Friday, 12 June 2015

Shar Pei: tacky, tacky, tacky

This is a Shar Pei pup being sold online currently in the UK - one from a litter priced at £700 - £1800 depending on colour. All KC registered.

Now I know some will hyperventilate about the non-standard colours. But for me the main issue is that these dogs have needed surgery before they're eight weeks old - what's known as "eye tacking". It's a procedure to prevent the eyelids rolling in and ulcerating the dogs' eyes and it's necessary when you're breeding very wrinkled dogs to meet a market oblivious to the suffering this causes.

In this case, the breeder of these KC-registered pups boasts that the puppies' eyes have been tacked by Shar Pei expert, vet Iain Fraser (of Rufford Vets in Southport).

I realise this is a tough one for vets. If they refuse to tack, the pups could end up going blind - and their first priority must be to alleviate the suffering in front of their own eyes.

But of course,  in doing so, they help perpetuate the problem - and also implicitly endorse the breeding of dogs this dreadful  As you can see, Iain Fraser's name is used as kudos in this ad. 

I don't know what the answer is here. But I know that that people should not be breeding dogs that looks like this. I also know that while vets agree to treat them without at least recommending that the dam is spayed, and while the KC continues to register them, the suffering will continue. 


  1. I think it's pretty common practice for veterinarians to agree to do surgeries that repair genetic damage only if they are allowed to also neuter the animal at the same time. I imagine you know this so I'm not sure why you didn't suggest it in this post -- the age of the puppies, maybe? When I did my shelter medicine internship I saw a lot of pediatric surgeries on puppies of this age, and they do great.
    -Jessica Hekman, DVM, MS

    1. Paediatric neutering not a huge thing here in the UK - and rightly so in my opinion. Sure, the pups recovery quickly, but there is increasing evidence of the long-term negative effects of early spay/neutering.

      It is possible, perhaps, that Shar Pei specialist vets like Iain Fraser could do more by way of education - perhaps a leaflet to Pei owners about the cost of the wrinkles, to include pictures of the much cleaner traditional/'bone mouth' Shar Pei.

    2. Jemima - I normally argee with everything you say but you need to reconsider this.
      Pediatric neutering is safe and the negative effects are minimal - no real evidence that there is a difference to normal prepubertal desexing. It is a great tool for preventing the indiscriminate breeding of dogs and problems such as inverted vulva or these poor puppies could be permanently corrected. I have desexed over 2,500 puppies at 6 weeks in the last 22 years - with no evidence of ill effects compared with 6 month desexing. and also see

    3. I think the jury is out re neutering in general, Kate. Great to deal with over-population problems; not so great for the health of the individual dog. Recent position statement from the AVMA:

      "Although spay/neuter is an important part of effective population control programs, and may benefit individual dogs and cats if performed at the appropriate time, whether and when to spay/neuter specific animals requires the application of science and professional judgment to ensure the best outcome for veterinary patients and their owners. Prevention of unexpected litters; reduced incidences of some cancers and reproductive diseases; and prevention and amelioration of certain undesirable behaviors have been documented as benefits to spaying/neutering dogs and cats. However, potential health problems associated with spaying and neutering have also been identified, including an increased risk of prostatic cancer in males; increased risks of bone cancer and hip dysplasia in large-breed dogs associated with sterilization before maturity; and increased incidences of obesity, diabetes, urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, and hypothyroidism."

    4. I would never have done nor recommend castration before maturity for any dog. Am perfectly capable of preventing unplanned matings, having lived with intact animals for decades. Just. Not. Worth. It.

    5. By "they do great" I was referring to their recovery from surgery, which is much quicker than an adult's recovery. Indeed the jury is still out on neutering's health effects in general (very much still out -- it's hard to tell much from the retrospective studies which are all it's ethical to do). However, if the concern is long term health effects from loss of reproductive hormones, not the surgery itself, perhaps a solution might be vasectomy in males. In females there is a new surgery option which I haven't seen personally in which only the uterus is removed. Because of risk of stump pyometra down the line, the uterus must be removed all the way down to the cervix. I can't speak personally about the outcomes of this surgical approach, but it might be something worth considering.

      If the veterinarian trusts the client, they could also agree to do the tacking surgery only if the client agrees to a later (post maturity) castration, but my suspicion is that this wouldn't be an effective way of making sure these dogs don't get bred, particularly as there's no guarantee that the breeder will still be the owner in a year or so.

      -Jessica Hekman, DVM, MS


      Could posting my views on early neutering, go on about recent studies but figured id post that. Yes it is one sided but i rather like a vet talking about the effects of early neutering. Plus since i am not a vet or anything to do with that profession, anything i say would only be opinion's that at this time is backed up by science journals. It would make more sense for something to come from what a vet has found than just some random person who looks on this blog.

  2. Yes Jessica, check your facts before posting . And, How would you know that they do great a few years down the line?m I have heard of early neutering on kittens here, but never dogs.

    1. I think Jessica is in the US where paediatric neutering is much more common. You might also have noticed that she's a vet, so will be talking from a position of knowledge. As for early neutering of dogs - it certainly goes on here in the UK.

    2. My mutt bitch was spayed aged 6 month by The Dog's Trust. She is masculinised bitch as a consequence and has underdeveloped.

      It's far too early paediatric castration and spaying.. There is increasing evidence that circulating reproductive hormones are essential for canine health. Atypical Cushing's disease can be a consequence as the adrenal glands can go into overdrive as a consequence of having to compensate for removal of the reproductive hormones. Why spay and neuter? Why not tie and vasectomise instead? Also, the only type of cancer spaying her improved her odds of not getting is mammary gland cancer. I am increasingly concerned when vets advertise spaying and neutering as being beneficial for a dog's health. Be honest, people can do their own research and not all dog owners are clearly as stupid as these horrendous wrinkly freak owners.

      The mind boggles.

      Jemima is right on when she suggests that the vet who advocates the surgery should take some responsibility in educating about ethical breeding practices. Legally, how does a Vet get to advocate cosmetic surgery on dogs that have been deliberately bred to suffer? I'd say they are walking a fine line ethically and morally if they don't offset the balance by educating and speaking out. As medical professionals they are qualified to understand about evolutionary biology in companion animals.

    3. The people who should take responsibility are the BREEDERS and the KC. There really must be legislation brought in that prohibits breeders deliberatey breeding deformed puppies, so deformed that they have to undergo surgery so that a high price can be charged when sold on. This is a despicable practice, it puts vets under huge pressure, and I have to say that if a vet has taken hypocritic oath to do the best by any animal presented to them then they cannot turn away a dog in order to let it suffer because they disapprove of the breeder. What they could do is notify the dog welfare people and the KC to advise them that malpractice is happening and that that breeder and bloodline should be struck off from any breeding programme. Dogs will have to be microchipped soon and it could easily become the way of starting a new register for healthy dogs, whereby a vet or independent person verifies the chip numbers at time of mating and even take a dna swab of both animals and when the puppies arrive swab them too and log against the chip. It would be much better for the dogs. Australia is outlawing puppy farms and byb and the UK and the rest of the world should too, the same should be done with breeders who are producing this puppies who are born to suffer all of their lives to satisfy some sick person's idea of what a dog should look like. When the dogs are old enough they should be spayed to avoid them joining the breeding programme, not spayed as puppies, a significant operation for them to overcome when they are using all of their resources just to grow up, not having to recover from surgery. I really despair of the pedigree dog world at the moment.


    4. It must be really hard being a vet and having to perform cosmetic procedures an animals caused by deliberate cruelty. Having to deal with human stupidity inflicted on animals born to suffer. Sophia Yin sadly took her own life last year. She was a superstar in the veterinary behaviour world and did so much to educate her fellow professionals, but she burned out.......having to euthanise companion animals due to human folly will take it's toll on the toughest of people. Incidentally, all vets are at high risk of burn out due to some of the welfare issues at hand they have to deal with.

      What are vets doing to educate their clients regarding dogs being deliberately bred for deformities? If breeders know vets support their practice, they will carry on with little incentive to change, or even find another vet if they refuse. Do vets report breeders if they think there are clear welfare issues to do with breeding practices?

      With regard to spaying and neutering, in parts of Scandinavia it is illegal to alter your dog for anything other than a genuine medical issue. There is much more to being a responsible dog owner other than just castrating your dog. Understand the biology of the animal you share your life with, their natural behaviour and . If you have an intact animal you have to take responsibility when socialising and you can't let your dog off to exercise without having proper control. . Sometimes I feel castration is a lazy choice, convenient for humans so vets pushing for this practice need to be questioned about their evidence base and the reasons for promoting it to owners in the first place. Same for promoting annual vaccinations too!

    5. Ironially it is here too, or used to be, no colouring of coats, no pigment enhancement, surgery or whatever and yet the KC must be aware that these practices are happening in order to get dogs to a condition whereby they can compete at UK KC registered shows. They know it, yet they ignore their own rules and regs so that people will pay money to attend their shows, win a crummy piece of paper, breed from the animal and off it goes again. The KC are perpetuating this cycle of cruelty and total disregard for an animal's welfare. The recent nonsense of KC monitors attending ringside to make sure crippled dogs are not placed or challenged afterwards seems to have gone out of the window. Possibly time the KC removed their welfare commitment from their paperwork and just get on with their real business - making money at whatever cost to the dog.

  3. Im absolutely against paediatric neutering it's barbaric. From seven months upwards is around the right time in my opinion for large dogs and around 5 -6 months for smaller breeds depending on how quickly they reach puberty.

    The reasons for it are plain to stop unwanted puppies but it's taking it way too far when the dogs development suffers as a result. People who consider the sex of their dog a problem shouldn't have dogs. Males are males and females are females its part of their character and these characteristics should be freely able to be expressed thrugh their life. If they want a toy they must get one not a dog. At least let the dog mature properly before you do anything.

    Dogs need their sex hormones to develop correctly, there are a number of health consequences for not allowing that to happen just as there are in humans. Or are we to become dependant on giving our dogs hormone replacement therapy?

    Even more disgusting I just cannot believe people breed dogs that need their eyes repairing. Happily promote the fact the "tacking" has been done already. In fact these poor little pups might need further surgery as they mature and may still end up having horribly scratchy eyes until that time including some damage to the eye.

    It just beggars belief!

    As far as Im concerned this is the sort of thing the EU in Brussels should be outlawing if they haven't already.

    What a start to life, scratchy, hazy, extremely sore eyes. Im getting sore eyes just thinking about it.

    Absolutely unacceptable.

    The solution is simple in my mind.

    Vets have a duty to relieve suffering in any animal but the law should prevent breeds highly predisposed to this and other conditions arising from their intended looks from being bred at all.

  4. Agreed. People should not be breeding dogs that look like this. NOR SHOULD THEY BE BREEDING DOGS WITH A HIGH PROBABILITY OF BEING TAKEN BY CANCER IN THEIR EARLY YEARS.
    I'd love to hear more on progress (or lack thereof) for breeds like the flattie and Berner whose life prospects are compromised by genetics, despite looking like good healthy dogs.

    1. Open the stud books to well-planned outcrosses and that particular problem goes away. The tide is turning, at least among many in the flat-coat community.

    2. Yes. I was once quite briefly taken with Siamese mice. Its a childhood deprivation thing, I was never allowed to keep mice, mice were seen as pests. However everyone else had mice and I loved them. Soft, silky and unbelievably cute, beady eyed inquisitive whiskers, little pink plump feet... lovely things like baby JRT's.

      I even loved the sweet smell of mouse on other children. I knew when someone had a mouse in their pocket by smell alone. I yearned to feel a mouses little cold feet on my palm, clutching my finger, too look into its bright eyes and bond.

      One day as an young adult far from home and not long freed from the restraints of the final years of boarding school I walked past a pet shop. The strong unmistakable perfume of mouse lured me in. It was a reptile shop and being so far from home I was torn between rescuing the tick infested African rock python hatchling (also far from home) or it's food the mice. I was on a students budget so after much heart wrenching settled for the mouse.

      At last I had a mouse a beautiful lovely tiny little Siamese mouse. White with blue grey ears, nose, tail and feet. I had never seen anything so charming in a mouse. I bought it a mouse palace and would let it play in the tall unkempt grass which was my garden at the time. A few packets of wild flower seed and it was mouse paradise. I was in mouse heaven so was the mouse.

      Suddenly one morning about a short month later I noticed a little lump on the mouse round and smooth. I showed it to a few of my friends studying medicine at Kings College and they were unanimous that it was almost certainly cancer and not only that but it was intentional! They didn't seem at all fussed either which infuriated me but then I wasn't spending my time dissecting human cadavers and conducting animal experiments. I must add quite a few med students keep rats as pets, purely out of a guilty conscience.

      Very soon my precious mouse developed tumours all over its little body, it looked like a tweeny sack of potatoes.

      What I had bought was a strain of lab mouse designed and guaranteed to develop cancer at a certain age. I was grief stricken for the little thing and had her put to sleep.

      I cannot wish the same on any dog owner not in a million years, ever.

  5. My first thought is whether these poor pups have been exposed to a teratogenic agent in utero to have such a severe deformity.

    Looks like the teratogenic agent is their breeder who purpose bred for deformity and suffering. Enabled by the KC that registers his puppies, any puppy buyers who find them cute, and media that use their pictures to get attention without addressing the puppies' suffering.

    1. Yes. Gamma rays or something.

      I've just seen a little sharpei Mum with her last surviving pups playing on our driveway in the early morning sun. She had five now there are only two left. I think a Burmese python got the others because there was a large one in the storm water drains last year where she whelped. It was set up in ambush for piglets who use it as a short cut.

      The last two are very thin and weak so it was wonderful to see them playing gently. Cute little puckered noses, curly tail and eyes just having learnt to see properly.

      It is sad but these wild dogs do thrive if circumstances all go their way. Im not sure why these aren't thriving, could be parasite overload as its June already and its very very hot and humid.

      Our drive is about 4-kilometres long through thick forest and stream, winding steeply up the mountain in the country park. The little family had in their poor condition walked all the way up to the main road, the pups learning to walk as they went. I've seen them at various stages.

      Even though they very likely wont survive more than a few days they are unbelievably strong. Three years ago another dog whelped in our area and all four pups thrived.

      Its so sad that humans will intentionally breed dogs that battle to survive from birth to live lives of misery, kept alive by vets and science.

      What for?

    2. Yah, I ask myself that everytime I see them.

      I used to save puppies when I first arrived in Hong Kong. No one seemed pleased about it least of all the SPCA who eventually told me they would just put them down if I brought in any more. I suspect they had been doing that all along anyway.

      They stress out hugely when you try and help them, fluff up and shiver uncontrollably throwing up and defecating a very nasty green mess all over your hands and car, its quite distressing for everyone involved. But the reason I don't is because there are quite a lot of them and nature as hard as it is I've learnt a long time ago should take it's course, the fittest survive etc. I just didn't know domestic dogs were part of that untill I came to Bonkers.

      These dogs seem immune to heart worm, distemper, all sorts of things and its best to allow that to continue.

      I've never been a bunny-hugger but have always shown sensible compassion for any animal in distress. When I see them I stop the car switch off the engine and allow them to pass. It is heart wrenching of course but such is life. Other times its very rewarding seeing them grow up into strong adults.

      Wild dogs are our top predators since the last wild tiger was shot in 1945 by an Indian officer infront of Stanely police station. All we have left are raptors, leopard cats, mongeese and dogs. So they are very much a part of the eco system.

      The government has been catching neutering and releasing wild dogs for quite awhile now and I have certainly seen a reduction in the number of packs coming through here over the years.

      I must say though every once in awhile Im torn horribly about wanting to rescue puppies like this but now I have four dogs I just cant see clear to what will happen to them if I do.

      The local rescues are already full of hill puppies, many people do rescue wild puppies, many people also feed the wild dogs which is also not a good idea.

      In fact the government scheme was a bit unfair as they used to habituate the dogs by feeding them in designated areas so they could eventually catch them and neuter. So they went through a period of being sleek and plump and then left to their own devises again which I think was a bit thick. The long and short of it is we shouldn't feed the wildlife. The dogs survive mostly on a diet of squirrels, rats, frogs and garbage taking the odd barking deer, piglet etc.

      I still want to leap out the car and catch them, though (:

      Someone was filming them the other day so maybe they might still end up pets who knows. But I suspect they will be gone already sometime this week they weren't very happy chappies.

    3. A thought provoking response RiverP. And, ironically, your ethos about survival of the fittest equates perfectly with pedigree dogs. When to intervene, when to stand back and what is really best for the dogs at the end of the day. It would be easy to fulfil a human need to nurture the stricken puppies to a point when they are better set up to face wild life challenges, but is it right? I quite understand the dilemma you so clearly outline. Perhaps in this case if it is a shar pei that you see, the sadness for that dog of once being a loved pet to becoming discarded as rubbish may have appreciated some help. In effect she isn't a real wild animal as such (not that a wild dog doesn't deserve compassion too) and her struggle to survive a huge learning curve. It's all very sad and if only humans consider the real effort, understanding and compassion before adding a dog to their homes then dogs would have a much fairer deal from us. Very sad indeed, poor dogs.

    4. Yes it's tempting. These are wild dogs though. They might have once been abandoned pets or village strays many generations ago but now are living and breeding wild dogs.

      Its interesting because you do often see the breeds involved. Once there was a large family of what looked like white GSD's except taller and without the crippling deformed construct. I still see one or two of them around here. Most of the wild dogs tend to go up into the hills in the wet season as its so hot, they also don't interact with people. Mostly they see you before you see them. You get the feeling you are being watched. Sometimes if you look up on the big inaccessible rocks they can be seen lounging safely.

      Many are wild sharpeis, its the little folded ears and expression, curled tail and plush short coats. Black, brown, red, I' haven't seen piebald though.

      Abandoned pets are also a big problem, yes. This isn't so confusing as these unfortunate puppies and adult tend to look confused, run around like they are lost and often will seek assistance themselves. I have found apricot standard poodle pups, chows and a fox terrier they jumped into my car before I could even get out. Though the poodles were so small they were crawling almost blind in the middle of the road in the forest.

      These I've rescued and taken to shelters, but often I see a dog on my way to work then its gone by the time I get back. One a little terrier with stiff eyebrows I just couldn't resist, I had no meetings that day so he came to work with me and sat on a folded up towel in my office on the 19th floor. As good as gold, just sat there looking into my eyes the whole day. I got the tea lady to bring in some breakfast and lunch for him which he ate politely. He followed me to the WC and back and everyone loved him on the way.

      It was discovered he had a chip and belonged to someone, but they claimed to have given him to someone else and that someone else was now sick and they didn't know where he lived anymore ........anyway he found a lovely home with my assistant!

      I get terribly wound up about people abandoning dogs and it could be a full time occupation saving them all but I just don't have the time. There a few very wonderful dedicated people who do, though.

  6. yes, DVM is an indicator of a United States vet, we don't use that term here. I
    Still don't understand how she would know the animals do great. Is someone checking them at yearly intervals for the rest of their life?m I highly doubt it. It can take large breeds two to three years to mature, so such early neutering is barbaric.

  7. Did you know that there actually are vet clinics in Finland that have refused to take shar peis as their patients due to the horrible state of the breed.

    1. Interesting. Scandinavia is streets ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to canine welfare of course. What prevalence is the breed in Finland? Has this had a knock on effect on breeding and desirability?

    2. I'm not sure. But I think shar pei is a rather rare breed in Finland. (Was that what you were asking? I'm sorry, but my English is not very good:)).

      Not treating them is probably more a public statement from the vet clinic. They want to arise awareness. I don't think it will change anything with the breed, but I think it still is a pretty radical action from the vets. Maybe somebody wanting to get one, decides not to when they learn about the problems of the breed.

      Many vets here are also refusing to operate structural problems, such as this "eye tacking". Also tail docking and ear cropping is illegal here.

      Many breeds have voluntary PEVISA program that the Finnish KC is monitoring. PEVISA stands roughly for "A program to resist hereditary faults and diseases". So some (or most) breeders are trying.

  8. Georgina,

    "Australia is out lawing puppy farms and Back Yard Breeders"

    No, Australia is pushing us TOWARDS commercial puppy farms with such stringent regulations on breeding no one else can afford to meet the requirements.

    Response-ability is our response to the environments demands. In this case, the community. It can't be legislated. Legislation can only limmit our ability to respond by removing the onus to use educated judgement specific to our situation.

    The community of dog owners and breeders has been splintered into warring factions by the K.Cs ruling that members not breed outside of the K.Cs own protocols- The pedigree system. It is seen and treated as as antagonistic to pedigree dogs.

    Personaly, I'm positive a change of that rule would see vast inprovement over time in the K.C culture and the culture out side of the K.Cs with enormous welfare improvement in general, by allowing the community to focus on common goals and expectations instead of on faults, failings and censure.

    Promote purpose and good practices that maximise success in any breeding program and the community will better understand value and where to seek it, or how to achieve it. Instead of this constant finger pointing we are all locked into.