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Swollen Hock Syndrome
Familial Shar Pei Fever
Systemic Amyloidosis

Hock syndrome is becoming more and more prevalent in the Shar Pei. At the American 1991 Specialty 11 - 23% of Shar Pei had experienced episodes of fever/hock syndrome.

What is hock syndrome or Familial Shar Pei Fever?
It is thought to be an inherent disorder and is probably an autosomal recessive. If this is the case this means that even if your dog does not show signs of hock syndrome then they could still carry it and put to a dog that also carries it, could produce puppies producing symptoms.  The only way to know if you dog carries it, is if it produces it in its puppies.

What are the symptoms?

  1. Your Shar Pei puppy is very lethargic.

  2. Your Shar Pei will not eat.

  3. Your Shar Pei has a raging temperature with shivering without any reason. The vet may find nothing wrong.

  4. Your Shar Pei's muzzle may be swollen (like a wasp sting), the eye may be puffed up.

  5. Your Shar Pei may scream with pain when you touch its muzzle.

  6. It may also have stiffness in all its joints and have difficulty putting one or both of its back legs to the ground, i.e. the leg is raised and the dog is walking on three legs.

  7. The back legs may be swollen and thickened.

  8. After an attack you will notice that the dog loses its muzzle but this does come back in time.

  9. Some puppies stand roaching their back with abdominal pain and can have diarrhoea and vomiting.

Some Shar Pei get one or two attacks as puppies and never have an attack again or some may have an attack every week of its life.

Some pet owners mistake Shar Pei hock syndrome as a banged leg or pulled tendon or wasp sting. It may possibly be one of these, but if it keeps recurring, it is more than likely to be Shar Pei hock syndrome.

Some Shar Pei puppies can have temperatures as high as 108 degrees and this could prove fatal so one must monitor the puppy's temperature during an attack and try to keep it down.

I have heard of puppies from 8 weeks of age showing signs of hock syndrome but the usual time is between 4 - 18 months of age. Sometimes puppies show no signs and yet reaching adulthood have bouts of hock syndrome.

What Causes Hock Syndrome
To simplify it, it is a Shar Pei’s inability to break down and get rid of amyloidal protein. This amyloidal protein builds up and eventually squashes all the life out of the kidney and liver and so many Shar Pei with chronic hock syndrome die at an early age of kidney or liver failure. Unfortunately the kidney is one of those organs, which does not regenerate itself. Once the damage is done then its there to stay. The amyloid can also deposit itself anywhere in the body, hence the swollen back legs.

How to treat a Shar Pei having an attack
Various parties have informed me that an aspirin or disprin administered to a Shar Pei in a fever attack works very well. Obviously as mentioned previously one must keep the temperature of the Shar Pei down at all times. Let the Shar Pei keep in a cool quiet room and if necessary bathe with damp cold rags behind the ears etc. The temperature must not be left to rise. Give honey water drinks. Do not force food. If worried at all about your Shar Pei, you must immediately take it to the vets - if the temperature is allowed to rise too high, it could prove fatal.

How can we prevent this inherent defect becoming too prevalent in our wonderful breed?
We should not breed with bitches or dogs that have knowingly had recurrent attacks of Shar Pei fever or hock syndrome. We should check pedigrees of Shar Pei when we buy and make sure there have been no brothers or sisters or mothers or fathers in the pedigree who have died of amyloidosis.

We should have the kidneys or tissues of all Shar Pei who have died prematurely checked with a special red dye to see if amyloid protein is present and if found, the owners of the dam and sire should be confidentially told.

Shar Pei who have hock syndrome attacks often should be kept on a low protein diet, i.e. 16 - 20%. I have been told Natural Sulphur is very good for the purification of the system and also dried or fresh parsley is very good for the kidneys.

Dr. Tintle in America is doing extensive research on Shar Pei Hock Syndrome and is making some progress. She hopes to eventually create a test that one can do to ascertain if a Shar Pei has it or not. Obviously this is costing a lot of money.

Dr. Tintle has found that Colchicine (used in cases of human gout) decreases the frequency and severity of fevers in most animals and does tend to block the development of amyloidosis.

If anyone has any more questions to raise or are seriously concerned about their Shar Pei, I suggest they contact Dr. Linda Tintle. Her address can be obtained from The Barker (The Official Publication of the Chinese Shar Pei Club of America).

Addition information can be found here.