Lhasa Apsos are the darlings of the show ring with their long sweeping hair and endearing looks. With their status as one of the most ancient breeds, it’s hard to imagine they have many health problems. In fact, you’d be right in thinking that they’re quite hardy little dogs compared to other breeds. However, there are still a few health issues which can creep in with bad breeding and unlucky draws from the genetic pool. Here are some important ones to be aware of.
With all that fur in the way, it can be difficult to get a good look at your Lhasa’s eyes. It’s thought that the long fur originally helped to shade the eyes from the glaring snow in their Himalayas homeland. However, if you can take a closer look at the eyes, you’ll be able to examine them for some of the more common eye issues that can happen in Lhasa Apsos. One of the most common of these is progressive renal atrophy, where the retina deteriorates. Ideally, the breeder you choose your puppy from should be screening against this disease wherever possible. If they don’t seem very knowledgable about it, you should go to a different breeder. In addition to this, a condition called “cherry eye” can be a problem. This sore looking condition happens more frequently in younger dogs, usually before the age of two. It happens when the gland of the third eyelid becomes prolapsed (detached) and when this happens it protrudes from the eye as a red, inflamed mass. If left untreated this can lead to further eye complications like “dry eye”. Veterinary attention is essential to see whether these conditions need to be corrected with surgery.
The Lhasa Apso’s long, impressive coat needs a lot of care and attention, but so does the skin underneath it, which can sometimes be concealed by the thick coat. When grooming, it’s important to take a good look at the skin for signs of allergic reactions, itching, flaking and atopic dermatitis. Look out for lesions, and flaky, sore looking skin. Flea bite allergies can also cause this type of reaction. Whatever the culprit, you’ll need to actively look into what’s causing the skin reaction and eliminate it from your Lhasa’s environment. If you’re washing your Lhasa, don’t leave the fur damp to dry naturally as this can cause the type of damp, moist environments that skin infections can breed in. Dry your fur-ball thoroughly using a low heat hair dryer to avoid this problem. Aside from these allergies, you should also be aware of a condition called sebaceous adenitis where the immune system attacks the sebaceous glands. When this happens, there is a marked effect on the skin and coat. Silvery dandruff is produced with lesions and a musty smell. The coat itself will be dull and the hair will break easily.
Renal cortical hyperplasia (kidney failure)
This is common in both Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus. It happens when the kidneys fail to mature properly as the dog grows. The nephrons in the kidneys stay immature and some are replaced by fibrous tissue. As a result the kidneys appear to be smaller and irregular in shape, and they are less able to filter toxins from the blood. Blood tests and ultrasounds can be used to determine the health of the kidneys but as always, the best prevention is to go to a responsible breeder who has screened against these issues.