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The trouble with Pekes...

Written By: Jane Davidson RVN

Yes, I’m a vet nurse and a Pekingese owner. In fact Hollie isn’t even my first Peke, we had Wilson before her. Both are rescue dogs and I will always encourage people to #adoptdontshop and in particular to adopt a golden oldie – they have so much to give.  I adored the personality of the breed, and Hollie and Wilson individually, so much they have turned me into a Breed Specific Owner – a BSO.

A BSO is someone who will always have the same breed of dog – regardless almost of the dog itself, male, female, old, young whether it fits in with their lifestyle or not – they will always have the same breed of dog.

I never thought I’d be that person, in fact I never fully understood it… surely you find an animal that fits your current lifestyle and needs and surely that changes over time? Before Wilson arrived I’d thought more objectively about dog ownership and then he arrived, my life changed and I didn’t know it yet but I was a besotted BSO.


The down side of Peke life

Owning a Peke is quite hard work and if you’ve seen much of the news in animals and welfare recently you’ll probably know that Pekes are Brachycephalic. It’s a long word but it simply means she has a shortened skull, which means she has a flat face. In fact Hollie as you can see is almost as flat as you can get a face. You may have seen or read some of the issues dogs with this shape face have and read about the campaigns to try and change the physical problems they have.

In a short list these include the higher than average risk of:

  • Breathing issues
  • Overheating/heat stroke
  • Eye issues
  • Skin problems around nose folds
  • Joint problems
  • Dental issues
  • Back problems

If you own a dog like this it can feel very alienating, and I feel this too, but it’s not meant to be. The campaigns are highlighting the physical problems and hopefully helping current or future owners decide on how best to help. Maybe such a high maintenance dog isn’t for you so you don’t get one; or you’d like to check with your vet now about something you’re concerned over. Raising awareness is very important in the welfare of these breeds, your vet wants you to know that they can help.

Peke problems

These problems are due to two main issues:

  • Breeding for a flat face
    • Creates nose rolls and skin folds that can become infected or push hair into the eyes
    • Removes the length of nose that helps cool/warm the air breathed
    • Squishes the soft tissue in the mouth to reduce the space there is to move air into the lungs
    • Reduces the space for all the usual teeth
    • Encourages eyes to sit further forward in the skull making them more likely to be damaged
  • Breeding for short legs, long back and curly tail
    • Distorts leg joints so they lose normal shape
    • Long back puts extra pressure on the spine
    • Curly tail only happens if the vertebrae change shape which increases the chance of problems

With Pekes you also face the daily maintenance of the long coat and the curly nails. I spend more on Hollie’s hair and nails than on my own!


I clearly don’t have a Peke in my life because I like to have a dog with health problems. I don’t want to spend more time in a vets than any other dog owner, but I do as I work hard with my vets to provide a comfortable life for Hollie. But there’s a lot to cover there so more of that for another blog…

I adore her independent ways, I love that she is as excited coming home after a short walk as after a 2 week holiday. She shows such love and devotion to our cat Tillie it’s so sweet. She assumes my husband is always in the wrong and if I raise my voice – for good or bad – she joins in to let him know whose side she is on.

You see, she’s a companion dog, happiest with the people who love her. She hasn’t got a hunting drive, or a chase reflex. She has a desire to sit somewhere comfy and just be. Possibly the most mindful dog ever.

The future

In my future I see more Pekes or Peke type dogs, but I would like to see a physical change in the dog I own.

A shorter back and longer legs would alleviate the joint issues. Breeding a longer nose would reduce the breathing issues, reduce the skin folds, dental issues and bulging eyes.

I would like to see a little ‘Paddington Nose’ on Pekes in the UK. Across the world the ‘Peke type’ varies and outside of the UK there are some great examples of gorgeous Pekes with a lovely little nose and longer legs. In fact some look a little like  the lovely Tibetan Spaniels we see in this country.

It seems odd the different countries can have such extremes of the same type of dog that can cause ill health when everyone involved with the breed will say they love them.

For now I’ll work with Hollie and her vet team to make sure she’s well cared for and I’ll tell you what we do for her.

But as this is a Sunday morning then here’s Hollie in her natural habitat.


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