Diet and Your Shar-Pei

The proper diet is very important for the life and health of your Shar-Pei. Most pets become overweight and inactive if they are allowed to choose their own diet. A fat dog is not a healthy dog and will have a greatly decreased lifespan.


  1. Puppy diets with or without water are best until the pup is 4-6 months old. Stick with brand name diets such as Iams, Purina, Pedigree and others. Currently I like the puppy diets for large breed puppies made by Eukanuba® (Iams) and Purina. These diets help to maintain a slower growth rate. Don’t feed according to the bag directions – usually 1 cup per 6 pounds of body weight is adequate. In the Shar-Pei a desired growth rate is 2-3 pounds a week.
  2. In pups up to 3 months feed 3 meals per day. In pups from 3-6 months gradually change from 3 meals per day to 2 meals per day. In pups over 6 months feed 2 meals per day.
  3. Try not to give canned dog foods. Most Shar-Pei will not overeat on dry food. If you do give canned foods, mix it with dry foods and make sure the mixture is at least 3 parts dry food to 1 part canned food. Mix the food together thoroughly so the dog will not eat only the canned food and leave the dry food.
  4. Do not give table scraps.
  5. Never give steak, pork, chicken or turkey bones. The only bones permitted are large beef knuckle bones.
  6. Nylon bones and raw hide bones make good toys. Raw hide bones should be large enough to last your dog 2-3 weeks. Don’t use raw hide sticks or chips – don’t let your dog eat rawhide. Avoid pig’s ears and cow hooves -Shar-Pei usually eat these or swallow them and get into trouble.
  7. What diet you feed your adult Shar-Pei should be based on the dog’s activity level, coat quality, stool quality such as volume, consistency, frequency and the dog’s general well-being. If you’re not happy with any of these criteria then consider a diet change.
  8. Avoid changing your dog’s diet too often. If a diet change is necessary do so gradually by mixing the foods over a 1-2 week period.
  9. There is a myth concerning not feeding Shar-Pei soy-containing diets. I have not seen anything to substantiate this. Certainly food allergies can develop and special diets may become necessary. Feed your dog what it does well on. I have seen Shar-Pei do good and bad on all the various diets available including BARF diet, home-made diets, all natural diets and vegetarian diets � you have to try one and see how your dog does.
  10. There is no current research which justifies the feeding of a low protein diet to prevent kidney failure in Shar-Pei. Dietary modifications are necessary in Shar-Pei which are in kidney failure.

General Guidelines on Feeding Shar-Pei

  1. I recommend feeding Shar-Pei at least twice a day. This decreases begging behavior and may decrease the incidence of bloat.
  2. Obesity is a very common dog problem. It is essential to balance the dog’s activity and food intake. It is common sense to understand that an inactive dog requires fewer calories to maintain body weight. The converse is also true – a very active dog requires more calories. Calories can only come from what we feed the dog – either from the amount of food fed and/or the protein level of the diet. Dogs will preferentially use protein for energy so a high protein diet in an inactive dog will result in weight gain. Also feeding too much food will result in weight gain. The solution is simple – feed according to your dog’s activity level.
  3. Realize that there are some dogs that do not eat every meal or even every day. This may represent the dog’s way of maintaining its body weight. If we entice a dog such as this to eat every meal we may circumvent this natural tendency to be slim and trim.
  4. Most Shar-Pei are less active in the winter and more active in the summer. This means we need to decrease the amount of food they get during the times of the year coinciding with decreased activity and increase the amount of food when activity increases. The reverse may be true with brushcoats and bearcoats who tolerate the winter much better than horsecoats.
  5. Older dogs tend to decrease their activity and we need to decrease the amount of food they get. Older dogs also tend to develop age-related joint problems which also decrease activity and require diet adjustment. Switching older dogs to a “senior” or “lite” diet can be helpful in preventing obesity but may not be the total answer. It is still sometimes necessary to decrease even the amounts of these diets in order to maintain body weight. Current nutritional research indicates that senior dogs require higher protein levels than have been fed in the past. These higher protein levels are necessary to maintain muscle mass, to maintain the immune system and for overall general health. If your dog is having trouble maintaining body weight and muscle mass then going back to an adult maintenance diet may be useful.
  6. Vitamin supplements may become necessary in dieting dogs.
  7. I find that “cutting” the diet with canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) is a good way to fill the dog up without increasing calories or “starving” the dog.
  8. Measuring the food is extremely important! This allows us to make adjustments in amounts of food in an accurate way. It also helps your veterinarian to evaluate your feeding regimen.
  9. I generally recommend the use of stainless steel or ceramic food and water bowls. I occasionally see a depigmentation on the front of the muzzle and chin in those dogs that have plastic or vinyl bowls. This is due to a contact allergy which can occur due to the release of chemicals from the plastic/vinyl that occurs over time.

Comments on Alternative Diets and Supplements

My basic philosophy on diets is to feed what your dog thrives on but I’ve listed some additional commments to address specific questions I’ve received over the years:

  1. Raw food diets make their appearance every 7-10 years. Early in my professional career diets were formulated to prevent bloat and consisted of whole chickens cooked in a pressure cooker. Now the BARF (Bones And Raw Food) diet is the vogue. I have no problems with these diets but for most of us the commercial diets are the best. I want to feed my dogs a diet that is nutritionally balanced, easy to feed, doesn’t require a lot of work to prepare and has a long history of consistent results behind it. Most of the commercial dog food companies have research/quality control facilities, on-going research and development, have been producing dog foods for several decades and publish nutritional research in veterinary journals and proceedings.
  2. There have been several recent veterinary articles concerning bacterial contamination of raw food incorporated into dog diets. Certainly this speaks to the need to wash vegetables, keep food preparation surfaces clean and store the diets properly. I also am concerned about the vitamin/mineral balance in home-made diets as well as the protein, fat and carbohydrate levels meeting the needs of the dogs.
  3. Supplements such as vitamins, minerals and other things like kelp, herbs, glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, etc. are often added to diets. I have no problems with this practice but remember that additives can intereact producing undesired results. Examples such as decreased copper absorption due to zinc over-supplementation, calcium-phosphorous interactions leading to growth abnormalities, biotin deficiency and raw eggs and numerous other interactions must be considered before supplementing diets. Most of us don’t have the background to understand and access all this information.
  4. The use of prescription diets under veterinary supervision is a useful therapeutic and diagnostic tool. More cases of food allergy, food reaction, food intolerance and food hypersensitivity are being diagnosed and diet manipulation is very important. These are usually commercially produced diets which are balanced to meet the nutritional requirements of dogs.

Lastly, I want to make a few comments about the trend over the last several years to “Life Stage Nutrition”. The concept here is that at different stages in the dog’s life nutritional requirements change and a different dietary composition is needed. This is the basis for puppy food, adult maintenance diets, senior diets, “lite” diets and performance diets. While the concept of life stage nutrition is useful for the majority of dogs there are individuals who don’t fit into this plan. I tend to make dietary recommendations based on the individual and their age, body condition, activity level, performance level and other factors. As an example, most Shar-Pei puppies can develop quite normally on an adult maintenance diet. As another example, many young, hyperactive dogs may need a puppy diet or a performance diet to maintain body weight even though they aren’t considered “working” dogs. I also talked about senior dogs who may need adult amintenance diets to maintain adequate muscle mass as they age. The point here is to not get locked into using a diet because your dog fits the life stage but use the diet that best suits your dog whatever the age if the dog is.

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