Chinese Crested (Hairless)

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Your Hairless Chinese Crested Dog

Caring for Your Faithful Companion

Hairless Chinese Crested Dogs: What a Unique Breed!

Your dog is special! She’s your best friend, companion, and a source of unconditional love. Chances are that you chose her because you like Hairlesses and you expected her to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle:

  • Energetic and playful
  • Lively, with a friendly personality
  • Quirky, entertaining personality
  • An affectionate companion and family dog
  • Adaptable to a wide variety of living conditions

However, no dog is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:

  • Needs frequent attention from her family
  • Fragile and easily injured because of her small size
  • Needs regular exercise and diet regulation to avoid weight gain
  • Can be difficult to housetrain
  • Can be strong-willed

Is it all worth it? Of course! She’s full of personality, and you love her for it! She is charming, amusing, and playful with children. She is a constant companion, an affectionate “velcro dog;” she’ll enjoy going to work with you!

Chinese Crested Dogs are a rare toy breed that can be found with 2 hair types: hairless and powderpuff. They were originally used as ratters on ships, but are now bred for companionship. Cresteds are considered good dogs for allergy sufferers due to their natural lack of hair. Sunburn and sensitivity to extreme cold or hot temperatures are problematic for this breed. Otherwise, the Chinese Crested tends to be a generally healthy breed with an average lifespan of 12-13 years.

Your Hairless Chinese Crested Dog’s Health

We know that because you care so much about your dog, you want to take good care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Crested. By knowing about health concerns specific to Hairless Chinese Crested Dogs, we can tailor a preventive health plan to watch for and hopefully prevent some predictable risks.

Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. There is a general consensus among canine genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners that the conditions we’ve described herein have a significant rate of incidence and/or impact in this breed. That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that she is more at risk than other dogs. We will describe the most common issues seen in Hairless Chinese Crested Dogs to give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.

This guide contains general health information important to all canines as well as the most important genetic predispositions for Hairless Chinese Crested Dogs. This information helps you and us together plan for your pet’s unique medical needs. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Hairless looking and feeling her best. You will know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your pal.

Brushing your dog’s teeth daily will prevent periodontal disease.

Brushing your dog’s teeth daily will prevent periodontal disease.

General Health Information for your Hairless Chinese Crested Dog

Dental Disease

Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your Chinese Crested is more likely than other dogs to have problems with her teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If we don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose her teeth and be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your Chinese Crested’s life span may be cut short by one to three years! We’ll clean your dog’s teeth regularly and let you know what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites clean.

Infections

Hairless Chinese Crested Dogs are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections — the same ones that all dogs can get — such as parvo, rabies, and distemper. Many of these infections are preventable through vaccination, which we will recommend based on the diseases we see in our area, her age, and other factors.

Obesity

Obesity can be a significant health problem in Hairless Chinese Crested Dogs. It is a serious disease that may cause or worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your pal food when she looks at you with those soulful eyes, you can “love her to death” with leftover people food and doggie treats. Instead, give her a hug, brush her fur or teeth, play a game with her, or perhaps take her for a walk. She’ll feel better, and so will you!

Roundworm egg as seen under the microscope.

Roundworm egg as seen under the microscope.

Parasites

All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Hairless’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest her skin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into her system in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep her healthy.

Spay or Neuter

One of the best things you can do for your Crested is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this means we surgically remove the ovaries and usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. This is convenient for you and easy for your friend. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss the specific problems we will be looking for when the time arrives.

Genetic Predispositions for Hairless Chinese Crested Dogs

Normal Knee

Normal Knee

Patellar luxation

Patellar luxation

Knee Problems

Sometimes your Crested’s kneecap (patella) may slip out of place (called patellar luxation ). You might notice that he runs along and suddenly picks up a back leg and skips or hops for a few strides. Then he kicks his leg out sideways to pop the kneecap back in place, and he’s fine again. If the problem is mild and involves only one leg, your friend may not require much treatment beyond arthritis medication. When symptoms are severe, surgery may be needed to realign the kneecap to keep it from popping out of place.

Eye Problems

Not many things have as dramatic an impact on your dog’s quality of life as the proper functioning of his eyes. Unfortunately, Hairless Chinese Crested Dogs can inherit or develop a number of different eye conditions, some of which may cause blindness if not treated right away, and most of which can be extremely painful! We will evaluate his eyes at every examination to look for any signs of concern.

Cataracts are a common cause of blindness in older Cresteds. We’ll watch for the lenses of his eyes to become more opaque—meaning they look cloudy instead of clear—when we examine him. Many dogs adjust well to losing their vision and get along just fine. Surgery to remove cataracts and restore sight may also be an option.

Primary Lens Luxation (PLL) is an inherited disease, common in Hairlesses, that causes the tiny fibers that hold the lens suspended within the eye to degrade and break. When this happens, the lens drops out of place. If it happens to fall forward, it can block the normal circulation in the eye and cause secondary glaucoma. Surgery to remove the loose lens may be needed to relieve pain.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an inherited disease in which the eyes are genetically programmed to go blind. Unfortunately, Hairless Chinese Crested Dogs are a bit more likely than other dogs to have this condition. PRA is not painful, but also not curable. In dogs with the bad gene, early symptoms such as night blindness or dilated pupils generally begin around three to five years of age. A genetic test is available for this condition.

Eyeballs are pretty complicated structures, and sometimes they don’t grow exactly according to plan. Several different specific structural defects are sometimes seen in Hairless Chinese Crested Dog’s eyes. Most of these developmental errors cause no problems at all, some can only be detected by a vet using special tests, some are obvious, and a few can cause serious vision problems. We’ll check his eyes for problems, and discuss specific conditions as they apply to your buddy.

Sometimes small strands of tissue that were meant to disappear soon after birth remain attached to the iris. When this happens, it’s called Persistent Pupillary Membrane, and your Hairless Chinese Crested Dog is more likely to have this condition than other dogs. Fortunately, these tissue bits usually don’t hurt or impede vision, but occasionally they can cause problems.

View of an overbite as seen from below.

View of an overbite as seen from below.

Dental Abnormalities

Teeth abnormalities are often genetically induced and are relatively common in dogs, especially in purebred dogs like your Crested. An overbite or underbite is called a malocclusion, or a bad bite . Oligodontia is a condition where only a few teeth are present. Misaligned teeth can also occur and cause lots of problems, but can usually be corrected with braces or extractions. (Yes, dogs can get braces!) We want to keep your buddy’s teeth healthy so we will be watching his developing teeth closely.

Cleft Lip or Palate

Your Crested is more likely than other breeds to be born with a cleft lip or palate, which is an opening in the lip or the roof of the mouth. Mild cases may not require any treatment, but more serious defects require surgical repair to prevent complications. We’ll check for this abnormality during his first puppy exam.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD is an immune system disorder common in Cresteds in which the intestinal lining becomes overrun with immune system cells called lymphocytes and plasmacytes. The stomach and/or intestinal lining becomes thickened affecting his ability to absorb nutrients properly. Chronic vomiting or diarrhea is common or it may flare up suddenly and then improve again for a time. Stress, diet change, or intestinal parasites may make it worse. If your friend has diarrhea or digestive upsets that are not explained by the more common reasons, diagnostic tests, which may include intestinal biopsy, will be needed. Lifetime medications and special diets are usually required to keep this bellyache under control.

Allergies

In humans, an allergy to pollen, mold, or dust makes people sneeze and their eyes itch. In dogs, rather than sneeze, allergies make their skin itchy. We call this skin allergy “atopy”, and Cresteds often have it. Commonly, the feet, belly, folds of the skin, and ears are most affected. Symptoms typically start between the ages of one and three and can get worse every year. Licking the paws, rubbing the face, and frequent ear infections are the most common signs. The good news is that there are many treatment options available for this condition.

Normal hip x-rays

Normal hip x-rays

X-rays taken of a dog with hip dysplasia.

X-rays taken of a dog with hip dysplasia.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Both hips and elbows are at risk for dysplasia, an inherited disease that causes the joints to develop improperly and results in arthritis. Stiffness in your Crested’s elbows or hips may become a problem for him, especially as he matures. You may notice that he begins to show lameness in his legs or has difficulty getting up from lying down. We can treat the arthritis—the sooner the better—to minimize discomfort and pain. We’ll take X-rays of your dog’s bones to identify issues as early as possible. Surgery is sometimes a good option in severe and life-limiting cases. Keep in mind that overweight dogs may develop arthritis years earlier than those of normal weight, causing undue pain and suffering!

Hip Necrosis

Young Hairless Chinese Crested Dogs may be prone to a painful degenerative hip condition called Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease. The exact cause of this condition is still not completely understood, but it is thought to be a problem with blood supply to the hip, which causes the femoral head (the top of the thigh bone) to become brittle and easily fracture. Ouch! Usually occurring between six and nine months of age, it causes pain and lameness in one or both rear legs, and often requires surgery.

Epilepsy

There are three types of seizures in dogs: reactive, secondary, and primary. Reactive seizures are caused by the brain’s reaction to a metabolic problem like low blood sugar, organ failure, or a toxin. Secondary seizures are the result of a brain tumor, stroke, or trauma. If no other cause can be found, the disease is called primary, or idiopathic epilepsy. This problem is often an inherited condition, with Hairless Chinese Crested Dogs commonly afflicted. If your friend is prone to seizures, they will usually begin between six months and three years of age. An initial diagnostic workup may help find the cause. Lifelong medication is usually necessary to help keep seizures under control, with periodic blood testing required to monitor side effects and effectiveness. If your dog has a seizure: Carefully prevent him from injuring himself, but don’t try to control his mouth or tongue. It won’t help him, and he may bite you accidentally! Note the length of the seizure, and call us or an emergency hospital.

Mast cell tumors can look like anything. Be sure to have all lumps and bumps checked out.

Mast cell tumors can look like anything. Be sure to have all lumps and bumps checked out.

Mast Cell Tumor

Mast cell tumors are a particularly nasty type of skin cancer found more often in Hairless Chinese Crested Dogs, and the sooner they are surgically removed the better. Trouble is, they often look just like other kinds of skin lumps and lesions, some of which are harmful, and others not. All suspicious lumps should be tested and any questionable lump should be surgically removed as soon as possible. Many cancers are cured by surgically removing them, so early detection and removal is critical.

Deafness

Heritable deafness has been noted in some Hairless bloodlines, so if his ears are healthy and he’s still ignoring you, a more thorough hearing workup may be needed, including brainwave analysis, if indicated. If you suspect he may not be hearing as well as he should, schedule an appointment with us right away as the problem could also be caused by a severe ear infection.

Sunburn

Sunburn occurs more frequently inHairless Chinese Crested Dogs because of their lack of hair. Sunburn is just as painful to a dog as it is for us, and can lead to skin cancer. Make sure he is protected with pet safe sunscreen when outdoors.

Skin Disease

Seborrhea is a common skin disease that can cause dry, flaky skin or greasy, oily skin. The dry form is known as seborrhea sicca and the oily form as seborrhea oleosa. Both forms can lead to an itchy, uncomfortable pet, and they make skin infection more likely to occur. They are among the most annoying of diseases to Crested owners because they often make him smelly and unattractive. Hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels) can lead to seborrhea, as can allergies, Cushing’s disease, and other problems.

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Taking Care of Your Hairless Chinese Crested Dog at Home

Much of what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual (see “What to Watch For” below). Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for her. This is when we’ll give her the necessary “check-ups” and test for diseases and conditions that are common in Cresteds. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures she will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.

Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise

Build her routine care into your schedule to help your Hairless live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.

  • Supervise your pet as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep her out of trouble and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
  • Weekly bathing and regular application of lotion is recommended.
  • Hairless Chinese Crested Dogs often have serious problems with their teeth, so you’ll need to brush them at least three times a week!
  • Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
  • Very sensitive to cold, so a warm winter wardrobe is necessary.
  • She is well suited for apartment living; she will need a daily walk and regular inside play.
  • She is highly intelligent and can be taught to perform a variety of tricks to keep her mentally stimulated.
  • Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
  • Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for her age.
  • Exercise your dog regularly, but don’t overdo it at first.

What to Watch For

Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease, or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently. Many diseases cause dogs to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your Hairless Chinese Crested Dog needs help.

Office calls

Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of signs:

  • Change in appetite or water consumption
  • Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
  • Itchy skin (scratching, chewing or licking), hair loss
  • Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
  • Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes

Emergencies

Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these types of signs:

  • Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
  • Inability or straining to urinate; discolored urine
  • Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
  • General reluctance to run or play
  • Increasing hip pain at less than a year old
  • Any abnormal shaking, trembling, or excessive involuntary tremors
  • Easily startled, no reaction to unseen sounds
  • Skin redness, irritation, or pain when petting

Partners in Health Care

DNA testing is a rapidly advancing field with new tests constantly emerging to help in the diagnosis of inherited diseases before they can become a problem for your friend. For the most up-to-date information on DNA and other screening tests available for your pal, visit www.Genesis4Pets.com.

Your Crested counts on you to take good care of her, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that she lives a long and healthy life. Our goal is to provide the best health care possible: health care that’s based on her breed, lifestyle, and age. Please contact us when you have questions or concerns.

References:

  • Ackerman L. The Genetic Connection: A Guide to Health Problems in Purebred Dogs. Second edition. AAHA Press; 2011.
  • Bell JS, Cavanagh KE, Tilley LP, Smith FW. Veterinary medical guide to dog and cat breeds. Jackson, Wyoming. Teton New Media; 2012.
  • Gough A, Thomas A. Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats. 2nd Edition. Wiley-Blackwell; 2010.
  • Breed Specific Health Concerns [Internet]. American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, Inc. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http:/www.akcchf.org/canine-health/breed-specific-concerns/?breed=chinese-crested

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At Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital, we take pride in delivering personalized, compassionate care to our patients and their guardians in Austin, Texas and surrounding areas.


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