Chinese Shar-pei Health Care & Feeding
By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2018
Quick list of Chinese Shar-pei health problems
It's been said that if you feel like supporting your vet with great chunks of money, get a Chinese Shar-pei. Sadly, when a breed is deliberately made deformed (with loose folds of wrinkled skin, floppy eyelids, and narrow thickened ear canals), the dogs end up suffering.
Start with skin problems like seborrhea, or chronic itchy allergies that lead to bacterial and yeast infections. Eyelid diseases can require multiple surgeries to repair. Chronic ear infections. Malformations of the nostrils and throat that cause labored, noisy breathing – more surgeries.
Bad joints can cripple a Shar-pei. Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, luxating patella, and Chinese Shar-peis are very prone to tearing/rupturing the cruciate ligament in their hind legs. More surgeries for the orthopedic problems.
An inherited inflammatory disease called Familial Shar-pei Fever affects about 20% of the breed. If your dog is one of those 20%, he's also susceptible to a fatal kidney disease.
There's more. Tumors and cancers, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, bloat....
(See more health problems below.)
Preventing health problems
Some health problems are inherited. For example, if both parents of your Chinese Shar-pei have certificates proving they were tested and cleared of hereditary eye diseases, thyroid disease, luxating patella, and hip and elbow dysplasia, your Chinese Shar-pei has less risk of developing those conditions.
Other health problems can be prevented, or partially prevented, by the ways you raise your dog. If you're serious about doing everything you can for your Chinese Shar-pei, my best-selling book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to raise your Chinese Shar-pei puppy (or adult dog) in all the right ways. It will help you be your dog's health care champion!
Here are my dog health tips for raising a 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 the best life he can.
The Best Dog Food For Feeding Your Chinese Shar-pei
Food is the #1 foundation for good health. The best diet for feeding your dog is real food. Real chicken, turkey, beef, fish....these are not just "people foods" and I'll tell you why.
Kibble or Canned Dog Food – Almost As Good As Homemade?
Are you looking for the best dry kibble or canned dog food?
Feed Homemade Dog Food Without Needing To Make It
Would you like to feed your dog homemade, but think you don't have the time or skill to make it? I have the solution for you....
Should You Buy Pet Insurance? An Honest Review
My advice on the pros and cons of pet insurance, and the best pet insurance company I've found.
Vaccinations and Booster Shots: Needed or Not?
How many vaccinations does your Chinese Shar-pei puppy really need? Does your adult Chinese Shar-pei need yearly booster shots? The vaccination guidelines have changed! Find out what some vets aren't telling you.
Spaying Your Female Dog: Pros and Cons
Advantages and disadvantages of spaying your female dog.
Neutering Your Male Dog: Pros and Cons
Advantages and disadvantages of neutering your male dog.
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.
Assisi Loop Review: How I Helped Treat Inflammation and Pain
Does your dog suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, disk disease, colitis, a skin wound? My honest review of a veterinary device you can use at home to help reduce inflammation and pain.
Complete list of Chinese Shar-pei health problems
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 over 10,000 Chinese Shar-peis and found 16% dysplastic. That's very high for a medium-sized dog.
- But elbows are even worse – 25% of 700 elbow X-rays were dysplastic – the 10th worst rate of all breeds.
- Finally, Chinese Shar-peis have a 6% rate of luxating patella (loose knee joints).
Tumors and cancers abound in Shar-Peis – mast cell tumors, histiocytoma, lymphosarcoma, intestinal adenocarcinoma.
Let's talk about Familial Shar-pei Fever.
Familial Shar-pei Fever (FSF) is 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 include thyroid disease, colitis (inflammatory bowel disease), bloat, megaesophagus, and hernias.
To help you train and care for your dog
To learn more about training your dog to be calm and well-behaved, my dog training book is Teach Your Dog 100 English Words. It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your dog to listen to you and do whatever you ask.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a good-tempered, healthy dog.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to help your dog live a longer life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.