blisters on the skin. When these rupture, either by scratching or just from becoming too full, the fluid oozes out. This condition is usually cosmetic, affecting appearance but not health. Often the condition simply goes away on its own in middle age....though other skin conditions may have come come along to take its place.
The deep-set eyes and loose eyelids are extremely prone to eye problems, with the major eye disease being entropion (rolled-in eyelids). A Chinese Shar-pei Club health survey reported an incredible 35% rate of entropion in the breed. Entropion requires surgery, and some Chinese Shar-peis require multiple surgeries to fix their defective eyelids. Chinese Shar-pei puppies may actually need to have their eyelids temporarily "tacked" (stitched away from their eyes) just so they can stay open.
Other common eye diseases in Chinese Shar-peis include cherry eye, retinal dysplasia, and glaucoma.
Their ears aren't any better. Narrow, thickened ear canals and folded-over ear flaps limit air circulation and lead to wax build-up and chronic ear infections.
Their nostrils are often pinched too tightly together and the cartilage that helps shape the nostrils may be too soft, which makes it prone to collapsing, which restricts air flow when the dog tries to breathe. This serious condition is called stenotic nares and often requires surgery.
Their soft palate (the flap of skin across the back of the throat that prevents food and water from entering the windpipe) is often fleshy and elongated and tends to fall loosely into the throat. This causes noisy breathing and chronic snoring.
Orthopedic diseases are very common in Shar-peis, especially hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, luxating patella, and cruciate ligament rupture.
- The Orthopedic Foundation of America evaluated the hip X-rays of 8700 Chinese Shar-peis and found 13.5% dysplastic. That's high for a medium-sized dog, and the true rate is even higher because most of the obviously bad X-rays were not sent in for official evaluation.
- Elbows are worse – 29% of 206 elbow X-rays were dysplastic – the 4th worst rate of 82 breeds, and again, the true rate is even higher.
- Finally, Chinese Shar-peis have the 4th worst rate of luxating patella of 57 breeds, at 20%.
Tumors and cancers abound in Shar-Peis – mast cell tumors, histiocytoma, lymphosarcoma, intestinal adenocarcinoma.
Now let's talk about familial Shar-pei fever, an inherited inflammatory disease that affects about 20% of all Chinese Shar-Peis. In FSF, a Shar-pei suffers recurring episodes of high fever and swollen painful joints, especially the hock (ankle) joints in the hind legs. For this reason, FSF is often referred to as Swollen Hock Syndrome.
Why these inflammations occur is unknown, but may be related to a defective immune system. In any case, your dog feels very sick and may stand with his back roached, reluctant to move. The only good thing about an FSF episode is that it seldom lasts more than 24-36 hours. If the fever is only mild, a regular-strength aspirin can be given every 8-12 hours. An extremely high fever requires emergency treatment similar to heat stroke treatment. Since stress can be a trigger for FSF, you can help prevent episodes by avoiding vigorous exercise, travel, changes in lifestyle, conflicts in the home, etc.
Unfortunately, one in four Chinese Shar-Peis affected with FSF also develop a fatal kidney disease called renal amyloidosis. This is because the inflammation that occurs with FSF episodes produces certain chemicals in your dog's body. When the inflammation clears up, these chemicals are supposed to be broken down and excreted. If your particular Shar-pei is unable to break down these chemicals, they convert to a protein called amyloid AA. As FSF episodes continue to recur, the amyloid builds up into substantial deposits that press against the kidneys, and once this occurs, nothing can remove it or stop it from killing the kidney cells. Shar-Peis as young as 8 months and as old as 12 years die from amyloidosis, though the most common age is 3-5 years.
So if your Shar-Pei is one of the 20% affected with FSF, you must be constantly on watch for increased drinking and urination. Most importantly, have a urinalysis done every 3 months, and a blood panel run once a year. Renal amyloidosis is incurable, but there are palliative treatments that can slow it down and/or make your dog feel more comfortable.
Other health issues in Chinese Shar-peis – I know, you've heard more than enough already, but there are others! – hypothyroidism, colitis (inflammatory bowel disease), bloat, megaesophagus, and hernias.
Can you prevent health problems from happening to YOUR Chinese Shar-pei?
Yes, often you can.
- Some health problems are genetic, which means inherited from parents. Genetic health issues are common in Chinese Shar-peis today because of unwise breeding practices. My book, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, shows you how to find a Chinese Shar-pei puppy who is genetically healthy.
- Other health problems are environmental – caused by the way you raise your dog. My best-selling dog health book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy shows you how to prevent environmental health problems by raising your Chinese Shar-pei puppy (or adult dog) in all the right ways.
Here are my dog health tips for raising a healthy Chinese Shar-pei puppy or adult dog:
Dog Health Care – The Sensible Way
Read my advice on daily health care so your Chinese Shar-pei lives a long, healthy life and seldom needs to see the vet.
The Best Dog Food For Feeding Your Chinese Shar-pei
The best diet for feeding your Chinese Shar-pei is real food. Real chicken, turkey, beef, bison, venison, fish....This is not "people food" and I'll tell you why.
The Second-Best Dog Food For Your Chinese Shar-pei
If you can't feed homemade dog food, here are your next-best choices.
Vaccinations and Booster Shots: Needed or Not?
How many vaccinations does your Chinese Shar-pei puppy really need? Does your adult Shar-pei need yearly booster shots? The vaccination guidelines have changed. Find out what many vets aren't telling you.
The Type of Veterinarian I Recommend
Is your veterinarian really the best choice for your dog? Learn about the differences between vets who practice conventional, holistic, and alternative veterinary medicine.
Spaying Your Female Dog: Pros and Cons
Advantages and disadvantages of spaying your female Chinese Shar-pei.
Neutering Your Male Dog: Pros and Cons
Advantages and disadvantages of neutering your male dog.
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