Lhasa Apso - breed information and advice

Originally treasured by the monks within the royal temples of Tibet, the Lhasa Apso’s exotic history has left the breed with a wariness of strangers and an independent personality. However, with training and patience, this hardy little dog makes an affectionate pet and is always happy to stay at home and play with the family.

Breed information


Size: Small

Coat: The luxurious top coat hides a dense undercoat for winter warmth, and is topped with a jaunty plumed tail. The Lhasa Apso’s long hair needs daily brushing and grooming to prevent matting.

Exercise: Up to an hour a day for adult dogs

Life span: 12+ years

Breed group: The Utility group is diverse, including a range of breeds that don’t automatically fall into the other six more defined groups. Generally speaking, Utility breeds are medium-sized and even-tempered.

Eye conditions

Eye problems are very common in dogs. Dry eye, for example, occurs when a dog isn’t producing sufficient tears, and results in a chronic inflammation of the surface structures of the eye. Another common, painful eye irritation is corneal ulceration, which happens when the surface of the cornea is grazed as a result of scratches from other animals or vegetation, or because of foreign material in the eye, chemicals, heat or smoke, or infection. ‘Cherry eye’ is the name given when a dog’s tear production gland has prolapsed. Overall, treatment depends on the type and severity of eye problem (cherry eye, for example, requires surgery). Some treatments may be required for life to keep the dog’s vision in good health.


In our experience, Lhasa Apsos are most likely to need treatment for an eye condition

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Slipped discs

Like several other breeds with long backs and short legs, Lhasa Apsos are susceptible to slipped discs, also known as ‘intervertebral disc disease’. This occurs when the discs between the vertebrae (backbones) become damaged and brittle with age or general wear and tear. This makes the discs prone to rupturing, moving (‘slipping’) and pressing against the spinal cord itself. Treatment depends on the cause and location of the problem but may include medication, rest and possibly even surgery to help the dog live a comfortable life.


We paid £2,878 to treat Smudge the Lhasa Apso for disc problems in 2016

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Dislocating kneecap

The kneecap (or ‘patella’) sits in a groove at the end of the femur (thigh bone). A dislocating (or ‘luxating’) kneecap is one that pops out of its groove. A relatively common condition in Lhasa Apsos and other small breeds, dislocation happens because the alignment of the bones from the hip through the knee to the ankle is not straight, which pulls the kneecap to one side. Treatment depends on the severity of the condition, but surgery may be required to reduce the likelihood of arthritis and enable the dog to live a normal life.


A dislocating kneecap is the second most common joint problem we see in Lhasa Apsos

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Skin conditions

The skin is the largest organ of a dog’s body and a number of disorders can affect it. Like other dogs, Lhasa Apsos can suffer from allergies that lead to dermatitis (skin inflammation). Allergies can be caused by many different items, including things that are inhaled (such as pollen or dust mites), items that are eaten (for example, wheat), items that the dog comes into contact with (for example, washing powders), or bites from parasites such as fleas. Another skin problem, pyoderma (meaning ‘infection of the skin’) is usually caused by bacteria, fungi (‘ringworm’) or yeasts. Skin disorders can be managed using various treatments, usually required long-term, which means the dog can get on with enjoying life.


Skin conditions are the third most common illnesses we see in Lhasa Apsos

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Breathing problems

A dog’s respiratory system runs from the nose to the air sacs in the lungs. Any part of this system can become diseased. Pneumonia, for example, means ‘inflammation of the lungs’, and is caused by infections or parasites such as lungworm. Tracheal collapse is a common cause of airway obstruction in small breeds such as Lhasa Apsos. The trachea (or windpipe) is a tube made up of sturdy rings of cartilage through which air is transported to and from the lungs when the dog breathes. Sometimes the tracheal rings begin to collapse, and air is squeezed through, resulting in a characteristic honking cough. Treatment may include surgery if the dog’s breathing is severely compromised.


We paid £3,654 to treat Lucky the dog for respiratory system disorders in 2016

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