Common health problems with Lhasa Apsos

May 28, 2024 - 4 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
Image of a brown lhasa apso dog

Lhasa Apsos are known for more than just their distinct, long coats. They're a breed with unique, spirited personalities, and owners speak volumes about how loyal and loving they are.

But like any breed, they're more likely to develop certain health conditions.

Here, we discuss the most common Lhasa Apso health problems, how they're diagnosed and how to care for one.

The most common Lhasa Apso health issues 

Lhasa Aspo

Patellar luxation

Affected dogs are born with an imperfect knee joint, meaning their kneecap (patella) slips out of position. When this occurs, you might notice that your dog skips or hops for several steps while moving. Milder forms of the condition will often improve with:

Most affected dogs develop some degree of arthritis in later life. They may need anti-inflammatory medication to manage it. Vets may recommend surgery for those with very mobile kneecaps to realign the joint.

Skin allergies

Common allergens include: 

  • Food

  • Fleas

  • Dust 

  • Pollen 

It typically affects the belly, feet and ears. Over time, itching can lead to redness, hair loss, and secondary infections. It can be difficult to identify the exact cause(s) of the allergy. It's why many vets will recommend trialling different diets and avoiding likely allergens. 

To reduce allergens, most vets recommend:

Dry eye

This condition occurs when the immune system attacks the tear-producing glands of the eyes. It results in a thicker tear film that doesn't fully protect the eye surface. Other symptoms include conjunctivitis (red eye), excessive blinking and squinting. 

Dry eye increases the risk of ulcers forming. If left untreated, these can lead to scarring and vision loss. Diagnosis is relatively simple and involves using a special type of paper to measure tears produced in a minute. 

Dogs getting appropriate treatment, like daily eye drops, are likely to recover.

Renal dysplasia

Renal dysplasia is a hereditary disease in which the kidney(s) develop abnormally in the womb. The condition leads to kidney dysfunction from a young age.

Symptoms include increased thirst and urination, and onset depends on how severe the condition is. 

Dogs with severe disease rarely survive until adulthood. Those with milder forms of the disease can live normal lives with appropriate management.

It doesn't have a cure, but it's manageable. Vets will usually recommend a special diet and supplements to support kidney function. Kidney damage is irreversible, so treatment is lifelong. 

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Invertebral disc disease (IVDD) occurs when the discs that sit between the vertebrae bulge or rupture. These usually act as natural shock absorbers during movement, and issues with them cause pain and nerve damage. Breeds born with shorter legs compared to body length, like Lhasa Apsos, are genetically more prone to IVDD. 

The symptoms of IVDD are usually:

  • Back pain 

  • Hunched posture

  • Reluctance to jump

  • Lethargy

  • Nerve injury (wobbly gait, weakness or dragging of the back legs)

A lot of dogs will recover normal function after a period of prolonged rest and pain relief medication. Dogs with severe nerve damage may need surgery.

How to care for a Lhasa Apso

Genetic testing and picking a responsible breeder

Numerous diseases are carried on from parent to offspring. It's why genetic testing and picking a responsible breeder are essential.

Weight management and diet control

No matter the breed, avoiding pet obesity is important to reduce the onset and severity of most diseases.

It's key for some of the most common Lhasa Apso conditions. For example, in luxating patella, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding strenuous exercise reduces pressure on the dog’s knee. 

It extends to diet too. Pet nutrition can get a little complicated. But for dogs with conditions like renal dysplasia, a vet will recommend a special diet. These diets contain restricted amounts of protein.

In general, you want to give your Lhasa Apso a diet that supports a healthy weight and specific amounts of certain nutrients. It's also best to avoid human foods, which tend to be much higher in protein and salt.

For allergies, we need to be aware of food-based allergens. Ruling out food as a trigger can be challenging, as it involves feeding a very strict diet for up to eight weeks. 

Careful exercise 

It's important not to exercise your Lhasa Apso too vigorously if they have conditions like IVDD or luxating patella.

Exercise modification and rehabilitation practices, like physiotherapy and hydrotherapy, help to build strength and mobility in the knee joint.

While IVDD may occur at any time, a sudden trauma can trigger an already weakened disc to rupture. So it's best to avoid too much jumping and reduce high-impact activities like chasing and rope-pulling.

Parasite control 

Dogs with skin allergies will also benefit from regular parasite control. This is because parasites themselves can sometimes be a trigger and can worsen any dog’s symptoms.

Regular grooming

We'd recommend a grooming routine for all dogs, but it's especially helpful for pups prone to allergies. Regular brushing, bathing and using a hypoallergenic shampoo will help remove allergens from the fur.

A good relationship with your vet 

Trusting your vet and being in regular contact with them is the cornerstone of preventative care.

In the case of dry eye, for example, treatment is essential to cure the condition. But it's not only that; it also prevents secondary complications like corneal ulceration, recurrent infections, and permanent scarring. 

Similarly, even for something like skin allergies, early detection and treatment are mandatory. They help stop the perpetuating cycle of skin damage and secondary infections.

Vets can also recommend lifestyle changes for you and your dog. A positive allergen result for a type of grass, for example, may lead to you avoiding certain walking routes and seeing if this improves symptoms.

How dog insurance can help

Lhasa Apso insurance can help you prepare for unforeseen health issues. Get your risk-free quote today!

CTA _17

Top-ranked* dog insurance

We've got your dog's back (even if it's in a brace).

ManyPets offers nose-to-tail dog insurance for accidents and illnesses at competitive prices with no hidden fees. *According to Forbes Advisor’s “Best Pet Insurance of 2023”

CTA _17