The word Sharpei literally means “sandy coat” because of their unique skin. When you touch a Sharpei’s skin, it feels rough and coarse. That’s why it is important to check for allergies first before getting a dog of this breed. The coat is further grouped into the horse coat, brush coat and the rare bear coat – which is not actually recognized by the American Kennel Club. The different between the horse and brush coat is on the ‘feel’ of the coat. The brush coat feels a lot smoother and softer compared to the horse coat which can sometimes be irritating and itchy. These dogs are also said to be related to Chow Chows because of the purple-blue tongue color which is unique to both breeds.
Sharpei’s have a particular temperament when it comes to strangers and small animals. They are not good with sudden unfamiliar presence whether it is a human or not. Though usually calm in disposition, this dog can easily strike whenever provoked suddenly. If ever you might need to bring a visitor or bring your Sharpei to the vet, make sure to introduce these acquaintances gently and gradually to your Sharpei. This entails the importance of socialization during puppyhood to avoid accidents and bites. Furthermore, Sharpei don’t like water! They have a certain dislike to play around with water as they hate getting wet. Bathing is suggested only once a week with regular brushing and grooming.
Sharpei’s are superstars when it come being high maintenance in terms of their health. These dogs have quite a long list of health related issues mainly focused on their coat. One is entropion – the inward rolling of the eyelid that causes irritation and increased tear production. When getting a Sharpei, you have to be prepared to subject your dog to eyelid tucking surgeries throughout his life. Another is the impetigo or the skin fold dermatitis common to Sharpei’s. This is caused by the constant skin rubbing leading to bacterial Staphylococcus sp. infections. This is most observed as reddening and moistening of the skin around the muzzle. Demodectic mange is also a frequent occurrence as these organisms (Demodex sp.) are normally found on the skin flora and proliferate when the skin is initially exposed to infection. Demodex is a skin condition which requires time and patience during treatment. It takes months and sometimes years to properly eliminate the reddening, pigmentation and itching. Moreover, they are also prone to hypothyroidism and slow metabolism that manifest as hair loss, dandruff and pigmentation. These dogs also naturally contain a recessive gene that causes the Familial Sharpei Fever that starts during puppyhood. Fever is observed on and off for a few days with joint swelling and protein deposition on the kidney. This disease affects 1 in 10 Sharpei’s. Treatment and diagnosis however, are still under study.
Sharpei’s make good watchdogs and territorial guards besides having all the attitude and health issues. The most important thing is being prepared and getting to know what to expect when getting a dog of this breed.