Lhasa Apso Common Health Problems


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Having a Lhasa Apso for more than 15 years I have seen some illnesses that the Lassa is prone to get. When our Lhasa becomes sick and poorly our world tends to fall apart. Let me share with you what my Lhasa has suffered and what you may encounter with your Lhasa Apso regarding the health problems they can have.

Like many dogs, the Lhasa Apso is no exception when health problems arise. The Lhasa Apso’s common health problems can occur without forewarning. Hips, eyes, renal, breathing, disks are common diseases that can be a problem to the Lhasa Apso.

Lucky my Lhasa Apso has been through some tough times, I would like to share with you these health problems he has been through and others that are lurking in the Lhasa apso world.


There is no such thing as a breed of a dog that never has a health problem. One day sooner or later you will be faced with a health issue with your pet. The purpose of this blog is to help you understand some of these health issues as you a potential Lhasa Apso, in particular, might encounter.

The Life Expectancy of a Lhasa Apso

The Lhasa Apso’s have been around a long time, so long, in fact, they were known to have existed at least eight hundred years before Jesus, maybe more. That also makes them one of the oldest dog breeds on record.

I personally have a Lhasa and he is almost seventeen years old which can be classed as a good age.

When setting out to become a Lhasa Apso owner you need to bear in mind that these little beauties can live for a good many years. Owning a dog is for life, this is an important factor to keep in mind.

Will your working career create a problem, looking after your pet further down the years? is the pet for a child? Will the child become less interested later?

When you purchase a Lhasa for your child it will be theirs until they become young adults.

The life expectancy of the Lhasa varies, but a good average age is around fourteen years. But many do live much longer than this as my own Lucky proves.

Small dogs, in general, live longer than larger breeds and if you chose a Lhasa Apso it will live longer remember.

Diet and Health

One of the most important factors in extending the life span of your pet is to feed the correct food and have a good diet plan. Natural foods are best I would recommend is this one available from Amazon.

One thing that you may already know, but for those of you that do not, you must never give your dog Chocolates.

Chocolate can be deadly for dogs inviting illnesses and causing intoxication. There is an ingredient in chocolate called theobromine, this is toxic for our pets. It is a natural part of the cacao beans in varying quantities depending on the types of beans.

Generally, the darker and richer the chocolate the more theobromine will be there in higher quantities. But don’t think it’s only dark chocolate that is bad, it is also in white chocolate.

If you think your pet has eaten some chocolate then you must contact your vet immediately for their advice, keep your chocolate well out of your pet’s nose and eyesight.

Signs that your dog might show if they have eaten chocolate

  • Being sick
  • Diarrhea
  • Hyperactivity
  • Breathing problems
  • Vagueness
  • Muscular tensions
  • Higher heart rate
  • Epilepsy attack’s

There is no antidote for theobromine and the first thing you should do in case your dog has ingested chocolate is to make them sick. Then take them to your vet who will then proceed with a stomach wash.

Following that they may give some active carbon to soak up the rest of the poison remains. The vet may have to give medications for heartbeat control as well.

If you react quickly to your dog’s chocolate feasting and get to the vet so they can control them they have a very good chance of recovering fully even if they have eaten a large amount.

Chocolates and dogs do not go well together so be vigilant if you have chocolate in your home.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition that affects a dog’s hip socket. The hip sockets can be badly formed or the muscles not correctly in place, in extreme cases it can cripple a dog, with less serious cases they will suffer from arthritis which will reduce their mobility. Arthritis can be helped with capsules like these.

This is a hereditary problem, and recent research has also concluded that the animal’s environment plays a big factor in contracting hip dysplasia.


Overweight Lhasa’s can suffer because of the extra weight they have to carry. Torn ligaments at a young age can cause these problems later, along with repeated movements over a long time when young.

Sterilizing your Lhasa before they reach a mature age will double the chances of hip dysplasia. If you are a jogger do not take a young puppy jogging, as this will not help in the correct formation of their hips, wait until they are at least one year old.

Dogs of pure race tend to get hip dysplasia more often than crossbred dogs, a point to remember when thinking about choosing your Lhasa Apso

The first signs arrive around the age of one and a half years. These signs could be a slight limping as they walk, a lack of wanting to exercise.

Many dogs get this at a young age and have lived with it and have become accustomed to the pain. To help with their pain when sleeping a good bed will help tremendously one like this would be ideal.

Sadly there is no cure for hip dysplasia, but there are medications to help reduce their pain, you could turn to the surgical options which will include changing the hip in question.


Renal Dysplasia

Renal dysplasia is a hereditary disorder that Lhasa’s can pass on to their offspring.

Signs you need to look out for that could be the onset of renal failure.

  • Loss of weight
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Reduced growth
  • Anorexia
  • Bad breath
  • Unhealthy coat
  • Blood in their urine
  • Excessive thirst
  • Large quantities of urine
  • Aching Bones
  • Depression
  • Bad healing of wounds

These signs can start as early as three months old until three years and will reach a critical point around our dogs that are one year old.

There is no cure for renal dysplasia and dogs with this illness will have kidneys of reduced size that function badly.

If you have doubts about whether or not your Lhasa has renal failure, have your pet’s blood and urine controlled regularly to determine whether or not they have this disease. This will help determine if the condition is getting worse or better as time goes on.

If your Lhasa does have renal dysplasia then you need to have an adaptive diet program in place.

Whether you choose wet or dry food this needs to be poor in sodium, as we know too much sodium in our diet retains water in our bodies, this combined with renal failure is not recommended for dogs having renal problems.

A compound in a dogs food is protein, once again this must be low in quantities and of high quality. Generally, these proteins are hard for dogs to metabolize with a renal disorder.

Phosphor is advised by specialists and vets to be reduced in the food for our Lhasa’s. Medication can be prescribed to maintain a correct level of phosphor and your vet can also create a special diet for dogs suffering from renal dysplasia. A diet of this type should be created for each patient dog as they will have different problems from one type of renal dysplasia to another.

There should always be on hand for dogs with this problem plenty of fresh water available, as they will produce large quantities of urine and need to replace this of course and stop them from becoming dehydrated.

Dehydration is a result of vomiting, diarrhea and abnormal quantities of urine. Other than freshwater being available constantly there may be a need for medical intervention to stop diarrhea and vomiting, helping to keep your Lhasa hydrated.

Sadly this health problem leads to premature death, sooner than normal depending on the severity for each individual. There is one exception to this if your pet has only one kidney affected it has the possibility to live a normal long life as they adapt to this one kidney that functions correctly. But this is rarely the case as most dogs will have both kidneys with renal dysplasia.

Intervertebral Disc Disease

IVDD, as it is known in medical terms is an illness that can cause severe pain and in some cases total paralysis for our pets. We would call it a slipped disc or having a hernia for humans.

What actually happens is the cartilage in between each vertebra, known as the intervertebral disc, which acts as a shock absorber between each spinal vertebrae, becomes worn, bulges or even sometimes can burst.

Once this swelling or bursting has happened the intervertebral disc’s press on the nerves running inside the dog’s spine resulting in pain. It can even damage the nerves to such an extent that it could create paralysis.

Some of the signs that dogs with intervertebral disc problems will show.

  • They will be less active
  • Not wanting to jump and play
  • Will be lame in their rear legs
  • A tendency to hunch their back
  • Incontinence
  • And appetite reduced
  • Often crying in pain
  • Back or neck muscle spasms
  • Anxious attitude

There are two types of Intervertebral disc disease, type one and type two.

In the type one illness, the region that is affected most is the neck and more so in small breed dogs. In this type one, the disk hardens on the outer layer and any sudden jarring of the spine can cause the discs to break down or burst then the inside substance of the discs can touch the nerves.

If your dog has the Type II their discs become hardened, with a fibrous aspect, this takes a long time to happen and Type 2 can be found anywhere along the spinal column, from their neck all the way back to their hind legs.

What can you do if your dog has been diagnosed with IVDD? There are two types of treatment that you could turn to, obviously medicine including steroids, anti-inflammatories which will relieve some of the pain and the swelling.

If the IVDD is severe then the only solution is surgery. But this is not a guarantee your dog will fully recover. After this intervention surgical you must reduce the activity of your pet by keeping them in a cage/crate for up to 6 weeks.

You can help prevent and lower the risk of your dog getting IVDD by making sure they do not become overweight, this will reduce spinal and neck problems having less weight to carry.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

What is progressive retinal atrophy or PRA in medical terms?

PRA is a disease that attacks the retina in the eyes of dogs, this degenerates in the eye over a period of time and as it gradually gets worse will result in blindness.

One of your first signs of PRA is when your dog loses its night vision. They will have difficulty finding their way in dusk and darkness, having difficulty seeing obstacles.

At the same time, cataracts could develop and their eyes will go cloudy or milky. Lucky has cataracts now and I notice he is finding it very hard to come down the staircase and find his way around the house, more so when there is little ambient light.

At this moment in time sadly, there is no treatment available that can cure this disease in our pets.

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

ARDS Is an illness that affects the lungs of dogs when too much liquid accumulates inside their lungs and causes a sudden breathing problem.

This can be fluid or blood that has managed to cross the barrier and get inside the air cells of the lungs. Breathing is restricted and they will have great difficulty breathing after exercise for example.

Some symptoms to look out for include

  • Very difficult breathing
  • Having a fever
  • Having a runny nose
  • Their skin may look blueish
  • Coughing

If your dog has an ARDS attack you should get immediate attention and treatment in a special care unit for animals.

Once your pet has been stabilized with oxygen the root cause will be searched for, advice and treatment can be prescribed. Alternatively, if the oxygen is not doing the job then a ventilator will be used.

Dogs suffering from this, which are undergoing treatment in an animal hospital will be kept in cages until they are a hundred percent recovered, during this period they will receive aid in their movements by on-hand staff.

After their release, the lungs can have fibrosis, a condition that results from this illness leaving scar tissue inside the lungs thus limiting the dog’s capacity to breath properly. To help your dog with this you need to reduce the amount and type of activity you do together.

Pyloric Stenosis

Firstly what is the Pyloric? Between the stomach and the small intestine, there is a passage that allows the partially digested food from the stomach to pass on its journey to the small intestine and thereafter the large intestine.

If this passageway becomes narrower than normal food passing this canal will become blocked there. This problem in your dog’s stomach is called Pyloric Stenosis.

The symptoms depend on the amount the Pyloric canal is reduced. Common signs though are

  • Severe Vomiting
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Weight Loss

Included inside the vomit, which can happen soon after a meal, there will be undigested food, which was unable to continue the journey to the intestines.

There is still no idea as to how Pyloric Stenosis comes about in our pets, Doctors believe it is genetically passed on or that it can develop later in a dog’s life. Other factors that could be an influence are

  • Cancer
  • Severe Stress
  • Stomach Ulcers
  • Gastric Juices

Your vet will do a case study on your dog’s history, carry out a full examination, including blood and urine tests. Xrays can also help in the diagnosis to determine if the Pyloric Canal has narrowed.

What can you do if your Lhasa has Pyloric Stenosis? After your visit to the vet he will decide on which measures to take, firstly if the case is not too severe he may prescribe medication, but in most cases, surgical intervention is required.

Once your pet has been stabilized and is out of danger you will be required to keep your dog on a strict diet, low in fat content and easily digestible. In the event of a new Pyloric Stenosis then heavier surgical intervention will be needed.

The good news on this type of illness is that after surgical intervention most pets recover and can live a normal life.

More health problems that our dogs can get are continued here

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