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Why Are Shar Peis So Wrinkly? Breed Characteristics & Care Tips

Hanh Duong

By Hanh Duong

Chinese Shar pei puppy portrait at garden

This ancient and distinctive breed of dog hails from China and is known for its unique features—bristle-like fur, wrinkled skin, and blue-black tongue. While they may look intimidating, Shar Peis can be cuddly and fiercely loyal pets. However, they are not recommended for first-time dog owners due to their independent and wary nature, as well as their susceptibility to various health issues.

But have you ever wondered why Shar Peis are so wrinkly? Those extra folds of skin serve a purpose—they help protect the dogs from attacks by other animals. Read on below to find out more.

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An Overview of the History of the Shar Pei

Did you know that Shar Pei pups have existed for over 2,000 years? They were bred in China during the Han Dynasty and were known for their wrinkly skin and rough coats, making it challenging for their opponents to get a grip on them during battles.

Back in the 20th century, the Shar Pei almost went extinct. Their population was reduced during the communist revolution in China. Luckily, a breeder reached out to American dog lovers in the 1970s, and a few Shar Peis were shipped to the United States, where they became popular in no time. They even appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine.

However, their popularity came with a price. Overbreeding in the 1970s and 1980s caused some negative effects on the breed. Thankfully, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in the late 1980s, leading to more responsible breeding techniques. Nowadays, Shar Peis are still cherished by many, but the effects of that era are still felt in the breed.

It is fascinating to learn that the Shar Pei, a breed of dog that is popular for their wrinkled skin, has undergone significant changes in appearance through selective breeding. The breeders have intentionally amplified the wrinkles on their skin, which is now a prominent feature of the Shar Pei that we all know and love. This selective breeding has resulted in a unique appearance that distinguishes the Shar Pei from other dog breeds.

Chinese Shar pei puppy portrait at garden Closeup
Image by: Waldemar Dabrowski,Shutterstock

What Is the Most Wrinkly Dog Breed?

Wrinkly dog breeds have gained a lot more popularity in recent years. They are well known for the rolls their skin forms, but these canines aren’t necessarily obese.

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Common Issues Associated with Wrinkles

It’s super easy for dirt to build up in all those tiny spaces, which can cause some health problems.

The most common three issues associated with wrinkling are:
  • Itching. When dogs experience an itch, they can’t resist the urge to scratch it by biting, pawing, or rubbing their faces on the carpet. This can lead to scratches and abrasions, making their skin even more uncomfortable. So, taking good care of your furry friend’s wrinkles and keeping them fresh and clean to prevent itching or discomfort is essential.
  • Irritation. Have you ever noticed your furry friend scratching or biting at their skin? It could be a sign of irritation, which can look red, bumpy, or even inflamed. This could happen when debris gets trapped in the wrinkles of their skin, or it may be a sign of an underlying illness.
  • Odor. If you don’t clean dirt on your dog, it could contribute to bad odor. Additionally, those adorable wrinkles on your pup’s face are a breeding ground for bacterial or yeast infections that could be causing the foul smell.

Seeing your furry friend struggle with skin problems can be heartbreaking. It may just be a minor issue that your veterinarian can easily take care of. However, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. So, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice to ensure your pet stays happy and healthy.

Sharpei Dog Walking
Image by: Pikist

Treating Possible Skin Issues

If your furry friend is struggling with a skin problem, it’s essential to understand the root cause of the issue to ensure effective treatment. Your veterinarian can help diagnose the problem by closely examining your pet’s skin and collecting a sample for testing. By running lab tests, your vet can determine whether the problem is bacterial or yeast-based and prescribe the most effective antibiotics to tackle the issue.

In addition to an oral or topical antibiotic, your dog may also benefit from an ointment to soothe the itching. With proper care, most infections clear up within a week or two.

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Tips for Taking Care of Wrinkled Dogs

For dogs with wrinkles, you have to take extra care of their skin to prevent any potential skin problems. The key is to maintain clean and dry creases. Consult your veterinarian for the best advice on creating an effective skincare regimen that suits your dog’s specific needs.

Here are some additional tips:
  • Everyday maintenance. You should clean those wrinkle folds daily to avoid dirt, gunk, or germs buildup that could lead to infections. It will keep your furry friend healthy, happy, and comfortable. You’ll need some pet wipes, washcloths, or cotton balls. Wet the cotton or cloth to make the process easier. Remember to do it gently so you don’t hurt your pup.
  • Bathing. It’s recommended to bathe your furry friend regularly. However, the frequency also depends on your dog’s individual needs, and consulting your veterinarian is highly advised. While the wrinkles in your dog’s skin shouldn’t accumulate dirt, it’s essential not to over-bathe them, as this can lead to dry skin and other skin issues. Therefore, you must balance adequate hygiene maintenance and avoid excessive bathing that may harm your furry friend’s skin.
  • Use the right shampoo. When picking out a shampoo for your pup, go for a milder one, as their skin can be sensitive to strong soaps and scents. If you need help deciding which one to get, check with your vet or a groomer. They’ll know what’s best for your dog’s skin. When washing your furry friend, get into all the nooks and crannies. Lift those wrinkles and gently clean in between them. Rinse thoroughly to avoid leaving any soap residue that might cause itchiness or discomfort. Once you’re done washing, dry your dog off with a towel.



These dogs can be challenging regarding health and training, so it’s crucial to consider your lifestyle, background, and goals.

Remember, you don’t want to compromise your pup’s well-being just because they look adorable. Always do your research and only buy from a reputable and ethical breeder. Choose a breeder who takes good care of the mother and pups in a loving environment, performs all the required health exams, and does not separate the pups from their mother before they are 8 weeks old.

Featured Image Credit By: wrinkles_rolls, instagram

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