Shar Peis 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.
Shar Peis 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.
Shar Peis are loyal dogs that are known to be devoted to their family. They can be stubborn, making training more of a challenge, but it can be achieved using reward-based techniques and plenty of patience. As with all breeds, early socialisation is very important to get them used to other pets, people and a variety of situations, meaning they’ll grow up into sociable, confident dogs – for more tips on how to socialise your Shar Pei, and training using reward-based techniques, take a look at our dog behaviour page.
Grooming is needed on a weekly basis, but their facial wrinkles should be cleaned daily to prevent sores or infection.
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 Shar Peis 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.
- Eyelid problems – such as entropion and ectropion – occur in Shar Peis due to excessive skin over the face and eyes. This skin causes the eyelids to droop either downwards, or in towards the eye, where the skin rubs and irritates the eye, causing problems.
- Cherry eye – eversion of the nictitating membrane or ‘third eyelid’ generally occurs in younger dogs and can be surgically corrected.
- Skin infections – Shar Peis have lots of extra skin, especially over their face, which folds over and when bacteria builds up in the folds it causes skin fold pyoderma.
- Shar Pei ear canals are very small and narrow which makes them much more prone to ear infections – otitis externa.
- Hypothyroidism – is generally caused by an auto immune thyroiditis causing low circulating levels of thyroid hormone. Shar Peis can be more prone to this condition but it can generally be managed with medication.
- Gastric torsion or Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) – occurs in large, deep chested breeds such as Shar Peis. 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.
- Familial Shar Pei Fever – is an episodic fever disorder which causes a high temperature, painful swollen joints (especially the hock joints), swollen face and other symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea. Although the fever can generally be managed, most dogs suffering from this also suffer from amyloidosis, which means protein accumulates in areas of the body it shouldn’t, such as the kidneys, causing damage and often, death. If your Shar Pei shows any unusual symptoms you should seek veterinary advice straight away.
- Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) – occurs when the nostrils of a dog are narrowed (stenotic nares) and the soft palate is elongated. This causes breathing problems and symptoms such as exercise intolerance, increased noise when breathing and difficulty in breathing. Shar Peis are prone to this and it is often the cause of their characteristic snoring or wheezing. There are both surgical and medical managements available and you should speak to your vet if you think your Shar Pei is showing any symptoms of BOAS and having any difficulty breathing.
- Atopy – hypersensitivity to certain allergens, causing itching and skin trauma.
- Panosteitis – a painful, inflammatory bone disease.
- Luxating patellas - the kneecaps slipping temporarily out of place.
- Glaucoma – increased pressure within the eye.
- Lens luxation – dislocation of the lens of the eye.
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.
Shar Peis need around an hour of exercise per day, but never in heat as they don’t tolerate heat well.
Estimated lifetime cost:
The likely lifetime costs for a Shar Pei are based on estimates calculated using current market prices and include:
- Initial costs of the purchase of the pet
- First vaccinations and booster vaccinations
- Pet insurance
- Flea treatments
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 Shar Pei 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 Shar Pei's 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 Shar Pei with PDSA you’ll also be helping to provide vet care to some of the UK’s neediest pets.