Thu. Aug 18th, 2022

The Pekingese Club has always taken a lead on highlighting health issues in the breed.Healthy Pekingese

In the last 10 years, our breed has come under major scrutiny. I think that we would all agree that at times, this has often felt to be unfair, particularly in light of our own experiences and the pleasure they give us.

Nevertheless, there is a need to both acknowledge some of the health issues that the breed has and address the problems that the Kennel Club need to see tackled, before we can get our Category 3 status removed.

The average life span of a Pekingese is well over 11 years which is much longer than other breeds that have not had the same level of attention. I am sure we all known pekes that have lived far beyond that; 20 years is not unknown.

The Pekingese Club in collaboration with the vast majority of Pekingese breed clubs have worked hard to identify and address health issues.

In 2010 we hosted an International Health Conference “New Ideas- New Concepts” which included lectures on areas such as breathing problems, back issues and pioneering research on the possible inherited causes of BAS.

The following year, 2011, as part of our commitment to health, we led on a comprehensive Pekingese Health survey supported by our breed clubs and the Kennel Club Charitable Trust The results were unique, in that they were obtained from both show dogs and companion dogs.   The survey served as a benchmark for future research and breed health monitoring. A summary of the survey is now listed on our health pages.

In 2013, we worked in liaison with The Bristol Bath & West  of England Pekingese Association to encourage eye examinations and  in the last few years we have also supported health assessments of our show dogs.Healthy Pekingese

At Discover Dogs, we have adapted our presentation to potential new owners to demonstrate how much our Pekes enjoy exercise. “Fit Pekes” is a powerpoint presentation of photographs of Pekingese jumping and doing agility tasks. We have also included examples of them trekking through snowy countryside. We received a lot of positive feedback from both the Public and senior members of the Kennel Club, of how we had demonstrated that Pekingese are truly “ fit for function”

There is still a great need to undertake general health assessments of our dogs at both breed and General Championship shows. The reason why these are so important, is that we need to demonstrate to the Kennel Club that we are monitoring the health of our dogs and hopefully convince them that our dogs are healthier than they used to be.

We have summarised the evidence from the Pekingese Health Survey on subsequent pages and we hope you will find this useful.

In many ways, one of the most important  health issues that the breed faces are back problems. Informally many in the breed have had dogs “off their legs” and the health surveys in both 2004 and 2011, do not seem to have fully captured this. We are most grateful to Mr Damien Bush MA VetMB CertSAS MRCVS for his article and hope that you will find it interesting.

One of the other major concerns for the breed is our shrinking gene pool. As the number off dogs registered continues to decline, the amount of genetic diversity goes down. The COI or coefficient of inbreeding is a measure of this and higher figures are a warning that the breed could be in danger. We now have a relatively high figure and so this really is a warning signal to the whole breed that we need to use a greater number of dogs when considering our breeding programmes. Whilst in the past it was not a problem to use a popular stud dog, we now face a situation as a breed where by using such a limited number of stud dogs, we could end up in a cycle of decline and make us a vulnerable breed.Healthy Pekingese

Our club has decided to lead on producing a dedicated health section on our web site. We hope that you will find this useful. Please help us to develop these pages in the future by contributing articles and taking part in the health initiatives the breed are promoting.

Dr Nicolas Small

Joint Kennel Club
Pekingese Health Coordinator
Health lead for the Pekingese Club

October 2015. 

Common Health Issues in the Pekingese breed

We hope that the following gives you an idea of the most important health issues we face as a breed.

Eyes:  Most reported eye issues are due to minor abrasions to the surface of the eye. The breed no longer has the prominent eyes that were commonplace 20 years ago.  Nevertheless there is still the risk of corneal abrasions and recurrent rubbing of the eyelids on the surface of the eye can lead to a condition known as keratitis. This is why it is important to look for this condition in any general examination.

Heart:   Early heart testing by specialist cardiology veterinary examination can ensure that any problems are identified and appropriate action taken.   Breed clubs have held heart testing days to pick these issues up as soon as possible.  Early identification is important not only for the health of the dog, but also to enable breeders to make informed decisions in their breeding plans.   Using testing data in breeding will ensure fewer heart related issues in future generations.

Back problems:   Currently the breed is working closely with specialist veterinary surgeons to understand why the Pekingese breed is prone to back problems.   IVVD  or (Intervertebral Disc Disease).    Many other dog breeds also have these problems.

Breathing:  While breathing problems have received a lot of publicity, the 2011 Health Survey showed that this may not be as extensive a problem as had been thought. The Pekingese Clubs are nevertheless, taking this issue extremely seriously and worked with the Ostrander Laboratory in the USA to identify the gene or genes that may be responsible for this condition. It is possible that the breathing issues are caused by factors other than the shape of the nose and head. If genes can be identified then it may be possible to develop a specific test for this condition.

Unfortunately the Ostrander Laboratory are not currently undertaking this research, having had some of their funding reduced in the USA as a result of the financial crisis. Nevertheless the blood samples of those dog owners that allowed their dogs to have a blood test in 2011 are stored in the USA and are available in the future if the research started again.

The main problem to look out for when assessing a dog is to look out for stenotic nares or pinched nostrils. Many of the dogs exhibited at shows now seem to have very open nostrils and just as prominent eyes were an issue in the 1980-90s, this does seem to now be less of a problem. This is a major achievement of the breed and demonstrates how breeders are selectively breeding out the issue. 

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The following are some resources from the Kennel Club website


Inbreeding, put simply, is the mating of related individuals. High levels of inbreeding can impact the health of individual dogs, as it could increase the chances of a dog being at risk for both known and unknown inherited disorders. It will also have an impact on the breed as a whole, for example, a reduction in litter size and fertility.

It is impossible to make precise predictions about the exact impact that inbreeding has on an individual dog, but we do know that, as the degree of inbreeding increases, the risk of having a serious and harmful impact on the breed as a whole will increase.

How can you measure the degree of inbreeding?

The degree of inbreeding can be measured by using an Inbreeding Coefficient, or Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI). This is the probability that two copies of the same gene have been inherited from an ancestor common to both the sire and dam. The lower the degree of inbreeding, the lower the inbreeding coefficient.
Inbreeding Coefficient Calculators

The Kennel Club’s free online health resource, Mate Select, provides breeders with inbreeding coefficient calculators for all dogs found on the Kennel Club’s Breed Register. These calculators use all pedigree records stored on the Kennel Club’s database to calculate the result, for:

  • Puppies that could be produced from hypothetical matings, allowing you to make informed decisions before choosing a breeding pair
  • An Individual Kennel Club registered dog
  • Each breed

Use any of their  inbreeding coefficient calculators here.
Each of these COI calculators use all available pedigree information and does not limit the number of generations used, making each calculation as precise as possible.   The number of generations available for individual calculations is provided on the right hand corner on Mate Select.
Putting your COI result into perspective.
The COI calculator provides you with a percentage score; the lower the percentage, the lower the degree of inbreeding.
Therefore, an inbreeding coefficient of:

  • 0% indicates a dog that comes from two unrelated parents, based on all available pedigree information
  • 12.5% would equate to the genetic equivalent of a dog produced from a grandfather to granddaughter mating
  • 25% would equate to the genetic equivalent of a dog produced from a father to daughter mating.

Inbreeding can be accumulative, so if it has occurred to a significant degree over several generations, the inbreeding coefficient may exceed 25%.

Using the COI to help make breeding decisions
When choosing a potential mate for your dog, the Kennel Club recommend that breeders use Mate Select to calculate the inbreeding coefficient of the puppies that could be produced from a hypothetical mating.

The current Kennel Club breeding guidelines are that, where possible, breeders should produce puppies with an inbreeding coefficient which is at, or below, the annual breed average and ideally as low as possible. The annual breed average is recalculated each year and is shown to you each time you use the COI calculators.

Breeders should be aware that the inbreeding coefficient is a measurement of risk and does not guarantee that puppies produced will, or will not, have any inherited health conditions. There are other equally important factors to consider when deciding whether two dogs should be mated together, such as temperament, available health test results, the general health of the dogs etc. Your decision should be well balanced between the inbreeding coefficient and the good qualities of the sire/dam that you are considering.

For further information visit

Will the Kennel Club still register puppies with a higher than average inbreeding coefficient?

The Kennel Club will still register the puppies of a mating which results in an inbreeding coefficient which is higher than the annual breed average, but it is recommended that you consider a different pairing, all other considerations being equal. If you do go ahead with the mating and plan to use any of the puppies for breeding in the future, it is strongly recommended that you take extra care to choose a highly unrelated mate that will result in puppies with an inbreeding coefficient well below the breed average.

To help reduce the highest degrees of inbreeding, the Kennel Club does however not register puppies produced from a mating between father and daughter, mother and son, or brother and sister, save in rare exceptional circumstances for scientifically proven welfare reasons.

For further information on other health considerations to make prior to breeding, please see their ‘Breeding for Health‘ information guide.

What % COI is considered to be a problem, and why?

There is something of a balancing act when it comes to canine genetics, in terms of fixing the uniform desirable traits that make up the breed within its breed lines, without introducing genetic anomalies and hereditary health defects into the breed at the same time.

Inbreeding is something that every dog breed in the world has been subjected to at some point in its history, and within some smaller and newer breeds, this is still necessary in terms of establishing the breed. However, even if inbreeding is carefully managed to avoid the fixing of problems and defects, it nevertheless causes various other subtle problems over time too.

Inbred dogs tend to have smaller litters, which in turn tend to be less robust and hardy and more likely to suffer from early illnesses. Fertility problems and immune problems often accompany inbreeding too.

A COI of higher than 6.25% is generally considered to be undesirable as a norm within established pedigree dog breeds, as above this level, subtle problems begin to enter the gene pool. The Pekingese COI is higher than this at 8.1%.

While inbreeding is not always avoidable when establishing or developing a breed, dogs with a COI of 25% tend to live markedly shorter lives and in poorer health than more genetically robust dogs.

It is of course always important to note that COI is a statistical analysis, and not a direct assessment on a genetic level of each individual dog. Having a very low figure of COI by no means guarantees good health, and a high COI does not guarantee that the dog will be sickly; however, all potential breeders and dog owners should consider the odds, and the welfare of their dogs carefully before making the decision to breed dogs with a high COI. 

Coefficient of Inbreeding

What does this value mean?
What is inbreeding?
Inbreeding is the mating of related individuals, whether they are closely or more distantly related. The inbreeding coefficient is the probability that two copies of the same gene have been inherited by an individual from a common founder – an ancestor shared by both parents.

How is the annual breed average calculated?
This calculation is carried out each June and generates the breed average using Kennel Club registered dogs born in the UK between January and December of the previous year.
Using this data is a more effective means of monitoring yearly change than by using the average of all living dogs in that breed.
In smaller breeds, if no dogs have been born in that year, the annual breed average will default to the last year in which a calculation could be performed. In breeds where there is no available annual breed average data for the past five years, the annual breed average will display as N/A. This may include breeds where no dogs have been born in the UK for five years or more, or some newly recognised breeds.
Prior to June 2014 the breed average COI was calculated to include dogs registered in a year as well as dogs born in a year. It was decided that using dogs born in the UK was a more accurate and useful figure.

Putting this COI result into perspective
The COI calculator provides you with a percentage score; the lower the percentage, the lower the degree of inbreeding.
Therefore, an inbreeding coefficient of:

  • 0% indicates a dog that comes from two unrelated parents, based on all available pedigree information
  • 12.5% would equate to the genetic equivalent of a dog produced from a grandfather to granddaughter mating.
  • 25% would equate to the genetic equivalent of a dog produced from a father to daughter mating.

Inbreeding can be accumulative, so if it has occurred to a significant degree over several generations, the inbreeding coefficient may exceed 25%.
Help/Contact Us
If you have any further questions then please email

healthy pekingese

Breeder Education Seminars

For further information on other general health considerations to make prior to breeding, please see the Kennel Club’s  ‘Breeding for Health‘ information guide. Or attend one of their  Breeder Education Seminars

  • The Pekingese Club is also hoping to organise a health seminar in 2016.

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The following is the latest information from the Kennel Club’s website on Breed Watch

Pekingese – Category 3

Particular points of concern for individual breeds may include features not specifically highlighted in the breed standard including current issues. In some breeds, features may be listed which, if exaggerated, might potentially affect the breed in the future.

Prior to 2014 the features listed below derived from a combination of health surveys, veterinary advice, a meeting of Kennel Club Group judges, feedback from judges at shows or consultation with individual breed club(s)/councils via the breed health coordinators.

From 2014 the structure of Breed Watch  allowed for a greater involvement by judges in the reporting on and monitoring of the points of concern.

This is the latest information from the Kennel Club about issues that they feel are of concern in the Pekingese breed

Points of concern for special attention by judges

  • Dogs showing signs of respiratory distress – NEW 23/02/2015
  • Excessive coat
  • Excessive nasal folds
  • Excessively prominent eyes
  • Heavy overnose wrinkle (roll)
  • Pinched nostrils
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Uncomfortable eyes due to damage or poor eyelid conformation – NEW 23/02/2015
  • Weak hindquarters 

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Short Report of the Results of the Pekingese Health Survey 2011

The need for a detailed survey of Pekingese health arose as we needed to monitor our breed’s health, as one of the requirements of the Kennel Club, in order to have our level 3 breed status reclassified.

Questions were asked specifically about conditions in 6 categories of disease

Reproduction, Nervous System,, Heart,  Eyes, Breathing & Other.

The survey was officially launched on-line in October 2010. Following some difficulties with the length of the survey, the on-line version was modified and re-launched in November 2010  A paper version of the survey was also made available on the website and via e-mail to the breed club secretaries. The deadline for completing the survey was extended to 31 March 2011. The on-line version was then closed but paper versions were still accepted until July 2011.

It is important to note that the 2011 Health Survey represented not only dogs owned by the Show Dog community , but also Pet owners. This means that  it is extremely difficult to make direct comparisons between the two surveys.

The good news is that more Pekingese were represented in the 2011 survey compared to the 2004 survey in spite of total KC registrations being much lower in recent years.

A total of 240 records or forms contained useable information & individual members of all the UK Pekingese breed clubs contributed
45 households responded (HH), The results obtained were from 214 live dogs and 50 deaths over a 6 year period from 2004 to 2010.

On-line there were 186 records representing 31 Households, 161 live dogs and 35 deaths and on paper there were 54 records representing 14 Households 53 live dogs and 15 deaths. The majority of dogs were born (91%) and lived (90%) in the UK and were registered with The Kennel Club (UK).

The  average age of the live dogs was 4 years and 11 months ( youngest =2 months, oldest=16 years and 1 month.

Health information was reported for 214 live dogs of which 146 (68.2%) were healthy i.e. had no reported health problem and 68 (31.8%) had at least one reported health condition, resulting in a total of 97 reported conditions. The 2004 survey suggested that a similar number (63% of 174 Pekingese) were healthy and this is not significantly different than in the 2011 survey.

One-half of the female Pekingese  had given birth to at least one litter. The total number of litters was 123  and of these 42% had  at least 1 Caesarean-section and 5 Pekes had 2 or more Caesarean sections for a total C-section rate of 42.3% (52/123 litters)

Therefore the C section rate was very similar to that found in 2004.

Health Issues reported in 2010 survey

It is important to note that some of these are minor problems and the figures show that eyes, backs and breathing problems are the most common issues facing the breed.

The most commonly reported conditions affected the eyes, breathing, reproduction, spines and hearts in this survey and this was similar to what was found in the 2004 survey.

The table below indicates the number of dogs that were reported to have a health problem in the 2011 survey.

Disease conditions affecting the 214 live Pekingese in the 2011 Survey

Body system Affected Conditions reported
N %
Eyes 24 24.7
Breathing 22 22.7
Reproduction 15 15.5
Nervous System 14 14.4
Other 13 13.4
Heart & Circulation 9 9.3
Totals 97 100.0

The most common problems in each heading were

Reproduction– Pyometra – Womb infection and Dystocia – difficulty whelping,.

Nervous System -Back problems -IVDD – intervertebral disc disease

Heart – Heart valve problems  and Heart Failure

Eyes   Corneal ulcer

Breathing-  Kennel cough, and BAS (Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome)

Other conditions– Skin infection, Anal gland abscess, Dental disease, Jaw fracture, Patellar luxation, Prostatic enlargement, Salivary gland blockage, Sebaceous cysts, Thyroid problem,  Bladder and Kidney stones.

Mortality / Death data
A total of 51 deaths were reported. The details of 2 deaths were not reported so the rest of the death information is for 49 deaths. The most common causes of death in this survey were ‘old age’, found dead, heart problems, cancer, breathing problems, post surgery complications and nervous system problems. and these were  similar to those found in the 2004 survey
The average  age at death for the Pekingese breed was 11 years and 2 months (minimum  = 3 months, maximum = 16 years and 6 months).

This is the same as that reported in the 2004 survey.

Some initial thoughts
The sample size remains small in relation to the total number of Pekingese in the UK and the number of KC registrations per year., however a large proportion of  Pekingese owners that actively attend dog shows have taken part in the survey.

As already indicated, the  2004 survey and the 2011 survey were looking at very different populations of dogs as the 2011 survey included Pet owners. This may explain why for example, although Pekingese dogs now have less prominent  and smaller eyes than in 2004, the 2011survey  identified the same number of eye issues, A probable explanation of this, is that Pet owners are less likely to understand the reasons for caring for eyes and protecting dogs from sand or  debris. There is also a possibility that the eye issue is independent of size and the Brachycephalic skull and that,as is the case with back problems (IVDD) there is a biochemical reason for the  problem.

The reporting of back issues was lower than expected. This is not the experience of specialist vets in the field and as a breed, we may need to do a targeted survey on this problem.

Although the breed has some health issues that need to be addressed, the reporting of breathing problems was possibly lower than might have been expected. Many of the conditions reported are minor ailments that are found in other breeds.

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