The Breed History
The Pekingese is an ancient Chinese dog breed that was so highly esteemed that they became a symbol of good fortune, and artistic representations of them, (Foo Dog idols) became family heirlooms. In Buddhism, the lion is a symbol of Buddha, and this may be the origin of the special position the dog held since in legend, these dogs were thought to originate from union of monkey and lion. A favorite of the Imperial families, a theft of one of these dogs was punishable by death. Earliest records indicate the breed was distinctive by the 8th century. First specimens arrived in Britain in the year1860; one was given to Queen Victoria. The AKC first registered the breed in 1906.
Breeding for Function
These dogs have always been kept purely for companionship.
Height at Withers: 6-9" (15-23 cm)
Weight: < 14 lb (6 kg).
Coat: Profuse long coat is straight, stands off, and texture of the hairs is coarse. All colors are allowed. The undercoat is dense and soft. Longevity: 12-13 years.
Points of Conformation: The overall conformation is stocky and compact; slightly longer than tall. The nickname lion dog derives from the fact that the dog is much heavier in the fore than behind, and with a full mane somewhat resembles a little lion in profile. They are not dainty. The head is wider than deep with a broad flat top, jaw is wide at the base, skull is brachycephalic, with correct standard placing the brow in the same plane as the chin and nose. The nose is pigmented black and-sitting up between the prominent eyes. The eyes are very dark and wide set, and palpebral margins are black. A prominent v-shaped wrinkle extends cheek to cheek over the nose, and the stop is deep and well defined. The muzzle is broad and short, and the hair is pigmented black. The jaw is slightly undershot. Ears are folded, heavily feathered, and hang to frame the face on each side. They possess a short thick neck, moderate thorax depth, moderate but distinct abdominal tuck up, the topline is level; the high-set tail is also profusely feathered and carried over the back, hanging to the side. Forelimbs are short and slightly bowed in the radius. Feet are outturned, large, flat and well feathered. Gait is rolling in front and not fast moving.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Breed characteristics reported include: Regal carriage, bold and courageous, good alarm barker. Stubborn and independent minded (this is a significant characteristic that is encouraged with a resulting personality peculiar to the breed). Calm, good-tempered and affectionate, with condescending air (others term this noble bearing or dignified), and loyal.
Socialized early, they are generally good with other pets and children but are aloof with strangers. Some can be aggressive. They have low exercise needs, tolerate heat poorly, and have a snoring tendency.
Daily brushing is needed, and they have a high shedding tendency; need lots of human contact. Care around eyes and anus is needed due to the facial fold and in the latter case, hair.
Normal Physiologic Variations
In a UK study, 43.8% of litters were delivered via Cesarean section.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Reported at an increased frequency in the breed, but too few Pekingese have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Hip Dysplasia and Legg-Calve Perthes Disease: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative hip joint disease and arthritis. Reported at a high frequency by the OFA, but too few Pekingese have been screened to determine an accurate frequency.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Pekingese have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): Pekingese dogs have an increased risk of developing spinal cord disease due to prolapsed disk material. Requires immediate treatment to prevent permanent paralysis. Reported at a frequency of 4.5% in the breed. Dorn reports a 2.50x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome: The brachycephalic syndrome causes breathing difficulties, especially in hot weather. It includes Stenotic Nares, Elongated Soft Palate, Everted Laryngeal Saccules, Laryngeal Collapse, and occasionally Hypoplastic Trachea.
Chronic Valvular Heart Disease: Heart failure due to valvular insufficiency, usually involving the mitral valve. Treat with heart medications. Pekingese have a 3.4x odds ratio for chronic valvular disease versus other breeds.
Cataracts: A partial or complete opacity of the lens and/or its capsule. CERF reports a high frequency, but too few Pekenese have been examined to determine an accurate frequency. Reported in 2.14% of Pekingese presented to veterinary teaching hospitals. CERF does not recommend breeding any Pekingese with a cataract.
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS, Dry Eye): Ocular condition causing lack of tear production and secondary conjunctivitis, corneal ulcerations, and vision problems. Age of onset 2-5 years. CERF reports a high frequency, but too few Pekenese have been examined to determine an accurate frequency. CERF does not recommend breeding any Pekingese with KCS.
Anal Gland Disease: Anal sacculitis and anal gland infection. Dorn reports a 3.03x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Chronic Superficial Keratitis (Pannus), Ectopic Cilia, Entropion, Exposure Keratopathy Syndrome, Lens Luxation, Macroblepharon, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy are all reported in multiple Pekingese by CERF examination. Too few Pekingese have been CERF examined to determine an accurate frequency in the breed. Dorn reports a 2.55x odds ratio for eye disease versus other breeds.3,8 Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 2.0% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Dorn reports a 2.02x odds ratio versus other breeds. CERF reports a high frequency, but too few Pekenese have been examined to determine an accurate frequency.
Primary (Narrow Angle) Glaucoma: Ocular condition causing increased pressure within the eyeball, and secondary blindness due to damage to the retina. Diagnose with tonometry and gonioscopy. Diagnosed in 1.22% of Pekingese presented to veterinary teaching hospitals.
Cystic Calculi: Pekingese are found to have a predisposition to forming bladder stones. Mineral composition is not reported. Staphylococcus intermedius was isolated from 67.9% of female Pekingese with uroliths.
Portosystemic shunt (PSS, liver shunt): Congenital abnormal blood vessel connecting the portal and systemic circulation. Can be intrahepatic or extrahepatic. Causes stunting, abnormal behavior, possible seizures, and secondary ammonium urate urinary calculi. Treatment of PSS includes partial ligation and/or medical and dietary control of symptoms. Tobias reports a 7.1x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Perineal Hernia: Pekingese have a predisposition to developing perineal hernias. Treatment is surgery.
Sertoli Cell Testicular Tumor: Pekingese males have a greater risk of developing sertoli cell tumors than other breeds.
Atlantoaxial Subluxation: Pekingese have an increased risk for atlantoaxial subluxation due to a congenital abnormality of the dens or atlantoaxial ligaments. Dorsal displacement of the axis results in compression of the cervical spinal cord. Treatment is surgery. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis: Affected dogs have clinical signs of recurrent seizures and progressive abnormal gait and behavior, which do not respond to treatment. At necropsy, histopathological features of the inflammatory lesions are consistent with necrotizing meningoencephalitis and resembled those described as Pug dog encephalitis.
Cleft Lip/Palate, Cryptorchidism, Fold Dermatitis, Hydrocephalus, Microphthalmia, Prognathism, Pseudo-Hermaphrodism, Renal Dysplasia, and Wry Mouth are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Multiple Congenital Urinary System Abnormalities: An eight-month-old Pekingese bitch with urinary incontinence was found to have three congenital anomalies of the urinary tract: left renal agenesis, bilateral ectopic ureters with a left cranial blind-ending ureter, and urinary bladder hypoplasia.
Ureterocele: Report of a 5-year-old female Pekingese with a ureterocele, ipsilateral hydroureter, and bilateral renal dysfunction.
Osteochondritis Dissecans of the Femoral Head: An 8-month-old male Pekingese with a 1-month history of right hind limb lameness and crepitus in the right coxofemoral joint treated by femoral head ostectomy. Gross and microscopic examination of the femoral head resulted in a diagnosis of osteochondritis dissecans.
Cervical Syringohydromyelia: An 11-year-old male Pekingese presented with a right-sided head tilt, ataxia, scoliosis, and proprioceptive deficits. MRI of the head and neck revealed a mass in the brainstem, cerebellar herniation, and syringohydromyelia. The dog responded to corticosteroids and radiation therapy of the mass.
Tests of Genotype: Direct tests for coat color are available from VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: Recommend hip and elbow radiographs, patella examination, CERF eye examination, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and cardiac examination.
- Breed name synonyms: Peke, Pekinese, Peking Palasthund. In Chinese, fond historical nicknames include Lion Dog, Sun Dog (those with red-gold coats) and Sleeve Dog (small breed specimens that were carried in the sleeves)
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 55 (2,056 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Pekingese Club of America Inc.: thepekingeseclubofamerica.com
The Pekingese Club (UK): thepekingeseclub.co.uk
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