Health Concerns

Being an informed pet owner means being empowered to ask the right questions when purchasing a puppy, and also knowing what to look for or how to handle situations should you find your dog has concerns.  No one wants huge vet bills or to fall in love with a puppy only to wish they could take it back or choose (a different puppy or breeder) all over again.  Sadly, this occurs often when backyard breeders produce and people leap at the chance to buy the cheapest dog.  More often, those dogs end up in shelters or cost the owner so much more than the difference they saved initially, in both dollars and heartache. 

The good news is the Lhasa Apso is usually a robust and healthy dog, with few health concerns which a good breeder can ensure are not a part of your dog's life!  

Being a responsible breeder means conducting extensive testing to ensure longevity of a breed for many generations to come.  

Primary Health Concerns

Lhasa Apso owners should be aware of several eye conditions to which the breed is prone, some of which are hereditary. These dogs are known to be susceptible to hereditary progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), in which the retina is subject to deterioration, leading to blindness. Our breeding dogs are screened for the condition and removed from breeding stock if the disease is present.  

The Lhasa can also develop cherry eye, in which the tear duct or gland from the third eyelid erupts to the eye surface.  This is usually caused by a defect in the retinaculum which anchors the gland to the periorbita (keeping it inside).  The prolapsed or protruding gland appears as a red fleshy mass and can sometimes be massaged back into place or may require surgery to tack back down where it belongs.  It can also be caused by physical or environmentally triggered injury.

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eye, is a condition in which tears are under-produced, and the eyes become painfully itchy, swollen, and dry. Treatment depends upon the severity of the condition; many cases can be managed with medication and artificial tears; some conditions require surgery.   This can be caused from trauma, infection or be inherited.  If inherited it usually presents within the first year of life.  

Atopic Dermatitis

The Lhasa Apso is predisposed to allergic reactions or atopic dermatitis (itchy skin) or a condition of the skin called sebaceous adenitis, in which the dog’s immune system attacks their sebaceous glands. The result of this is excessive itching & scratching, a silvery dandruff, a dull, brittle coat, skin lesions, and often a musty smell to the dog. Sometimes the disease can be treated with antibiotics such as Apoquel, Cytopoint injections, etc. but no guaranteed cure is available. Further treatment with mineral oils, medicated shampoos, and ointments is common in these cases. 

These allergies are usually caused by a genetic tendency toward abnormal immune reactions to environmental triggers.  Signs generally first appear as seasonal, but over prolonged exposure and in cases of multiple allergens the condition worsens becoming a year-round issue.  


Typically, symptoms first develop when a dog is between six months and three years of age and are focused around the face, ears, paws, lower legs, armpits or belly.  

  • Itching
  • Red Skin
  • Loss of fur
  • Small pus filled or solid bumps in the skin
  • Sores that may ooze
  • Recurrent skin and ear infections

The result of this is excessive scratching, a silvery dandruff, a dull, brittle coat, skin lesions, and often a musty smell to the dog. Treatment with mineral oils, medicated shampoos, and ointments is common in these cases.

    Other Health Concerns

    The Lhasa Apso can also be prone to renal dysplasia. In this hereditary disease the kidneys are improperly developed in the womb and cannot correctly filter toxins in the blood. There is no cure, so we test for this disease and ensure affected dogs are not allowed in our breeding program .  Keeping a dog well hydrated and of proper weight is the best management option if yours should suffer this disease.  A dog with a moderate form of this disease may live for 1-2 years before suffering kidney failure.  The onset of symptoms may occur at any age including long into an adult dog's life. Symptoms may include excessive thirst and volume of urine, weight loss, lack of vigor, and intermittent loss of appetite.  Worsened symptoms include vomiting, weakness, dehydration, lethargy, and severe debilitation eventually leading to death.  

    Hip dysplasia is a painful disease which can drastically reduce a dog's quality of life and is difficult for owners to watch.  Improper nutrition (obesity) can influence a dog's likelihood of developing hip dysplasia, as can improper exercising.  Usually not seen in the first couple of years, regular veterinarian checkups with a physical examination of the hip joint will go a long way toward being proactive in addressing any signs of this concern, from an early onset.  There are a multitude of recommendations for dogs with this issue which often lead to long, full lives with treatment.  Hip dysplasia is not solely hereditary, but we do not allow affected dogs in our breeding program as it may contribute to the likelihood of arthritis and joint issues in adult years. 

    Luxating patellas or knees that pop out, sometimes called a trick knee, is caused by the patella (or kneecap) dislocating from the normal position.  It is common in small dogs as a congenital defect and can be diagnosed after about 8 months of age.  You may notice intermittent limping or a stiffness upon waking to a more severe lameness.  The diagnosis is made in grades of severity from grade I to grade IV with the latest being permanently luxated with inability to be repositioned through physical manipulation.  Some breeders do a preliminary check in their puppies but no guarantee is available to ensure it will not occur at a later age.

    Please inquire about your breeders experience with these health concerns in their puppies regardless of where you purchase your puppy.

    A Final Thought

    It's better to know the risks and know the questions to ask.  While it may seem as if a puppy with health tested parents is too costly at a glance, you may find that the cost is far lower than the Vet bills incurred later in dogs that are not.  Health tested and health guaranteed are some of the signs of a good breeder and help keep our breed out of kill shelters.