MAINTENANCE

& CARE A-Z

Shar-Pei are actually very clean dogs and do not get overly dirty or smelly if properly maintained. We wash our dogs once or twice a year unless they get extraordinarily filthy. A good coat brush helps to remove dead skin and loose fur as well as dirt and dust. Washing your Pei too often can cause more harm than good by stripping away their natural oils.  Due to the Shar-Pei small ear canal they require weekly or bi-weekly ear cleaning. You can use Zymox with 1% Hydrocortisone but we do not recommend the ear wash that would get from your vet. We found it made matters worse with our Pei. When cleaning ears it is important to fill the canal, gently massage the base of the ear, let the dog shake it out and wipe inner ear with a cotton ball. If you do not stay on top of your Pei ears,  infections can flare up. We recommend trimming nails weekly or bi-weekly depending on your pet's nail growth. When fed poor diets filled with starches and sugary grains yeast can get out of control causing a huge issue with this breed. This is why good nutrition is extremely important.

HEALTH ISSUES

Due to almost going extinct Shar-Pei have a very small gene pool. Most of today's Shar-Pei can be traced back to the original 200 that were smuggled into the United States.

While many breeders have tried to improve the breed many others have bred for money and certain looks causing many potential health issues in the breed.  All breeds have potential health problems, some more than others but I will provide a list of some of the potential issues in the Shar Pei breed.  In the event of a potential health issue, early recognition is key so professional help can be sought out quickly.

 

I always suggest to assume a Shar-Pei is immune compromised. Avoid over vaccination (I follow Dr, Dodd's delayed and reduced vaccine schedule.), avoid over medication or giving immune suppressing drugs. Take a more holistic/ practical approach to their care and maintenance.  Modern medicine saves lives but it is not one size fits all. 

Our greatest advice is to research the breed, keep an open line of communication with your breeder and join a Shar-Pei health forum online. 

If you ever considered a health insurance for your dog this is the breed you would want covered.

ALLERGIES

Like people Shar-Pei can be susceptible to allergies caused by food, grass, plants, etc while some allergies are Atopy: an allergy caused from things dogs inhale). (I highly recommend good gut health with pro and pre biotics to help fight this. I have come to realize with this breed that over vaccinations tend to create more issues with Allergies and other Pei ailments. We must treat these dogs as immune compromised to reduce their chances of disease) 

Allergies can causes the dog to lick their paws, scratch, and rub their muzzle. loose hair, itch, watery eyes and so on. You can help with allergy suffering by using the correct type of shampoo and administering antihistamines or cortisone which are common forms of treatment. Always consult a vet for proper treatment and care if allergies start to get out of hand.      I highly suggest to stay away from Apoquel

CANCER

In regard to cancer, there are several forms in the breed, the most common being mast cell.  It is called this because it comes from the mast cells, whose function has a role in allergic and inflammatory reactions. It's complete roll is not fully known but these cells are usually located in connective tissues and release, as a part of their normal function that assist the body in inflammatory and immune responses.

CARPAL LAXITY

This is a weakness is the carpal ligaments which causes instability and bowing forward in young puppies. Decrease the protein level and exercise on a non-slippery surface. In severe cases soft splints will be required. If you suspect this in your puppy get an Ester C supplement added to your puppies diet. To avoid this please refrain from feeding a puppy puppy food unless it is a food specifically designed for large/ giant breeds. While a Shar-Pei is not a large or giant breed they do grow exactly like one and so require a similar diet.

FEEDING/ SUPPLEMENTS

Chinese Shar-Pei grow incredibly fast. They should never be fed a puppy food. It is important to feed a high quality grain free, soy free, corn free, starch free diet. Raw is ideal but most families do not have the time or money for it. The top kibble brands I recommend are as follows: Nature's Logic ( best on the market for the breed). Next in line I recommend Farmina, Arcana or Orijen they make a great quality food but still a bit pricey for some or multiple dog households. If you need to stay at a reasonable price but still want a quality food go with Victor High Pro Plus.

Pei are prone to kidney disease and benefit from a diet with added moisture. Bone broth, canned varieties of food, home cooked, puree baby food, sardines ( no salt added) are all excellent ways to give treats or add toppers to the kibble. Be mindful of salt intake.

We supplement our dogs and pups with Raw Goats milk and Bovine Symbiotic Colostrum for immune support. Apple cider vinegar in their food as well as an occasional dollop of plain whole Greek Yogurt or plain Kefir to help control yeast. We also add an omega fish oil or raw coconut oil for healthy skin and coat.

Dogs do not need fruits and veggies but they do like an occasional treat like carrots or blueberries. approved fruit and veggies should be given in moderation.

Never give your dog onions, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, chocolate, fruit pits or seeds. Never give any fake sugars or sugar free items to your dog,  xylitol will kill your dog.

CUTANEOUS MUCINOSIS

Mucin is the substance in the Shar-Pei skin that causes all the wrinkling. It is clear and stringy and acts like glue in open wounds. Some Shar-Pei have an excess of Mucin causing it to form clear bubbles on the skin that may rupture and ooze. It can possibly be associated with allergies and can be treated by steroid therapy (only suggested if the mucin is severe and causing your Pei to be very uncomfortable). Excessive mucinosis can also occur with hypothyroidism.  Severe mucinosis interfere with breathing if the bubbles are in the back of the mouth too. This has a lot to do with Pei that snort and snore, the danger with severe Mucinosis it can increase the risks associated with general anesthetics, if repeated treatment is required, hypothyroidism must be ruled out.

If your Shar-Pei only have mucinosis with no other illness, then they may "grow out" of mucinosis by 5 years of age. However, after 5 years of age if the mucinosis has healed and returns a few years later then a biopsy is recommended, as it may show up as mass cell tumors in some areas of the skin previously diagnosed as muccinosis.  My best advise for treating localized Mucin is to clean area with antibacterial soap and warm water, you can apply Bactine Spray on the area and if it is really inflamed you can use Baby Bordaux butt paste. ( Do not let your Pei lick any of these applications) Areas must be kept clean and dry.

Be mindful, many times underlying infections can spring up due to an uncaught wound that closed up overnight due to the sticky glue like tenancy of the mucin.  Always inspect your pet after playing with another animal or roughhousing in the yard. Their skin tears easily and heals up just as easily. If you suspect a wound clean with antibacterial soap and water and then spray inside the wound with bactine spray. Keep area clean and dry.

EARS AND PSEUDOMONAS INFECTION

Due to the breed standard calling for small ears, this results in the Shar-Pei having very narrow ear canals. frequent cleaning is often necessary to avoid problems. If ear irritation is noticed it may be necessary to create a routine cleaning once every week or every two weeks depending on the individual dog, (Over-cleaning can also cause inflammation). 


Use cotton swabs with an ear solution such as Zymox. ( I recommend the blue bottle with 1% hydrocortisone) Do not use cotton swabs as it can push the build-up further down the ear canal. After you have cleaned the ears with a cleaner, let them shake (loosen debris)  and then clean the debris from inside the ear flaps and around the canal entry with the cotton ball. 

The first signs of an ear infection that you will see is your dog scratching the affected ear or shaking their head. Many dogs to a lowered ear accompanied by a head tilt. There may be a discharge and/or smell from the ear, as well as possibly  redness, swelling, crusting or pain in the affected ear.

Examination of the ear canal by a veterinarian using an auroscope will confirm the diagnosis, sometimes a vet may need to flush the ear out under anesthetic.

 'Atopic Dermatits' can affect the ear's - you should always consult a Vet.

Dogs with  chronic ear infections should have a complete medical exam to eliminate the possibility of underlying  disease like, hypothyroidism or cushings disease which are common underlying reason for bad ears.

If atopy (an allergic condition caused by inhaled allergens) is the cause, you may need to give low doses of anti-inflammatory medicine during the season. If food allergy is the cause, then a special diet may be needed. If the dog is hypothyroid (under-active thyroid), continuous thyroid therapy will be needed.

Otitis externa, it is an inflammation and infection of the external ear canal and is commonly seen in dogs, there are many causes such as foreign body, yeasts, parasites, bacterial or fungi.

Hematoma, is a soft swelling on the ear flap usually caused by a collection of blood from a broken blood vessel. It can be brought on by a bite or by violent head shaking, by the dog. Hematomas should be drained or they can become re-absorbed. The absorption can potentially cause a cauliflower like ear

EYE TACKING & ENTROPION

The Shar-Pei are one of a number of breeds that can have this condition. This is where the eyelid rolls in towards the eye, rubbing against the cornea and irritating it. Infections and corneal ulcer can occur. When a puppy is young they have an over abundance of wrinkles which cause a temporary entropion like condition. This is where eye taking comes into play. Temporary tackings help protect the eye from the skin fold and lashes until the pup grows into their wrinkles.  Many times if the puppy does not grow out of this or the condition or is too severe for tacking surgical correction is required.  *Entropion operation (* should not be carried out on a young puppy unless problem is extreme it is best to wait until the pup is at least 8 months old). Shar-Pei puppies grow in spurts. Their fat and wrinkled skin grows before the structure. Many times a puppy can go in and out of a need to be tacked during these growth spurts. Getting tacks is an emergency and you can not leave the puppy untreated for too long or the ulcer can occur and eventually become un-repairable. If your vet is unfamiliar see someone who is. If your vet is trying to get you to get a face lift or do a entropion surgery on a baby go see someone else! I am happy to help advise your vet where to find the information on the procedure. This is not a major surgery and is less work than a spay /neuter. If you are being quoted more than a spay neuter find another vet! 

FAMILIAL SHAR-PEI FEVER / AMYLOIDOSIS / SWOLLEN HOCK SYNDROME

Familial Shar-Pei fever also known as Swollen Hock Syndrome (SHS) usually includes the following symptoms:

  1. Swelling of the hock joint and/or other joints

  2. Reluctance to move, roached back, obvious signs of pain like shivering

  3. A swollen painful muzzle in some cases.

  4. Abdominal pain, shallow breathing, vomiting and diarrhea.

This is one of the worst conditions an owner could experience. This is a genetic condition.

"Familial Shar-Pei Fever (FSF) is an episodic fever disorder. Shar-Pei with this disorder have one or more bouts of unexplained fever, usually 103º-107º degrees Fahrenheit and rare cases may go higher. If fever reaches 106º and higher it is an emergency situation and you must go to the vet without delay.

Dogs suffering from this disorder are at risk of dying from a related disorder, Amyloidosis. An inability to break down chemicals released in the bloodstream when inflammation results from abnormal deposition of amyloid protein throughout the body. If it looks like an FSF episode, it probably is.  Educate yourself about the disorder – what you don’t know will hurt you. We encourage close breeder relations and joining a Shar-Pei health forum.

Have routine blood chemistry tests and first morning urine sample urinalysis done on all Shar-Pei annually after 2 years of age to look for potential kidney or liver issues.

Most Common Signs of Advanced Amyloidosis

  • Increased thirst / frequency of urination

  • Vomiting

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Bad Breath / Foul Smelling (smell as a result of uremia)

(buildup of toxins/wastes in the bloodstream due to kidneys / liver failing to process them )

 

Colchicine is the treatment of choice for dogs with FSF because it has been known to reduce the frequency and severity of fevers, and can help to prevent amyloidosis.

Fevers usually start when they are less then 18 months old but sometimes the first attack is not until adulthood.


Fever episodes usually become less frequent with age and generally last 24-36 hours in most cases without treatment. The disorder is thought to result from an inability to regulate the immune system. 

HIP DYSPLASIA

Affecting many breeds, this is a developmental malformation or subluxation of the hip joints A dysplastic dog has an abnormal hip joint where the femur and acetabulum are misaligned. This can range in severity. Never over exercise a puppy, avoid letting them jump on and off the furniture especially on hard surfaces, avoid running on hard surfaces. Hip Dysplasia is not always inherited. 

HYPOTHYROIDISM

A common endocrine disease where the body produces an abnormally low amount of thyroid hormones. An autoimmune destruction of the thyroid gland which affects many breeds. The thyroid glands secrete a hormone which controls the basic metabolic rate of the entire body. Inadequate hormone levels reset the body to function at a lower metabolic level. In that case, dogs fatten easily on a normal diet and become slow and sluggish.

Hair changes are most noticeable in the form of hair loss from the flanks and back, increased pigmentation of the skin, scaling and seborrhoea (an abnormality in the production of skin cells.) Secondary bacterial infection of the skin is common. 

The ears may also be affected, filling with thick, yellow greasy material which may predispose the dog to ear infections. Blood tests will determine the level of thyroid function and administration of thyroid hormone can treat the condition.

LENS LUXATION

A condition where the lens in the eye is displaced into an abnormal position leading to abnormally high pressure in the eye, often causing blindness if untreated quickly.

An irritated eye with a 'blueing' on the cornea often indicates this condition. Normal treatment generally requires rapid surgical removal of the lens in the eye and the condition will often occur in the other eye within a short period of time.

TIGHT LIP SYNDROME

This is where the excess flesh from the lower lip covers the teeth making it difficult for the Shar Pei to chew. The excess flesh also traps food and is often associated with an overbite.