The Breed History
Tibetan Spaniels can be found in over 2000 years of recorded history. This breed was highly esteemed in the Tibetan Monasteries, and these dogs nicknamed "Lion dog" were frequently given as gifts-never sold to visiting dignitaries. The Pekingese and Japanese Chin may be relatives of this dog. First exports to England occurred in the late 1800s, and export to America occurred in the year 1965. Breed registry with the AKC was established in 1984.
Breeding for Function
These dogs functioned as monastery watchdogs and companions. These are not true hunting spaniels.
Height at Withers: 10" (25.4 cm)
Weight: 9-15 lb (4-7 kg)
Coat: The double coat is flat, silky, of moderate length and furnishings are present. Males have a more pronounced ruff. White markings are accepted on the feet and all colors and color mixes are allowed.
Longevity: 13-15 years
Points of Conformation: The Tibetan spaniels are longer than tall, have very high head carriage, and a small head. The oval eyes are dark brown and medium-sized, wide set and set facing forward, and the palpebral margins are black. The ears are pendulous, high set, well feathered and medium in size. The skull is lightly domed, the stop defined, muzzle blunt and moderate in length, and the nose should be pigmented black. The normal bite is somewhat prognathic, and the neck is short and strong. The topline is level, and thorax deep and round. The tail is plumed, high set, and when active sits curled over the back. The bone is moderately heavy, muscling moderate, and the forelimbs are slightly bowed. Dewclaws may be taken off. They move with quick strides and low elastic movement.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed attributes include: Alarm barkers, friendly, active-high energy, cat-like disposition, loyal, intelligent, good temperament but assertive and aloof with strangers. They need close human companionship. Noted for being calm and easily trained. They have low grooming needs.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. OFA reports 9.4% affected. Reported at a frequency of 3.1% in the 2006 TSCA Health Survey.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 7.9% affected.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 7.9% affected.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Autosomal recessive degeneration of the retina causing blindness, usually between 1.5 to 4 years of age, but as late as 7 years of age. Ophthalmoscopic diagnosis can be difficult due to the partial or total lack of the tapetum in some dogs. Identified in 0.45% of Tibetan Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Tibetan Spaniel with PRA. There is no genetic test.
Hernias: Congenital abdominal wall opening. Requires surgery if large. Umbilical hernia is reported at a frequency of 25.5%, and Inguinal hernia 4.25% in the 2006 TSCA Health Survey.
Prolapsed Gland of the Nictitans (Cherry Eye): This condition occurs secondary to inflammation of the gland. Reported at a frequency of 16.0% in the 2006 TSCA Health Survey.
Retained Deciduous Teeth: Failure to lose deciduous teeth on eruption of permanent teeth. Canines are most frequently affected. Reported at a frequency of 11.0% in the 2006 TSCA Health Survey.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 6.97% of Tibetan Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported at a frequency of 6.0% in the 2006 TSCA Health Survey.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 6.0% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Entropion: Rolling in of eyelids, often causing corneal irritation or ulceration. Entropion is reported in 4.82% of Tibetan Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.4 Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): Spinal cord disease due to prolapsed disk material. Requires immediate veterinary attention. Clinical signs include back pain, scuffing of paws, spinal ataxia, limb weakness, and paralysis. Reported at a frequency of 2.8% in the 2006 TSCA Health Survey.2 Portosystemic Shunt (PSS, Liver Shunt): Undetermined mode of inheritance. Abnormal blood vessels connecting the systemic and portal blood flow. Vessels can be intrahepatic, extrahepatic, or microvascular dysplasia. Causes stunting, abnormal behavior and possible seizures. Diagnose with paired fasting and post-meal bile acids +/- blood ammonia, and abdominal ultrasound. Reported at a frequency of 2.5% in the 2006 TSCA Health Survey.2 Allergic Dermatitis: Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Reported at a frequency of 2.4% in the 2006 TSCA Health Survey.2 Cataracts: Anterior cortex intermediate and punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Identified in 2.25% of Tibetan Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Tibetan Spaniel with a cataract.4 Brachycephalic Complex: Can cause dyspnea, and collapse. Includes Elongated Soft Palate, Stenotic Nares, Hypoplastic Trachea, and Everted Laryngeal Saccules. Surgery is indicated in severe cases. Reported at a frequency of 1.65% in the 2006 TSCA Health Survey.2 Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 1.54% of Tibetan Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.4 Cryptorchidism (Retained Testicles): Can be unilateral or bilateral. Reported at a frequency of 1.45% in the 2006 TSCA Health Survey.2 Cystinuria/Cystine Bladder Stones: Tibetan Spaniels have an increased risk for developing cystine bladder stones due to a defect in cystine metabolism. Treat with surgical removal and life-long medical therapy. Unknown mode of inheritance in this breed.7 Demodicosis: Case studies suggest a breed predisposition for demodex mite dermatitis. The generalized disorder has an underlying immunodeficiency in its pathogenesis. Unknown mode of inheritance.8,9 Brachygnathism, Epilepsy, Micropapilla, Microphthalmia, Optic nerve hypoplasia, PDA, Prognathism, and Retinal Dysplasia are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Oxalate Nephropathy: Severe oxalate nephropathy with end-stage kidney lesions was found in two pups of a litter of three Tibetan Spaniels. This histopathologic finding strongly suggests a primary hyperoxaluria since there was no exposure to agents capable of producing secondary hyperoxaluria.
Tests of Genotype: none
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: CERF eye examination and patella evaluation. (See CHIC website; www.caninehealthinfo.org).
Recommend hip and elbow radiographs, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and cardiac examination.
- Breed name synonyms: Tibbie, Tibby
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 104 (432 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Tibetan Spaniel Club of America: www.tsca.ws
Tibetan Spaniel Association (UK): www.tsauk.freeserve.co.uk
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