Shar Pei is a breed of dog whose distinctive
feature is deep wrinkles. The name (pinyin: sha pí)
itself translates to "Sand Skin," not because
of their colors, but because of their texture. As young
puppies, they have lots of wrinkles, but as they mature,
the wrinkles disappear as they "grow into their
skin". They were not recognized by the American
Kennel Club until 1991.
The Chinese variety of Shar Pei looks like
a Doberman Pinscher with small floppy ears, long legs,
and a narrow face. Coming in many colors, it has the
same characteristic blue-black tongue of the Chow Chow.
The wrinkles are seen only on the face and back. Through
selective breeding, the American variety of Shar Pei
has very short, stubby legs, many wrinkles covering
all of its body, and a wide "hippo face".
The tail curls up and rests on the back.
A common problem caused by irresponsible
inbreeding is excessive wrinkling of the skin that causes
an eye condition which turns the eyelashes inward, thus
irritating the eye and possibly causing infection. This
condition is called entropion and can be fixed by surgery
("tacking" the eyelids up so they won't roll
onto the eyeball). Skin infections are also common in
this breed due to the folds and wrinkles, as is dry,
flaky skin which can be remedied by frequent bathing
using a special shampoo. One of the causes of skin problems
in the Shar Pei is feeding the dog too much rich food;
Shar Pei were developed in poor areas, and thus evolved
to survive on very poor diets. As a result, the dog
has difficulty coping with high protein diets. High
protein diets also increase the risk of a serious kidney
disease called amyloidosis. The disease causes short
fevers lasting 24 hours, after which there may be no
more recurrence; alternatively they may recur at more
frequent intervals, becoming more serious, and eventually
resulting in kidney or liver failure. Susceptability
to this disease is recessive, and surfaces when both
of a dog's parents carry it.