Did the World’s Ugliest Dog Die of a Breed Related Condition?

***Note*** Dr. Pat wrote the fabulous article below about Elwood the “World’s Ugliest Dog”.  We had the pleasure of interviewing Elwood and his mom Karen at a MCSPCA event we attended several years ago.  He was truly a special little guy, who brought so many smiles to so many people.  RIP little Elwood, the world is missing a star, but we are sure you are up at the Rainbow Bridge having fun with so many of our friends.

Adorable Elwood

Adorable Elwood

Did The World’s Ugliest Dog Die of a Breed Related Condition?


I am a huge fan of the Huffington Post’s Weird News section. For complete disclosure, reading the always intriguing and sometimes shocking examples of weird news is part of my evening wind-down routine, as the section often serves as inspiration for my columns.

Recently, the world lost a well-known canine compatriot who at one time was the World’s Ugliest Dog. Elwood, a Chinese Crested-Chihuahua mix hailing from New Jersey, was runner up at the annual event gathering prime examples of ugly dogs at the Sonoma-Marin County Fair in 2006. He then took top prize in 2007 and went on to lead a rich life making appearances at media events before suddenly passing on Thanksgiving day (2013).

Elwood had quite the unique look, as he lacked hair on much of his body but for a white sprig atop his head. He also had a tongue that hung out the left side of his mouth on a seemingly constant basis. Elwood’s owner, Karen Quigley, states that the cause of his ever-present tongue was that “he just does not have teeth on that side of his mouth”. His overall lack of hair and dark skin pigmentation make him appear more consistent with the Chinese Crested, while the compact cranium featuring a “short or broad head” (brachycephalic) lends the likeness of the Chihuahua.

A Heartwarming Tale

Reportedly, Elwood’s breeder was going to euthanize him until Quigley’s boyfriend, who was working as a New Jersey SPCA investigative officer, saved the pooch as part of an rescue operation. The breeder ultimately surrendered Elwood and 10 other dogs. Elwood ended up going home with Quigley and they were inseparable up until his unfortunate departure.

Quigley penned a children’s book titled Everyone Loves Elwood, which tells his story and spreads the word of acceptance of those who look different. In his lifetime, Elwoood made over 200 media appearances and regularly visited schools to share his message of positivity with children, their teachers, and his general admirers. Quigley states that the main lesson Elwood taught others was that “you don’t have to be perfect to be special.”

Elwood is survived by Quigley and a household full of other rescue dogs. The touching Animal Planet video Meet Elwood tells his story and shows the positive effect he had on all those he encountered.

Breed Concerns

Elwood’s cause of death has not been revealed, but Quigley reported that he had fallen ill a short time before his departure. Yet, the somewhat sudden nature of Elwood’s passing could mean that a variety of causes could have been factors, including:

Cardiac Disease (heart failure, valvular disease, etc.)


Immune Mediated Disease (“autoimmune” disease)

Infection (bacteria, viral, parasite, etc.)

Metabolic Disease (kidney, liver, pancreas, adrenal and thyroid glands, etc.)



As Elwood’s breeding is a cross of the Chinese Crested and Chihuahua, there could have been a number of breed-associated illness affecting him. Since he was a petite pooch (likely less than 10 pounds), it’s more likely that a condition related to his smaller stature factored into his passing instead of one specifically related to him having genetics in both the Chinese Crested or Chihuahua breed.

The Chinese Crested has a variety of disease conditions related to its genetics. Problems affecting the skin are near the top of the list of common Chinese Crested problems, including:

Pyoderma (bacterial skin infection)

Atopic dermatitis (non-seasonal allergic skin disease)

Seasonal allergic skin disease

Solar dermatitis (sunburn)

Comedones (blackheads)

Skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma)


Additionally, the Hairless version of the Chinese Crested (yes, there are haired Powderpuffs and Hairless versions) may have a congenital absence of teeth. This is because the gene that causing a lack of hair can be linked to the gene causing missing teeth.

The Chihuahua also is well known for its breed-related health concerns, including:

Periodontal disease

Brachicephalic airway syndrome (respiratory issues related to having a short and board head)

Patellar laxation (sliding kneecap)

Hydrocephalus (fluid accumulation inside the skull cavity)

Molera (incomplete closure of skull bones)

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar, especially during puppyhood)

Seizure disorder (epilepsy)

Hepatic (liver) shunt

Rest in peace Elwood. The world will miss you, but your legacy will live on forever in the hearts and minds of all those you touched in your short life.


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