Shar Peis are known for their unusual and distinctive skin wrinkles. In 1978 the Chinese Shar Pei was one of the rarest dog breeds in the world, and this means that every Shar Pei alive today comes from a small number of breeding individuals, so inbreeding had to take place in order to increase their population. This has caused a high incidence of inherited diseases.
When purchasing a Shar Pei chose one that has been genetically screened by the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals; www.offa.org) to help minimize the numerous genetic conditions of this breed.
Before you purchase one you need to be familiar with the significant and chronic diseases you will be dealing with for the life of your pet.
Hip dysplasia, loose knee caps, and elbow dysplasia are not uncommon. Any limping or lameness in the legs that does not resolve after 1-2 days of rest should be checked for these congenital diseases.
An eye problem with the retina can occur. If your pet has any vision problems this needs to be checked by a veterinary ophthalmologist.
They also get a problem where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland and prevents it from producing enough thyroxine (thyroid hormone). This disease can cause many different symptoms, so any sign of disease warrants and exam and blood panel.
Skin problems are very common in Shar Peis, including allergies and skin and ear infections. They can become chronic in nature leading to debilitating conditions and unnecessary suffering. Any skin problem needs immediate diagnosis and usually long term treatment to prevent it from progressing.
Entropion, a painful eye condition where the eyelids roll inwards and allow the eyelashes to irritate the surface of the cornea. This condition usually needs surgical correction, and if untreated can lead to blindness. Squinting, pawing at the eyes, or eye discharge are the first signs of this problem.
Familial Shar Pei Fever is a serious and common inherited disease causing chronic fevers, swollen hocks and debilitation. There is no test for Shar Pei Fever, but some dogs may respond to treatment if instituted early enough.
Share Pei fever can also lead to Amyloidosis, an enzyme deficiency results in abnormal accumulations of amyloid proteins, causing liver or kidney failure.
Shar Pei are high maintenance dogs and need constant monitoring for problems. Keeping their weight down, and having their teeth cleaned every 6 months with our non-anesthetic dental, along with constant monitoring for problems, is the best way for them to achieve their full lifespan.
All of these possible problems emphasize the need for yearly exams and routine diagnostic tests to catch problems early. Many of the diseases of this breed are found in the Diseases section of our web site.