Your Shar Pei's eyes probably are his weakest points. Genetics play a part in the poor pooch's eye problems, and his facial folds, which are an important part of his handsome appearance, unfortunately don't help. He may need eye surgery for two conditions, otherwise medication and care should help him.
Wrinkles and Eye Problems
A Shar Pei wouldn't be himself without his wrinkles. Plus, breed standards dictate the presence of facial folds. Unlike his owners, he starts off with a lot of wrinkles that gradually disappear as he reaches adulthood. Your Shar Pei's wrinkles are caused by a mutation that creates an abnormal amount of hyaluronan around his cells. This gel-like substance in the formation of his facial folds weakens his eyelids by making the edge of the eyelid weaker and the lid heavier. This is one factor in the development of entropion, a condition that shar peis are at a high risk to develop. Irritants in the environment are an additional potential cause. Vets and breed standard clubs agree that a dog who has been treated for entropion shouldn't breed as there is a significant hereditary factor in the condition.
As you'll notice, your Shar Pei's eyes are deep set and there is little support for his eyelids. Consequently, his eyelids, and his eyelashes, may roll inward. The eyelashes cause an irritation by scratching the eyeball. An irritant, such as dust, can cause the same problem. This is called "spastic entropion" and the vet treats it with opthalmic drops initially to relieve the discomfort. Tacking the eyelids back until the irritation clears is another treatment option. If eye tacking does not work, vets recommend surgery to correct the condition. Untreated entropion is very painful for your Shar Pei, and can lead to corneal ulcers and blindness. If your Shar Pei squints or has weepy eyes you should take him to the vet immediately.
A Shar Pei also is at risk of hereditary glaucoma. Goniodysgenisis is the clinical term for a condition where there is an abnormal development of the ligaments that allow fluid to circulate around the eyeball. The fluid may flow too slowly, or not at all, and without proper drainage pressure builds up around the eyeball causing glaucoma. Symptoms include red, watery eyes, eye spasms and a sensitivity to light. Your Shar Pei also may display some behavior changes, such as lack of appetite. Glaucoma can lead to blindness, so early treatment is needed. The earlier he is treated, the less likely he is to need surgery. Take him to the vet if you have any concerns about his eyes because glaucoma is a serious condition.
Cherry Eye and Retinal Dysplasia
The Shar Pei also is prone to a number of other canine eye problems. Retinal dysplasia occurs in about 10 percent of Shar Pei according to Dr. Jeff Vidt. This is a hereditary defect of the retina. There is no treatment, but most dogs cope with the condition. A more commonly found condition in Shar Peis is "cherry eye." This is a prolapse of the third eyelid in the inner corner of the eye. This acts as a kind of cleaner for the eyeball and it also contains a tear duct. You might notice a swelling in the corner of your dog's eye if the gland has popped. Your vet can suture the gland back in place. It doesn't cause your pet any pain but it can interfere with his vision.
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.