That interesting assortment of wrinkles called the shar pei certainly doesn't look like other canines. Unfortunately, those wrinkles also cause skin issues not associated with other dogs. If you bring a shar pei into your life, understand that the breed is prone to certain dermatological problems.
Skin Fold Dermatitis
This common, genetic shar pei skin issue occurs when skin in the folds of the wrinkles becomes irritated. The irritation occurs when hair and skin rub together, abetted by the skin's oily secretions. Skin fold dermatitis causes the dog intermittent pain. The skin in the folds becomes moist and inflamed, emitting a foul odor. Take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice this condition. You may want to find a vet familiar with shar pei skin issues, or go straight to a veterinary dermatologist.
Many dogs have the type of mite causing demodetic mange living on their skin with no apparent effect, as long as they have a healthy immune system. With the shar pei, what doesn't bother other canines produces serious effects. Demodetic mange often starts on the face, with red, scaly patches of inflamed skin and hair loss. If untreated, it continues to spread all over the dog. Your vet will take a skin scraping to determine if the issue is demodetic mange, although with a shar pei a skin biopsy may also be necessary. The vet may prescribe topical and oral antibiotics to combat infection.
Environmental allergies plague many dogs, resulting in skin problems, and the shar pei is especially vulnerable. Signs of allergies include hair loss, scratching and inflamed lesions. Your vet will take blood samples and skin scrapings to determine the cause of the problem. The dog may suffer from flea allergy dermatitis, food allergies, seasonal allergies to pollen or mold and a host of other triggers.
As the saying goes, it's worth a pound of cure. For shar peis, preventing skin issues involves frequent baths, as often as once a week. Brush your dog daily and inspect the coat and skin. Never let fleas get started - keep the shar pei on systemic flea control products year-round, so the little pests never get into those wrinkles. Feed high quality dog food, and keep his environment as clean as possible. That might entail washing his bedding every week and vacuuming the carpeting every few days, at minimum.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.