Chow Chow Breed Information

Chow Chows are amongst a group of breeds classed as ‘Category Three’ by The Kennel Club. These are breeds of dog that have been highlighted as having visible conditions or conformational issues that can cause pain, discomfort or health issues due to exaggerations. This means that these breeds of dog have been bred over many years to look a certain way but that these changes to the way they look have started to cause them health problems.

Chow Chows are a member of the ‘Utility’ breed group. Dogs in the Utility group were essentially bred for a specific purpose and so contain a variety of breeds. The function they have been bred for is not included in the sporting and working categories.

Chow Chows are known to become very attached to one person and can be very reserved, even with family members, and quite suspicious of strangers. They can sometimes be aggressive towards other dogs, so socialisation from a young age is key. To learn more about socialisation, take a look at our dog behaviour page.

Breed-related health problems:

Although some of these health problems are manageable, it’s been identified that it’s in the best interests of the dog to try and selectively breed to decrease the characteristics which cause the health problems. Some of the characteristics and associated health problems you’ll want to know more about in relation to Chow Chows include:

  • Joint disorders – such as elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia – occur when joints don’t develop correctly and cause degenerative joint disease. Bone and joint problems can be managed but there are schemes to screen your dog and see how likely it is that they will suffer from these joint problems.
  • Patella luxation – where the patella or ‘knee cap’ moves abnormally causing lameness. This can generally be corrected surgically.
  • Eyelid problems – such as entropion and ectropion – occur in Chow Chows as they can have excessive skin over the face and eyes and their eyes can be quite small and deep set. If the eyelids droop either downwards, or in towards the eye, the skin will rub and irritate the eye, causing problems.
  • Cherry eye – eversion of the nictitating membrane or ‘third eyelid’ – generally occurs in younger dogs and can be surgically corrected.
  • Hypothyroidism is generally caused by an auto immune thyroiditis causing low circulating levels of thyroid hormone. Chow Chows can be more prone to this condition but it can normally be managed with medication.
  • Gastric torsion or Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) – occurs in large, deep chested breeds such as Chow Chows. The stomach fills with gas (bloat) and can twist around on itself. This most commonly occurs after they have eaten. If your dog shows any signs of bloating, vomiting unproductively (trying to be sick but nothing being produced) or if you are worried they could be bloated you should speak to your vet straight away – this condition requires urgent veterinary attention.
  • Chow Chows have a very thick coat and can be prone to skin infections. You should regularly groom your Chow Chow and check their skin. If you notice a problem such as over grooming or any lesions on the skin you should visit your vet.
  • Panosteitis – a painful, inflammatory bone disease.
  • Hydrocephalus (water on the brain) – increased accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles of the brain.

For more information about these and other health problems you can speak to your vet or visit the Kennel Club or the Chow Chow Breed Council.

For some conditions, there are screening programmes available through the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Kennel Club. The Canine Health Schemes allow breeders to screen for a range of inherited diseases, so it’s a good idea to check the parents of any puppy you’re looking to rehome have been screened under these schemes. We’d also recommend discussing the medical history of your potential puppy’s parents and grandparents, and think very carefully before taking on a dog with any of the health conditions listed above evident in the family line.

You can find out more about the Canine Health Schemes on the BVA's website.

Exercise requirements:

Chow Chows need up to an hour of exercise daily, but shouldn't be walked in hot weather. They have dense coats which require daily grooming, particularly when shedding. They’ll also need regular cleaning of their facial wrinkles.

Estimated lifetime cost:

The likely lifetime costs for a Chow Chow are based on estimates calculated using current market prices and include:

The list above does not include veterinary costs if your pet becomes sick or injured, so these average lifetime costs could be even higher.

Insure your Chow Chow with PDSA:

1 in 3 pets need vet treatment each year and vet bills can come to hundreds of pounds. PDSA Pet Insurance can give you peace of mind when your pet is poorly, especially for breeds like Chow Chows that are prone to certain conditions. PDSA Pet Insurance offers:

  • 5 Star Pet Insurance* - from the vet experts
  • 4 levels of cover to suit you
  • Monthly payment at no extra cost

*Defaqto 5 Star rating applies to our Plus and Premier policies only. Defaqto’s Star Ratings provide an independent assessment of the quality of financial products.

By insuring your Chow Chow with PDSA you’ll also be helping to provide vet care to some of the UK’s neediest pets.

For more information on taking care of your dog please visit our puppies and dogs section.

Rehoming from a reputable source:

Where you get a dog from can have a big effect on how healthy and happy it is for the rest of its life. Find out where our PDSA vet experts recommend you get your dog from.

Energy levels
Easy to train
Exercise needed
Barking/likely to be vocal
Size Medium
Average height 46-56 cm
Average weight 20-31.5 kg
Average lifespan Under 10 years
Minimum exercise (per day) 1 hour
Coat length Medium
Minimum cost (per month) £80

Not sure if the Chow Chow is the right pet for you?