Skin care

My Shar Pei Smells Bad

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. June 6, 2021
My Shar Pei Smells Bad
Shar pei

Animal file: Shar pei

All dogs are beautiful and have their own characteristics which make them special. However, it is true that the Shar Pei has some traits which make them stand out on their own. Perhaps the most noticeable is their wrinkly skin which gives their coat very distinct folds and somewhat doleful expression which makes them very appealing to dog guardians. Unfortunately, with such a distinctive coat comes some issues. These are often related to hygiene which can contribute to their coat smelling bad.

AnimalWised explains more about why my Shar Pei smells bad. We show the reasons why this can happen and what we can do to treat it and prevent it from happening again.

You may also be interested in: Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?
  1. Why does my Shar Pei smell bad?
  2. Bad smells due to poor hygiene
  3. Preventing a Shar Pei from smelling bad

Why does my Shar Pei smell bad?

The characteristic skin of the Shar Pei makes it predisposed to certain health and hygiene problems. A symptom of these problems can be a bad smell, often making their skin smell fishy.

Wrinkles in the Shar Pei's skin also create recesses where bacteria build up can occur. Cleaning and aerating these areas can be difficult, especially since the dog needs to run around and exercise. Not only do these recesses promote bacterial growth, but it can also increase the risk of parasitical infection. Below we look at two of the main skin problems in Shar Peis which cause them to smell bad:


Demodicosis is a skin disease caused by a microscopic mite from the genus Demodex. They can lodge in the dog's skin, even penetrating the hair follicles. These mites can affect dogs of any age or condition. However, infestation is most common in puppies or those affected by immunosuppressing diseases. It can also be exacerbated by corticosteroid treatment or as a side effect of other drugs.

Although these mites are not the main reason why a Shar Pei smells bad, but they predispose the dog to other common Shar Pei skin conditions which do cause a foul odor to develop. They include seborrhea, pyoderma or Malassezia fungal infection.


Shar Pei dogs also have a high genetic predisposition to suffer from allergies, especially allergies to environmental elements. These can be found in many places in their environment and include mites, pollen, chemicals, etc.

As in the previous case, allergies themselves are not responsible for the bad smell. Rather, they alter the skin's condition, causing it to lose its protective barrier function against other diseases that do cause bad smells.

As mentioned, there are diseases that themselves cause bad odor, such as Malassezia infection, a yeast that affects the skin, seborrhea (excess production of the sebaceous glands) or pyoderma, a bacterial infection of the skin. These diseases, which require veterinary diagnosis and treatment, can appear in all dogs, but are much more frequent in dogs with allergies or demodicosis, as is the case of Shar Pei.

Unrelated to smell, there is a specific disease which is common in this breed. Read all about Shar Pei fever to know more.

Bad smells due to poor hygiene

Poor hygiene will have adverse on any dog and will result in them smelling bad. However, the Shar Pei is particularly affected by even small changes in their hygiene maintenance.

There is a popular belief that dogs in general, and the Spar Pei in particular, should never be washed. The belief is that they have a protective layer of oil on their skin which is removed when washed. It is true that dogs have this protective layer, but it is not true they never need washed. In fact, there are many dog shampoos and coat products which respect this layer. These products are known as ‘dermoprotectors’ and aren't prohibitively expensive.

Shar Peis will need washed more than some other dog breeds. However, this should be based on a routine where they are washed once a month, maximum. The only times when a Shar Pei should be washed more than this is when they have become particularly dirty, as is often the case if they are out in nature.

Dogs do not sweat through their skin the same as humans. For this reason, they don't smell bad because of sweat. However, their skin follicles can still become blocked, so we need to ensure their hygiene is well-maintained.

My Shar Pei Smells Bad - Bad smells due to poor hygiene

Preventing a Shar Pei from smelling bad

As the Shar Pei is an animal with sensitive skin, it is advisable to give a specific diet for dogs of this breed. These are usually formulae created for dogs with sensitive skin or allergies. It is also recommended to provide omega 3 fatty acids in the diet. Providing an inadequate diet can be reflected in the state of the dog's skin. Therefore, it is possible the dog's diet is contributing to why a Shar Pei smells fishy.

On the other hand, we need to use a product that prevents mites from colonizing the dog's skin. These should be part of the dog's deworming schedule, something which needs to be implemented by a veterinarian. These are most commonly administered via pipette on the dog's skin. They will also need specialist medicated dermoprotector shampoos which can control infestations and prevent their skin from smelling bad.

Some urban legends claim that smearing Shar Pei's wrinkles with oils and various household products are good practices to keep their skin healthy. However, in most cases, this is potentially dangerous. Especially if used in copious amounts, these oils affect the protective layer of natural oils and clog the pores. This will cause the dog's skin to smell worse by promoting bacteria.

Although Shar Pei dogs are more prone to having bad smelling skin, the best prevention is to maintain overall health. Ensure they have the correct feed for them as an individual, exercise them correctly, maintain proper deworming and vaccination schedules, and take them to a veterinarian if they have any symptoms of disease.

Along with skin diseases, ocular problems are common to the Shar Pei. Our article on why my Shar Pei won't open their eyes explains more.

If you want to read similar articles to My Shar Pei Smells Bad, we recommend you visit our Skin care category.

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