6 Lhasa Apso Common Health Issues [+Signs and Prevention]

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Lhasa Apso dressed like a doctor

Known for their long, flowing coats and affectionate, lively personalities, Lhasa Apsos are generally healthy dogs, but they can be susceptible to some particular health conditions.

Understanding the potential issues your Tibetan furbaby may face can help you prepare for possible medical and financial needs. In some cases, you may also be able to take preventative measures to reduce your puppy’s risk of disease.

Even though Lhasa Apsos have a predisposition for certain conditions, that doesn’t necessarily mean your pooch will suffer any of these issues. Truly, most dogs will face some health challenges in their lifetime. The conditions we describe below are some of the most common issues for Lhasa Apsos.

The most common Lhasa Apso health issues include patellar luxation, brachycephalic syndrome, eye conditions, allergies, dental disease, and renal dysplasia.

In this article, we’ll look at X of the most common health issues Lhasa Apsos face, how the conditions vary across your furbaby’s life cycle, and how your pup’s health compares with other dog breeds. Finally, I’ll share a list of health signs you need to be aware of and give you tips for prevention and healthcare.

Common health problems

Although generally healthy and hardy, the Lhasa Apso breed has a list of genetically linked health conditions.

Patellar luxation

Lhasa Apsos are prone to developing patellar luxation because they’re frequently born with abnormal anatomy of the knee joint. 

Patellar luxation is common in small breed dogs including Lhasa Apsos, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Maltese. 

When dogs have luxating patellas, the kneecap shifts out of position because the ligament attachment isn’t centered on the shinbone. The repeated movement of the patella causes trauma and long-term joint degeneration.

While you may notice skip-hopping or intermittent lameness at any age in your Lhasa Apso, the degenerative changes take time to develop. You may not see evidence of arthritis until later in life.

Symptoms of luxating patellas:

  • Intermittent limping or skip-hopping while running
  • Holding one hind leg off the ground
  • Cracking/popping sound when in the affected knee
  • Difficulty walking
  • Abnormal posture in the hindlimbs

If your Lhasa Apso’s luxating patellas go untreated, the joints will experience chronic irritation and inflammation. Over time, the condition progresses, causing joint degeneration and pain.

Preventative measures for luxating patellas include weight management, joint supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin, and buying your puppy from a reputable breeder and a family line that doesn’t have a history of this issue.

Your veterinarian may employ medical or surgical treatment strategies depending on the severity of your Lhasa Apso’s condition. Medical approaches include physical therapy, joint supplements, anti-inflammatory drugs, weight reduction, restricted activity, and joint fluid modifiers. More advanced cases may require surgical correction.

Brachycephalic syndrome

Lhasa Apsos have fairly compact heads with shortened noses. This structural anatomy can make your furbaby more susceptible to brachycephalic syndrome.

Flat-faced dogs, including Lhasa Apsos, Pugs, Shih Tzus, and English/French Bulldogs, are prone to develop brachycephalic syndrome. 

The shortened snout and skull shape in your Lhasa Apso predisposes her to certain anatomical features, including smaller than normal nostrils, a narrow windpipe, and an elongated soft palate. However, Lhasa Apsos tend to have less severe symptoms because their snout isn’t completely flat.

Although Lhasa Apsos suffering from brachycephalic syndrome are born with the anatomy, the symptoms are more likely to surface in the adult years.

Signs of brachycephalic syndrome in your Lhasa Apso can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Noisy breathing/snoring
  • Exercise/heat intolerance
  • Fainting

Leaving symptoms of brachycephalic syndrome untreated can exacerbate the condition. Over time, your dog will experience increased respiratory distress and possible collapse.

Prevention of brachycephalic syndrome in your Lhasa Apso includes managing your furbaby’s weight, limiting exercise, and limiting exposure to heat/humidity by keeping your pooch indoors.

For mild cases of brachycephalic syndrome, you can usually manage your dog’s symptoms by practicing preventive measures. Treatment for severe brachycephalic syndrome includes trimming the soft palate, surgically widening the nostrils, or removing everted laryngeal saccules.

Eye conditions

Lhasa Apsos are prone to developing several eye conditions, including progressive retinal atrophy(PRA), keratoconjunctivitis sicca(KCS), and cataracts. 

Lhasa Apsos, Siberian Huskies, and Cocker Spaniels can suffer from PRA. KCS is common in the Lhasa Apso and other brachycephalic breeds like Shih Tzus, French Bulldogs, and Pugs. Other breeds that are predisposed to cataracts include French Bulldogs, Siberian Huskies, American Cocker Spaniels, and Yorkshire Terriers.

PRA is caused by retinal deterioration over time and eventual blindness. Dogs with KCS have inadequate tear production, which causes dry eyes. When a Lhasa Apsos develops cataracts, the eye lens hardens and becomes cloudy, leading to eventual vision impairment and blindness.

Although symptoms of KCS may appear in puppies, it’s more common in mature Lhasa Apsos. PRA and cataracts develop over time and usually manifest in middle-aged or older dogs.

Signs of eye problems in your Lhasa Apso may include:

  • Night blindness (PRA)
  • Stumbling, bumping into objects (PRA)
  • Squinting/Light sensitivity (KCS)
  • Blinking or holding the eye shut (KCS)
  • Eye redness (KCS)
  • Yellow or green eye discharge (KCS)
  • Blindness (PRA and cataracts)
  • Cloudiness in the eye lens (cataracts)

There is no known treatment for PRA. However, leaving KCS untreated can lead to corneal ulcers and eye damage. Without treatment, cataracts tend to progress and lead to eventual blindness.

Prevention of eye disease in Lhasa Apsos begins with getting puppies from a reputable breeder. You can also feed your furbaby quality food that’s rich in omega fatty acids and antioxidants to promote healthy eyes and vision. Finally, limit exposure to UV rays that may trigger cataract formation.

To treat KCS, your veterinarian will probably prescribe tear-replacing drops. Surgical removal of the lens is the only way to treat cataracts. 


Lhasa Apsos, like many other dog breeds, are prone to developing allergies to food or environmental triggers.

Food and environmental allergies are common in Lhasa Apsos, French Bulldogs, Boxers, Beagles, German Shepherds, and Bichon Frises. 

While allergies may surface at any age, they’re more common in adult Lhasa Apsos because it usually takes a few exposures to build up a sensitivity.

When your Lhasa Apso contacts an environmental or food-based allergen, the body reacts by releasing histamine, which triggers an inflammatory response. Depending on the allergen, your furbaby may exhibit symptoms in the skin or digestive tract.

Signs of allergies in Lhasa Apsos include:

  • Extreme itchiness
  • Licking or biting the paws/tail
  • Constant licking or scratching
  • Skin rashes
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Gastrointestinal problems

Allergies are generally incurable, but treatment can help to control the symptoms. Without proper management, the immune reaction usually grows more severe over time. Talk to your veterinarian about treatment protocols. If your furbaby’s symptoms ever include sudden itching, hives, and swelling around the face, bring your Lhasa Apso to the emergency clinic immediately.

The first method of prevention for allergies is avoiding trigger substances, but it can be easier said than done when it comes to environmental stimuli. For food sensitivities, you may be able to use specialized, hypoallergenic dog food.

Treatment for allergies in your Lhasa Apso may include: 

  • Anti-inflammatory medications, including steroids
  • Antihistamines
  • Immunotherapy

Dental disease

With their small mouths and a tendency for tooth crowding, Lhasa Apsos are prone to developing dental conditions.

Dental disease commonly affects small breed dogs like Lhasa Apsos, Chihuahuas, Pugs, and Shih Tzus, as well as  German Shepherds and Collies.

Signs of dental disease most commonly appear in adult Lhasa Apsos. As a matter of fact, the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine reports that dental disease occurs in 80-90% of dogs over three years old

When your Lhasa Apso eats food, residue can easily build up in her mouth. This causes plaque and tartar formation. Eventually, the bacteria invade and cause infection around the teeth and gum line. The disease causes damage to the gums, bones, and ligaments, eventually leading to tooth decay and tooth loss.

Signs of dental disease in your Lhasa Apso may include:

  • Bad breath
  • Reddened gums
  • Mouth pain
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Facial swelling
  • Lumps or bumps in the mouth
  • Dropping food or difficulty chewing

Untreated dental disease in your Lhasa Apso can result in oral infections and tooth decay. Eventually, your dog can lose teeth, and periodontal infections may spread to the rest of the body.

Preventative measures to avoid dental disease in your pooch include:

  • Brushing her teeth daily with veterinary-approved toothpaste 
  • Scheduling regular dental exams and cleanings
  • Avoiding feeding your furbaby table scraps
  • Feeding your dog dry kibble or treats that help scrape food residue from the teeth

Treatment for your dog’s dental disease varies depending on the severity. Mild cases are often treatable with a professional dental cleaning. Advanced stages may require deep cleaning of the periodontal pockets, antibiotic gel application, and tooth extraction if needed.

Renal dysplasia

Lhasa Apsos are genetically predisposed to a congenital kidney disease known as renal dysplasia.

Renal dysplasia commonly affects Lhasa Apsos, Miniature Schnauzers, Bedlington Terriers, Alaskan Malamutes, Cocker Spaniels, and other breeds.

Because renal dysplasia involves an improper development of the kidneys, symptoms usually manifest early in your Lhasa Apso’s life, usually from a few days to five years of age.

With renal dysplasia, the urine-collecting tubules of the kidneys don’t develop properly, leading to a buildup of urine and cyst formation. Over time, the cysts replace functional kidney tissue.

Signs of renal dysplasia in Lhasa Apsos include:

  • Slow or stunted growth
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Bad breath
  • Kidney failure

There is no cure for renal dysplasia, but your veterinarian can provide supportive care. Without treatment, the condition will grow steadily worse and lead to kidney failure and death.

The only way to prevent renal dysplasia in Lhasa Apsos and other dogs is by selective breeding. Make sure you get your puppy from a reputable breeder and a family line that doesn’t have a history of the disease. You should also schedule regular checkups to monitor your furbaby’s condition.

Treatment for mild to moderate cases of renal dysplasia involves supportive care that mirrors treatment for kidney failure. 

  • Antiemetic drugs and appetite stimulants
  • Fluid therapy
  • Potassium supplementation
  • A specialized diet for kidney disease

Lhasa Apso Health issues across the lifecycle

Health issues in your Lhasa Apso can manifest at various stages of the life cycle. Hereditary issues like renal dysplasia often appear in the puppy years, while other conditions like dental disease and allergies take time to develop and usually surface in adult dogs.

Lhasa Apso Puppy Health Issues

Certain health issues in Lhasa Apsos stem from congenital defects that are present from birth. Luxating patellas and brachycephalic syndrome are caused by defects in the anatomy. While you may see early signs in puppies, the symptoms of these conditions usually develop later.

Renal dysplasia, on the other hand, is a developmental defect in the kidneys. The effects of urine pooling and cysts frequently affect younger dogs in the puppy stage.

Adult Lhasa Apso Health Issues

Many health issues that are common in Lhasa Apsos appear in the adult years. Allergies and dental diseases take time to build up. The symptoms usually begin to manifest after a year and into the middle ages. 

Other conditions that take time to develop and, therefore, appear in adult dogs include KCS and signs related to brachycephalic syndrome. Intermittent lameness and other signs of luxating patellas may also surface in adults. 

Senior Lhasa Apso Health Issues

Chronic health conditions also occur in Lhasa Apsos. Degenerative arthritis from luxating patellas will usually appear in senior dogs. PRA and cataracts also usually appear in middle-aged or senior dogs.

Lhasa Apso Health Issues and Average Lifespan

Overall, Lhasa Apsos are healthy dogs that tend to live about 12-18 years.

If your furbaby has renal dysplasia, the developmental defect will likely result in a shortened lifespan. Other conditions that can potentially affect your Lhasa Apso’s quality of life include dental disease and brachycephalic syndrome. Severe gum disease, cavities, and rotten teeth can cause trouble eating and weight loss.

Understanding common health issues of Lhasa Apsos can help you know what to ask your breeder to help prevent problems. You can also watch for warning signs of disease so that you can take action and get treatment as soon as possible.

Lhasa Apso Health Issues VS Other Dog Breeds

In comparison with other breeds, Lhasa Apsos tend to be healthy and enjoy long, full lives. Although they can suffer from brachycephalic syndrome like other flat-faced dogs, their symptoms are usually milder than other breeds. As a smaller breed, the Lhasa Apso generally has a longer life expectancy than large and giant breed dogs. 

Health Signs Lhasa Apso Parents Should Beware Of

Even though Lhasa Apsos are generally healthy, they can suffer from certain conditions. Understanding the common signs of health issues can help you identify problems and seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

  • Intermittent or sudden lameness
  • Skip-hopping while walking
  • Popping sound in joints when walking
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Snoring
  • Exercise or heat intolerance
  • Night blindness
  • Light sensitivity/squinting
  • Red eyes
  • Yellow or green eye discharge
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Constant licking/scratching/itching
  • Skin rashes
  • Bad breath
  • Reddened gums
  • Facial swelling
  • Difficulty eating/dropping food
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Stunted growth
  • Increased drinking and urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • vomiting

Lhasa Apso Health Care Tips and Prevention

You may be able to prevent or minimize illness in your Lhasa Apso by employing these preventative measures.

  • Only choose your puppy from a reputable breeder and family lines that have no history of congenital issues.
  • Schedule routine health checks to monitor your dog’s condition
  • Feed a diet that’s balanced and helps your furbaby maintain a healthy weight
  • Give your Lhasa Apso supplements to support healthy joints
  • Brush your dog’s teeth daily and schedule annual dental checkups
  • Groom your furbaby and maintain a healthy coat
  • Use an orthopedic bed if your dog has signs of arthritis to take pressure off the joints.

The Final Woof

Lhasa Apsos tend to be healthy dogs, but they have their share of health issues. Some common conditions that Lhasa Apsos face include patellar luxation, brachycephalic syndrome, eye problems, and dental disease. 

Knowing the common problems your furbaby may face can help you identify trouble and seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Your Lhasa Apso may not suffer from any of the issues we described above, but it’s best to be prepared. You can also do some things at home to help prevent problems and encourage a full life. 

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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