The Breed History
This breed originated in the mountains of Tibet, in the city of Lhasa where the harsh environment and high elevations led to the selection of a very hardy dog type. They had been bred for their heavy insulating coat to cope with the extremes of climate. They were so prized in Tibet that they were considered good luck and over a few thousand years, were only found in monasteries or in the houses of nobles. They were also sent as gifts to China, where they contributed to the Shih Tzu and Pekingese breeds. They join the Tibetan Terrier and Tibetan Spaniel in the same group from this region. This breed was first accepted into the AKC registry in 1935. The first US imports came as gifts from the 13th Dalai Lama.
Breeding for Function
They served as guard and alarm dogs for dwellings and monasteries, and also for companionship.
Height at Withers: female 10 " (25.4 cm), male 11" (28 cm)
Weight: females 13-15 lb (6-7 kg), males 13-18 lb (6-8 kg).
Coat: Many colors are accepted, but the haircoat density is significantly developed as protection against harsh conditions. The beard is often dark, and hairs are often mixed color throughout the coat, and have a straight medium texture. The colors most often seen are described as leonine (lion-like); honey, wheaten with dark on the extremities. Parti-color, white, black, and slate are less commonly seen.
Longevity: 14-15 years.
Points of Conformation: The dog is built longer than high, and the head, carried high, is well endowed with whiskers and beard hairs, the nose is black and the face profile is straight. Eyes should be dark brown in pigment, with keen bright expression, and the ears are pendulous and well covered with long hair. The skull is brachycephalic, and jaw is normally mildly prognathic. The tail should be carried well up, and sometimes a screw tip is noted at the terminus of the tail. The topline is straight with a slight slope, and the back is short. The feet are compact and hair-covered as well for warmth.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: They are dogs that generally train easily, though some are a bit independent. They will respond to gentle handling and are a trustworthy companion to their families and are loyal. They enjoy plenty of close human contact. They are wary of strangers and should be socialized when young to both other pets and people.Some are aggressive; especially males. They are good alarm barkers, and because of their historical function as a watchdog they will respond to intruders. They are active dogs, but require low exercise levels. High shedding, and high grooming requirements characterize Lhasas so some owners elect to have them clipped once or twice per annum. They do well in town or country settings.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Reported 3.4x odds ratio versus other breeds. OFA reports 10.3% affected.
Hip Dysplasia and Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: Polygenically inherited traits causing degenerative hip joint disease and arthritis. Reported 6.7x odds ratio for Legg-Calve-Perthes versus other breeds. OFA reports 6.4% affected.
Renal Dysplasia: Autosomal dominant disorder with incomplete penetrance causing renal failure. Affected dogs can succumb to renal failure from birth to two years of age. Mildly affected dogs can live with compensated renal insufficiency. Biopsy studies suggest that a large portion of the breed is affected, although only a small percentage dies from the condition. A direct genetic test for a susceptibility gene is available. (Affected dogs all have one copy of the gene, but most dogs with the gene will not develop kidney failure.)
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Autosomal recessive progressive degeneration of the retina leading to blindness. Age of onset in the breed 2-8 years of age. There is no test for carriers. Identified in 1.06% of Lhasa Apsos CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Factor IX Deficiency (Hemophilia B): Rare X-linked inherited bleeding disorder identified in the breed. A genetic test is available.7 Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Lhasa Apsos have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 3.72% of Lhasa Apsos CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cataracts: Anterior or posterior cortex intermediate and punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. In one large study, 4.61% of Lhasa Apsos had cataracts. Identified in 3.27% of Lhasa Apsos CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Lhasa Apso with a cataract.
Brachycephalic Complex: The brachycephalic complex includes Stenotic Nares, Elongated Soft Palate, Everted Laryngeal Saccules, Laryngeal Collapse, and occasionally Hypoplastic Trachea. Can cause respiratory distress, apnea, and hypoxia.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 3.2% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Allergic Dermatitis: Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis. Lhasa Apsos have a significantly increased risk for atopy versus other breeds. Dorn reports a 1.19x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Exposure Keratopathy Syndrome/Pigmentary Keratopathy: Corneal reactivity and drying from ocular exposure secondary to shallow orbits, exophthalmos, and lagophthalmos. Identified in 2.66% of Lhasa Apsos CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Corneal Dystrophy: Lhasa Apsos can have an epithelial/stromal form of corneal dystrophy. Identified in 2.13% of Lhasa Apsos CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Entropion: Rolling in of eyelids, often causing corneal irritation or ulceration. Reported in 1.60% of Lhasa Apsos CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Chronic Superficial Keratitis: This condition can cause conjunctivitis, corneal ulcerations, and vision problems due to corneal pigmentation. Age of onset 2-5 years. Treatment with topical ocular lubricants and anti-inflammatory medication. Identified in 1.60% of Lhasa Apsos CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS, Dry Eye): Ocular condition causing lack of tear production and secondary conjunctivitis, corneal ulcerations, and vision problems. Age of onset 2-5 years. CERF does not recommend breeding any Lhasa Apso with KCS.
Prolapsed Gland of the Nictitans (Cherry Eye): This condition occurs secondary to inflammation of the gland. Reported at an increased frequency in the breed.
Primary (Narrow Angle) Glaucoma: Ocular condition causing increased pressure within the eyeball, and secondary blindness due to damage to the retina. Diagnose with tonometry and gonioscopy. Diagnosed in 1.33% of Lhasa Apsos presented to veterinary teaching hospitals.
Retinal Dysplasia: Geographic retinal dysplasia occurs in the breed. Can lead to blindness. Reported in 1.06% of Lhasa Apsos CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 1.06% of Lhasa Apsos CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Urinary Calculi: The breed is found to be at an increased risk of developing struvite and oxalate calculi. One study reported an odds ratio of 10.95x for calcium oxalate stones versus other breeds.
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): Lhasa Apsos have an increased risk of developing spinal cord disease due to prolapsed disk material. Clinical signs include back pain, scuffing of paws, spinal ataxia, limb weakness, and paralysis. Requires immediate veterinary attention.
Sebaceous Adenitis: Disorder of immune mediated sebaceous gland destruction, presenting with hair loss, usually beginning with the dorsal midline and ears. Diagnosis by skin biopsy. Treat with isotretinoin. An autosomal recessive mode of inheritance is suspected.
Portosystemic shunt (PSS, liver shunt): Congenital abnormal blood vessel connecting the portal and systemic circulation. Can be intrahepatic or extrahepatic. Causes stunting, abnormal behavior, possible seizures, and secondary ammonium urate urinary calculi. Treatment of PSS includes partial ligation and/or medical and dietary control of symptoms. Tobias reports a 5.4x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Lissencephaly: A rare, inherited, congenital absence of cerebrocortical convolutions. Clinical signs include behavioral, abnormalities, blindness, and seizures that occur during the first year of life. Diagnosis with MRI.
Demodicosis, Ectodermal Defect, Epilepsy, Hydrocephalus, Hypotrichosis, Juvenile Cellulitis, Oligodontia, Pancreatitis, Seasonal Flank Alopecia, Vertebral Stenosis, and von Willebrand's Disease are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Hydrocephalus, Syringomyelia, and Spinal Cord Angiodysgenesis: A Lhasa Apso pup with weakness and ataxia was diagnosed with this combination of disorders.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for a renal dysplasia susceptibility gene is available from Dogenes (dogenes.com).
Direct test for Factor XI deficiency is available from HealthGene.
Tests of Phenotype: Recommended tests are; CERF eye examination, hip and elbow radiographs, patella examination, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, genetic test for renal dysplasia susceptability, and cardiac examination.
- Breed name synonyms: Abso Seng Kye (Engl: Bark Lion Sentinel Dog), Lhasa,Tibetan Apso, Lion Dog
- Registries: AKC, CKC, UKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 56 (2,020 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: American Lhasa Apso Club: lhasaapso.org
Lhasa Apso Canada: lhasa-apso-canada.com
The Lhasa Apso Club (UK): lhasa-apso-club.org.uk
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