"Lhasa Apso hereditary health and health testing

"Lhasa Apso hereditary health and health testing

Health & Safety

The Lhasa Apso is a small breed of dog that originated in Tibet, and was originally bred as a watchdog within Buddhist monasteries, to alert the monks to the approach of strangers. The word “Apso” means “beard” in the Tibetan language, and reflects the long haired and bearded appearance of the breed.

The Lhasa Apso is classed as a small or toy breed, which stands up to 10.75” tall at the withers, and can weigh up to 18lb. Males of the breed tend to be larger than females.

The coat of the dog is one of its most defining features, being long, heavy and straight, with a hard texture that is neither fluffy nor silky to the touch. It can be seen in a wide range of colours including white, black, red and gold, with various different shades and markings. The beard of the face is often darker tipped than the rest of the facial hair, and the tail of the dog is carried high and proud over the back.

If you are looking to buy a toy or companion dog and are prepared to devote a reasonable amount of time taking care of the dog’s coat, then the Lhasa Apso might be the right choice of dog for you. When researching ownership, it is important to look into the hereditary health of the breed as a whole as well as their temperament, and if any specific health issues are recognised within the breed’s gene pool. We will look at these factors in more detail within this article.

Lhasa Apso longevity

The average lifespan of the Lhasa Apso is 13-14 years, which is slightly higher than the average across the board of all dog breeds of a similar size and build. This reflects the Lhasa Apso’s long history, and the general good health that the breed is renowned for.


The shape and build of the Lhasa Apso is considered to be well proportioned and fit for life, but it is worth bearing in mind that the coat of the dog is long and thick, and requires a reasonable degree of attention. Dogs of the breed need regular grooming, the occasional bath, and potentially professional trimming and grooming too.

Genetic diversity

The coefficient of inbreeding statistic for the Lhasa Apso breed is 11.1%, which is higher than the accepted ideal of 6.25% or lower for pedigree dogs.

This indicates that the Lhasa Apso breed as a whole is subjected to a reasonable degree of inbreeding, which may potentially pose a problem in terms of the passing on of negative hereditary traits and health conditions. Lhasa Apso breeders are advised to reduce the coefficient of inbreeding statistic within their own breed lines where possible.

Health testing for the Lhasa Apso

The British Veterinary Association has identified a hereditary predisposition to certain health issues within the Lhasa Apso breed pool, which are commonly passed on from parent dogs to their subsequent litters.

As a result of this, the following pre-breeding health screening programmes are advised for Lhasa Apso dogs, in order that affected dogs can be removed from the breeding pool.

  • Screening for hereditary eye conditions, including progressive retinal atrophy. Annual testing is advised.
  • DNA testing for renal dysplasia, a type of kidney disease.
  • DNA testing for haemophilia B.

Other health issues

There are also quite a number of other health conditions that may potentially arise within Lhasa Apso breed pools, but not with such a regular degree of occurrence that pre-breeding screening is advised.

While this list is rather long, it is important to note that it is not likely for any given dog to be widely afflicted by many conditions, and that finding out as much as possible about the health of the parent dogs can help prospective buyers to make an informed decision on likely future health.

Conditions identified across the breed include:

  • Atopy, a very itchy skin condition caused by a hypersensitivity to certain protein particles, including pollen.
  • Sebaceous adenitis, a skin condition that leads to scale formation on the skin.
  • Glaucoma of the eyes.
  • Patellar luxation, or a tendency for the kneecaps to dislocate.
  • Intervertebral disc disease, caused by the partial rupturing of the spine’s discs, leading to paralysis, pain and weakness.
  • Dry eye, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, a condition in which the tear ducts do not produce enough lubricating fluid to protect the eyes.
  • Atlanto-axial subluxation, a neck condition caused by partial dislocation of the neck bones, which can be very painful.
  • Glaucoma of the eyes.
  • Hereditary cataracts.
  • Various types of cancers, including intracutaneous cornifying epithelioma, and perianal gland tumours.
  • Hydrocephalus, or water on the brain.
  • Cherry eye, where the gland of the third eyelid turns outwards.
  • Urine stone formation, which can be painful to pass normally and may require veterinary intervention.
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