Breed Spotlight: Lhasa Apso

3 min read
Jan 18, 2023

Lhasa Apso Quick Stats


12 – 15 years


12 – 18 lbs.


10 – 11 inches




intelligent, confident, affectionate, watchdog

Common Health Problems:

kidney dysfunction, dry eye, progressive retinal atrophy, brachycephalic

Lhasa Apsos: How Do I Look

Small but regal, Lhasa Apsos have an aristocratic bearing. Some might describe them as “walking mops,” but to others their flowing coats are elegant and exotic.

Coat Type and Colors

Lhasa apsos are instantly recognizable by their luxurious floor-length coats. Their parti-color fur is straight and comes in golds, reds, black, and white.


Lhasas have pendant-shaped ears that are carried close to their cheeks. Their most recognizable feature is the feathery fur at their tips.

Shedding and Grooming

Despite their long fur, Lhasa apsos rarely shed. They do require extensive grooming, however. Brush and bathe regularly, up to twice a week. Lhasa apsos have sensitive skin, so rinse all shampoo and conditioners thoroughly. Visits to the groomer may be required.

Drooling Level

Lhasa apsos rarely drool, maintaining their dignified bearing.

Lhasa Apso: Personality Traits

What My Adoption Bio Might Say:

Good things come in small packages, and I’m no exception. If you judge me by my size, you’ll quickly be surprised: I’m tough, independent, and fierce. But don’t worry. I may be royalty, but I’m not stuck-up. I love to have fun and will defend my family without hesitation.


The Lhasa apso personality is complex. They can be energetic, playful, and puppy-like well into their later years. A Lhasa will gladly play the class clown for their family. But, when it comes to strangers, they’re often aloof. Once they’ve decided an outsider is not a threat to their family, Lhasa apsos will treat them with just as much affection.

Exercise Needs

Like many small breeds, Lhasa apsos are brimming with energy. They can take care of themselves, however. A Lhasa will often run laps around its home to burn off steam, but also enjoy brisk walks. Lhasas are also highly intelligent and enjoy mental stimulation. They’ve been known to take jobs as therapy dogs and herders.

Good With Other Pets?

As with children, Lhasa apsos will tolerate other dogs on their own terms. Early socialization helps integrate other animals into the Lhasa’s family.


Lhasa apsos are fast learners, but only on their terms. They’ll perform tricks and answer commands…if they feel like it. The key to training a Lhasa is to keep them entertained. If they want to learn, they will.

Good with Kids?

The Lhasa apso is fairly tolerant of children, as long as they’re treated with respect. For this reason, younger children should be watched carefully around Lhasas. Once they’ve accepted your kids as part of their family, however, Lhasa apsos will shower them with love and loyalty.

Barking Level

Lhasas can be fairly vocal. They are not afraid to express themselves when it comes to strangers and will readily play the role of watchdog.

Lhasa Apsos: A History

The history of the Lhasa apso is as distinguished as the breed itself. They originate from Tibet, where they served as sentinel dogs for palaces and Buddhist monasteries. For thousands of years Lhasas have inhabited Tibetan mythology as the “bearded lion dogs,” the Earthly representation of the protective Snow Lion.

It wasn’t until the 1900s that Lhasa apsos came to the west. Military officers brought Lhasas back to the United Kingdom when returning from British colonies in India. In 1933, the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso, gifted the first pair of American Lhasa apsos to explorer and naturalist C. Sudyam Cutting. In 1959, the American Kennel Club classified Lhasas as a member of the Non-Sporting Group.3

Common Lhasa Apso Mixes

  • Lhasa poo: Lhasa apso poodle mix
  • Shih apso: Lhasa apso shih tzu mix
  • Lhatese: Maltese Lhasa apso

5 Lhasa Apso Health Problems

Lhasa apsos may experience a variety of health issues, including:

  • Chondrodysplasia: a genetic mutation in short-legged breeds, including Lhasa apsos. Chondrodysplasia can lead to additional joint and spine issues.
  • Dry Eye: excessive dryness causes inflammation of the cornea and surrounding tissue. Dry eye can be indicative of other issues, such as a viral infection or inner ear infection.
  • Cherry Eye: prolapse of a dog’s nictitating membrane, or third eyelid. Cherry eye can also affect a dog’s tear glands.
  • Patellar Luxation: caused by a displaced kneecap. Patellar luxation is almost always caused by genetics.
  • Hereditary kidney dysfunction: a genetic dysfunction of the kidneys. Hereditary kidney dysfunction is common in cats, but can also affect some dog breeds.

Protect your Pets

Even the healthiest of pups can come with unexpected vet costs. Pet insurance can help keep your dog and your bank account happy.

How Pet Insurance Can Help Lhasa Apsos

Hereditary Kidney Dysfunction

Also known as polycystic kidney disease, this inherited condition can cause Lhasa apsos to develop multiple kidney cysts early in life.4 The cysts multiply as they age, negatively affecting kidney tissue health and function. If untreated, Lhasas will develop chronic kidney disease. Vets may be able to detect enlarged or unhealthy kidneys by performing a simple medical exam. A follow-up blood test, urine analysis, and X-ray may also be recommended. Treatments vary, but typically involve a prescription diet, fluid supplements, and medication to manage symptoms.5 As polycystic kidney disease is a life-long condition, it can become very expensive very quickly. A dog insurance policy from MetLife1, opened when your Lhasa is still young, may help cover the cost.2

Dry Eye

Lhasa apsos with keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eye, endure inflammation of the cornea and surrounding tissue due to a lack of lubrication.6 Dry eye can be recognized by red, irritated eyes, squinting, excessive blinking, and a yellowish discharge. For an official diagnosis, vets will perform a tear production test. Treatment may include prescriptions to stimulate tear production, gentle cleaning of the eyes, and tear replacement every 2 to 6 hours. As a life-long condition, Lhasa apsos with dry eye will require a constant supply of medication and supplements. Prescriptions may be covered in part by a dog insurance policy from MetLife.1,2


Rather than a disease, chondrodysplasia is a specific genetic phenotype expressed in small dog breeds with atypically short legs.7 DNA tests exist to determine if your Lhasa apso has chondrodysplasia. It can lead to joint and back pain, which should be managed with prescriptions from your vet. Under a MetLife dog insurance policy, you could be reimbursed for some of the cost of medication.2

For more information on how pet insurance can help your Lhasa apso, read our guide on How Pet Insurance Works. Signing up for dog insurance while your Lhasa is a puppy can ensure your dog has coverage before these conditions become pre-existing conditions.

Protect your Lhasa Apso with Pet Insurance

Enroll in 3 Easy Steps

Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions. 

2Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

3”Lhasa Apso.” American Kennel Club.

4,5”Polycystic Kidney Disease in Dogs.” VCA Animal Hospital, 2022.

6”Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) or Dry Eye in Dogs.” VCA Animal Hospital, 2022.

7 “Chondrodystrophy (CDDY and IVDD Risk) and Chondrodysplasia (CDPA)”, UC Davis Veterinary Medicine, 2022

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