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Chinese Shar-pei Health Care & Feeding

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Last Updated: October, 2019

Chinese Shar-pei

Start your Shar-pei off on the right foot by feeding the right food, giving the right vaccinations, finding the right vet, and if you're going to spay or neuter, don't do it too early.


Jump down to this list of
Chinese Shar-pei Health Problems


Or check out my advice for raising a healthy Chinese Shar-pei puppy or adult dog:

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Information on spaying Spaying Your Female Dog: Pros and Cons
Should your female Chinese Shar-pei be spayed? Current research says, "The AGE at which you spay can be vitally important to your dog's future health." So what's the best age? [read more]

Information on neutering your male dog. Neutering Your Male Dog: Pros and Cons
Have you been told that you must neuter your male Shar-pei? Current research shows that the issue is not so simple. Pet owners are not being told about some risks associated with neutering male dogs, especially neutering too early... [read more]

Information on choosing the best vet Make Sure Your Vet is the Best!
Is your current veterinarian really the best choice for your dog? Here's how to tell... [read more]

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Chinese Shar-pei

Complete 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 (loose folds of wrinkled skin, small deep-set eyes, loose floppy eyelids, thick narrow ear canals), the dogs end up suffering.

Skin diseases in Chinese Shar-pei

The loose folds of skin that some owners find "appealing" 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's responsible for the skin wrinkles and padded muzzle of this breed. The fluid makes the skin layers puffy instead of flat. When a Shar-pei has excessive mucin, it causes excessive skin folds and large bubbles and blisters on the skin. When these rupture, either by the dog scratching or just from becoming too full, the fluid oozes out. Fortunately this condition often goes away on its own in middle age.... although other skin conditions may have come come along to take its place.

Eye diseases in Chinese Shar-pei

The deep-set eyes and loose eyelids are extremely prone to eye problems, with the major eye disease being entropion (rolled-in eyelids).

A health survey done by the Chinese Shar-pei Club reported an incredible 35% rate of entropion in the breed.

Entropion requires surgery to repair and some Shar-peis require multiple surgeries. Some Chinese Shar-pei puppies 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.

Ear disorders in Chinese Shar-pei

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 or mites.

Nostril disorders in Chinese Shar-pei

The nostrils of a Chinese Shar-pei 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.

Throat disorders in Chinese Shar-pei

Some Shar-peis have a misshapen soft palate, which is a flap of skin across the back of their throat that prevents food and water from entering their windpipe.

When this flap of skin is fleshy and elongated, it tends to fall loosely into the throat. This causes noisy breathing and chronic snoring.

Orthopedic diseases in Chinese Shar-pei

Bad joints can cripple a Shar-pei. The usual culprits are hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and luxating patella (loose knees).

  • 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.
  • Shar-peis have a 6% rate of luxating patella (loose knee joints).
  • And this isn't a joint, but the Chinese Shar-pei is very prone to tearing/rupturing the cruciate ligament in their hind legs. Why? Because breeders want their dogs to have extremely straight rear legs, instead of gently curved. Straight legs are "wired" more tightly, not only making the dog move more stiffly, but also being more prone to ligament tears when, say, the dog runs up or down stairs. Torn ligaments usually require expensive surgery and a long recovery time.

Tumors and cancers in Chinese Shar-pei

Tumors and cancers abound in Shar-Peis – mast cell tumors, histiocytoma, lymphosarcoma, intestinal adenocarcinoma.

Shar-pei Fever

Finally, there is 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.

Miscellaneous

Other serious health issues in Chinese Shar-peis include thyroid disease, colitis (inflammatory bowel disease), bloat, and megaesophagus.

Preventing health problems

Some health problems are inherited. For example, if your dog inherits from his parents the genes for an eye disease called PRA, he will go blind and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Dog feeding and health book by Michele Welton But most health problems can be prevented by the ways you raise your dog.

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 in all the right ways that help prevent health problems. Become your dog's health care champion!

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

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If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
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