In general, your shar pei needs the same kind of care considerations as any other dog. A good diet, grooming, dental care and regular exercise will keep him in top form. However, your shar pei also has some special care needs because of his anatomy and genetics.
The shar pei's size, his wrinkly coat and his regal bearing might lead you to think that he's a high maintenance dog. Not so. He can be stubborn, but overall he's an affectionate, intelligent chap who is moderately easy to look after. He is happy with a daily walk of around 30 minutes, but don't take him out in extreme heat; he's susceptible to heat stroke, like most brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds. His short, wiry coat needs a regular brush, but don't bath him too often as it dries out his skin, which is prone to allergies. Use a hypoallergenic shampoo when you do bath him. A shar pei puppy's coat needs a bit more attention because of the numerous folds. You need to check these for signs of infection. He loses most of these folds as he grows, but keeps some around his face. His nails need clipped monthly by a vet or groomer as they grow quickly compared with some other breeds. His ears and eyes are the main areas that need special attention.
The breed standard requires a shar pei to have small, triangular ears that sit close to the head. As a result, air can't get to his ears and he's likely to develop a yeast infection. Often this just appears to be a case of dirty ears and there is no noticeable sign, or smell, of an infection. Watch out for him shaking his head frequently or pawing at his ears, which are also signs of infection. Examine his ears at least weekly and clean them with a damp cotton ball or use a canine ear cleaner. Your vet can recommend a suitable one.
Your shar pei is at particular risk of a condition called entropion. The eyelids roll inward and the eyelashes irritate the eyeball. This problem sometimes needs surgical correction, and its first symptoms are watery eyes. Undiagnosed it progresses to a corneal ulcer and eventually blindness. Dogs with this condition should not be used in breeding as it is suspected that there is a genetic cause.
Diet and Allergies
The shar pei is known to have allergic reactions to foods containing gluten, soy or corn. Starting him on a grain-free diet is an ideal way of preventing him from developing allergies. Adult shar peis raised on this type of diet show fewer incidences of itching and sores on the skin, which can be the No. 1 problem area for a shar pei, according to vet Dr. Jeff Vidt. You can switch your puppy over to a grain-free diet gradually, if he is already on another type of dog food. He is also more prone to digestive tract problems. An hereditary disorder of the esophagus can cause him to regurgitate undigested food, and if you notice signs of inflammatory bowel disease, such as vomiting and diarrhea combined with sudden weight loss, take him to the vet immediately.
Pneumonia and Respiratory Problems
According to Dr. Vidt, shar pei pups between 6 and 12 weeks old are at risk of bacterial pneumonia. This is attributed to a deficiency of immunoglobulin A , or IgA, in the breed. If you notice your puppy coughing or gagging you should seek veterinary attention immediately. Because he is a brachycephalic breed, like the much smaller pug, he is prone to respiratory problems, such as Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome. This is caused by a number of anatomical features of these short-nosed dog breeds.
Based in London, Eleanor McKenzie has been writing lifestyle-related books and articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in the "Palm Beach Times" and she is the author of numerous books published by Hamlyn U.K., including "Healing Reiki" and "Pilates System." She holds a Master of Arts in informational studies from London University.