Both Pekingese and Tibetan spaniels are ancient breeds that share some ancestry, though it is unclear which breed descended from the other. Evidence of their existence reaches as far back as 200 B.C. While not to be confused with each other, Tibetan spaniels and Pekingese do possess some similarities in structure, genetics and size, and thus may suffer from similar medical problems.
A Bit About These Small Breeds
Pekingese are generally alert and intelligent dogs, with stocky bodies and long thick coats. For their size and stature, of under 15 pounds, they are considered quite strong and appear almost regal and lionlike. They are loyal without requiring companionship and generally possess a peaceful, nonaggressive disposition. Pekingese are classified in the toy group and enjoy rest as much as exercise. Similar in stature and size to the Pekingnese, Tibetan spaniels fall into the non-sporting category of dogs. Rugged, alert and intelligent, they are loyal companions and watchdogs, and are generally more assertive than Pekingese. Their spaniel moniker is not accurate -- they were only given this designation to distinguish them from the larger Tibetan terrier.
Respiratory Problems in Both Breeds
Respiratory problems are the most prevalent medical condition these breeds suffer from. Deformed morphology or excessive wrinkles can significantly inhibit breathing. This brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome is a genetic predisposition that can inhibit daily activities by preventing enough oxygen from reaching the lungs. Surgical repair to expand the nares can provide some relief but, as with any surgery, comes with risk. This condition is more keenly apparent in the Pekingese due to its slightly shorter face; however, Tibetan spaniels are also prone.
Tibetan spaniels suffer from a genetic disease known as progressive retinal atrophy. This is a degeneration of the photoreceptors, leading to eventual complete blindness. While there is no cure, scientists and responsible breeders are attempting to isolate and eradicated the responsible gene. In addition, conditions such as cherry eye, or entropionism, and ectropionism, the inversion of the eyelids, are common among both breeds and require surgical correction.
The short, stocky stature of both breeds makes them susceptible to back problems such as intervertebral disk disease. Genetic selection for dwarfism has had negative impact on skeletal structure and the intervertebral disks along the spine are more susceptible to damage from trauma, obesity and aging. Pain management is available as well as the surgical release of disk material if needed. This progressive condition can result in permanent paralysis if not addressed.
Responsible breeding is of the utmost importance in both breeds to help prevent these abnormalities. Only individuals of similar size should be bred to help prevent birthing problems that can lead to malformations. Furthermore, maintaining a balanced diet, that does not lend itself to obesity helps prevent back problems in breeds with long bodies and short stature.
Working with both small animals and exotics, Pamela Meadors has devoted more than 15 years to the veterinary field. She possesses a bachelor's degree in biological sciences and is the proud mom of a blind hedgehog.