Lhasa Apso

katy towle 26 July 2021


This Tibetan pedigree is a small dog with a big heart who will devote itself to its family. They tend to have a mind of their own and can have a real independent streak. Despite this, they are usually good fun to be around and will show their owners a good deal of affection.

Their long coats can take a lot of upkeep and there are a number of health issues that are known to plague the breed. As these dogs don’t need a huge amount of exercise, they tend to be a preferred pet for those who are retired or who live in small homes.

Breed history

The Lhasa Apso has been around for many hundreds of years and is thought to have been developed in Tibet. In fact, they are thought to be one of the oldest dogs in existence and some claim that they originated as far back as 2,500 years ago.

Not really a working dog, the Lhasa Apso was kept as a companion and was generally owned by the upper classes and royalty. Some individuals were used as guard dogs and would alert their owner to any intruder by barking loudly.

General appearance

The beautiful little Lhasa Apso has a long silky coat and attractive, domed skull. They are similar in appearance to the more popular Shih Tzu but are a larger breed. Despite their size, they are not a fragile dog and have a stocky frame and heavy-set bones.

Their coat can come in a range of colours including brown, honey, white and grey. While their fur can reach the ground, most owners have their Lhasa Apso’s clipped short to prevent matting and to keep them cool in the summer.

Temperament

Self-assured and confident, the Lhasa Apso has a sensible head on their shoulders. They dedicate themselves to their owners and form very strong bonds with family members. Many will be aloof with other people and can take a while to warm up to them. Despite this, if they are well socialised, they should be calm and predictable around strangers.

While the Lhasa Apso can get along well with children, they aren’t as tolerant as some other dogs and may nip or snap if they feel threatened. Due to this, they are best suited to a home with no young children.

Health considerations 

Due to the shrunken size of the Lhasa Apso and the fact that they have a snub-nose, there are certain health considerations we must be aware of.

  • Hip dysplasia. Hips that do not form properly will result in a progressive lameness and eventual arthritis. We can help to prevent hip dysplasia within the Lhasa Apso population by removing any affected dogs from the breeding stock. Most dogs who have been diagnosed with hip dysplasia are candidates for joint protective foods and supplements such as Pooch & Mutt’s Joint Care food. 
  • Juvenile renal disease. This genetic condition is inherited in a number of breeds, including the Lhasa Apso. Signs present at a young age and can include excessive thirst and weight loss. Management will include medication such as ant acids, anti-nausea medicine and appetite stimulants. Affected dogs will also benefit from a prescription renal diet and fluid administration.
  • Atopic Dermatitis. A frustrating condition to be afflicted with, atopic dermatitis is managed but cannot be cured. Lhasa Apsos may experience flare ups throughout their life and our goal is to minimise symptoms. As much as possible, we should aim to identify and avoid their triggers. Possible triggers include grass, dust mites and food.
  • Brachycephalic Upper Airway Syndrome (BUAS). Due to the shape of the head of the Lhasa Apso, they can be prone to breathing disorders. Some are born with narrow nostrils, an overly long soft palate and a narrow breathing pipe (trachea). Those who are worst affected may benefit from surgical correction. Owners should be aware that affected individuals are less able to cope in warm weather and are at an increased risk of heat stroke.
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD). The long back of the Lhasa Apso opens them up to developing spinal disease. It is advised that dogs are kept slim and avoid jumping from heights. Joint supplements (such as Pooch & Mutt’s Mobile Bones) may have a protective effect.

Trainability 

Due to the naturally independent nature of the Lhasa Apso, they aren’t the easiest dog to train. They can be stubborn and headstrong and aren’t overly food-driven. Despite this, they tend to be sensible and most learn the ‘house rules’ quickly.

Anecdotally, these dogs can be slow to house train. This is probably due to the small size of their bladder.

Grooming

Owners who don’t have time to brush their dog need not apply! The Lhasa Apso needs to be brushed every day, with owners also spending time combing their face, ears and paws. They benefit from regular professional grooms and should have their claws clipped and ears cleaned frequently. 

As they can be prone to periodontal disease, owners should also brush their teeth daily. Many Lhasa Apsos will need a professional dental clean or two during their life. Treat wise, consider offering Pooch & Mutt’s Fresh Breath Mini Bone Dog treats.


Exercise

The Lhasa Apso doesn’t have very high exercise demands and is happy enough to amble along on a slow walk, taking in the sights and sounds. They appreciate the opportunity to get out of the house and like to sunbathe and relax in the garden.

Feeding considerations

Due to the risk of hip dysplasia and IVDD within the breed, owners need to work hard to keep them slim. We should aim for a Body Condition Score of 4 out of 9 where possible. Over-weight dogs should be put on a diet and generally lose weight faster when put on a weight loss diet such as Pooch & Mutt’s Slim & Slender.

You'll find a handy feeding calculator on every product page here at Pooch & Mutt to help you identify how much of our health led recipes are right for the age, size and weight of your dog.

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