The Breed History
History records that this breed has existed for about 2000 years and that they were monastery dogs for most of this time. Considered good luck, they were given as gifts-never sold. The first dogs arrived in America in 1956. They are not terriers, but this term was applied because they were in the terrier range for size. Common names used in Tibet included "Holy dog" or "luck bringer dog", and because of their highly esteemed position as a lucky charm, outbreeding was unheard of. First registration in the AKC occurred in 1973. In general type, they resemble the Llasa Apso.
Breeding for Function
These dogs were bred for companionship and as monastery watchdogs. They may have been used to herd, though this was not their primary function.
Height at Withers: female 14-15" (35.5-38 cm), male 15-16" (38-40.5 cm)
Weight: 20-24 lb (9-11 kg) ideally, though can range from 18-30 lb (8-13.5 kg)
Coat: It is a profuse double coat, the feet are well haired (snowshoe feet), and lots of hair falls over eyes and face. The undercoat is wooly and soft, the outer coat hairs are straight or wavy, fine in texture, and though long, the coat should not reach the ground. Colors include golden, sable, cream, silver, white and black in solid and parti-color.
Longevity: 13-15 years
Points of Conformation: Compact and squarely built, their high set medium length tail curls over the back and is well feathered. It is acceptable for the tail to be kinked at the tip. The feet are large and flat, with long hair between toes and over the feet. The skull is domed and moderate in width with a well-defined stop. The nose is black, eyes are dark brown and moderately deep-set, palpebral margins are dark and the eyelashes long. Ears are pendulous, triangular and well feathered. The topline is level, and heavy furnishings occur on the chest and legs. The ribs are well sprung, thorax is of moderate depth, limbs straight boned, and dewclaws may be removed. The gait is agile and smooth, with good drive.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported attributes of the breed include: Intelligent, friendly, very good with children, can be aloof with strangers, loyal, low exercise needs, fairly easily trained, and a good alert barker. They have moderate grooming requirements and low doggy odor and they are considered low shedders. Tibetan terriers are adaptable to country or city living, including apartments. They have calm personalities but enjoy play activities.
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 7.8% affected.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 5.8% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 3.9% affected.
Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (CL, Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis, NCL): Autosomal recessive, slowly progressive disorder beginning with retinal degeneration and nyctalopia from 3-6 years of age. Affected dogs then progress to cerebellar ataxia and dementia. Reported at a frequency of 1.0% in the 2003 TTCA Health Survey. A genetic test is available.
Primary Lens Luxation (PLL) and Secondary Glaucoma: An autosomal recessive primary lens luxation occurs in the breed due to abnormalities of the suspensory apparatus of the lens (zonule). Homozygous affected dogs usually develop lens luxation between 3 to 8 years of age, but has been seen as early as 14 months. Rarely, heterozygous carriers can develop lens luxation, but at a later age. Often progresses to secondary glaucoma. Relative risk of 3.69x versus other breeds. Identified in 0.32% of Tibetan Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Tibetan Terrier with lens luxation. A genetic mutation has been identified, and a genetic test is available. OFA testing shows 27% carrier, and 1% affected.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): An autosomal recessive, early onset form of PRA occurs in the breed. Causes progressive blindness, beginning with night blindness at approximately 1 year of age. Identified in 0.49% of Tibetan Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Tibetan Terrier with PRA. There is no genetic test.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 17.7% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Allergic Dermatitis: Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Reported at an increased frequency versus other breeds. Reported at a frequency of 7.9% in the 2003 TTCA Health Survey.
Umbilical Hernia: Congenital opening of the body wall at the umbilicus. Requires surgical closure if large. Reported at a frequency of 5.5% in the 2003 TTCA Health Survey. Unknown mode of inheritance.
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 4.91% of Tibetan Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Deafness: Congenital sensorineural deafness can be unilateral of bilateral. Diagnosed by BAER testing. Reported at a frequency of 3.1% in the 2003 TTCA Health Survey. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Missing Teeth: Reported at a frequency of 2.6% in the 2003 TTCA Health Survey. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Cataracts: Anterior cortex punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Non-congenital cataracts have a heritability of 0.13, and are 76% correlated to PRA in the breed. Reported in 5.92% of Tibetan Terriers presented to veterinary teaching hospitals. Cataracts between 2-7 years of age are reported at a frequency of 2.2% in the 2003 TTCA Health Survey. Identified in 2.39% of Tibetan Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Unknown mode of inheritance. CERF does not recommend breeding any Tibetan Terrier with a cataract.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 1.47% of Tibetan Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Corneal Dystrophy: Epithelial/stromal form of corneal opacities. Identified in 1.47% of Tibetan Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Diabetes Mellitus: Sugar diabetes due to immune mediated destruction of the pancreatic beta cells. Treat with insulin injections, diet, and glucose monitoring. Identified as a breed at increased risk of developing diabetes.
Idiopathic Epilepsy: Inherited seizures can be generalized or partial seizures. Control with anticonvulsant medication. Reported at a frequency of 0.5% in the 2003 TTCA Health Survey.
Renal Dysplasia: Affected dogs can succumb to renal failure from birth to two years of age. Mildly affected dogs can live with compensated renal insufficiency. A direct genetic test for a dominant susceptibility gene is available. (Affected dogs all have one copy of the gene, but most dogs with the gene will not develop kidney failure.)
Vestibular Disease: An inherited, congenital unilateral peripheral vestibular syndrome occurs in the breed. Clinical signs include head tilt, circling, and ataxia. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Hemophagocytic Syndrome: Proliferative disorder of activated macrophages that is associated with multiple blood cytopenias. Can be idiopathic, or secondary to infectious, neoplastic, or immune-mediated diseases. Can be fatal depending on the underlying disease. The Tibetan Terrier breed is overrepresented in dogs with the condition.
Brachygnathism, Polydontia, Prognathism, Retinal Dysplasia, and von Willebrand's Disease are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Recurrent Flank Alopecia (Seasonal Flank Alopecia): Case report of a 2-year-old, male, neutered Tibetan Terrier with winter flank alopecia. The disorder is characterized by episodes of truncal non-scarring alopecia (and often hyperpigmentation) that usually occur on a recurrent, seasonal basis. Diagnosis is by clinical signs and biopsy.
Malignant Histiocytosis: An 8-year-old male Tibetan Terrier showed prolonged astasia, complete paralysis, tic-like signs, and seizure and died 2 months after the onset of symptoms. Histopathologic diagnosis was diffuse leptomeningeal malignant histiocytosis of the brain and spinal cord.
Tests of Genotype: A direct test for NCL is available from the OFA. A direct test for PLL is available from the OFA and Animal Health Trust.
A direct test for a dominant renal dysplasia susceptibility gene is available from Dogenes.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip radiographs, annual CERF eye examination and BAER testing for deafness. Recommended tests include patella evaluation, elbow radiographs, and thyroid profile including autoantibodies. Recommended cardiac examination.
- Breed name synonyms: Dhokhi Apso
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 96 (626 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Tibetan Terrier Club of America: www.ttca-online.org
Tibetan Terrier Club of Canada: www.tibetanterriercanada.com
Tibetan Terrier Association of the U.K.: www.the-tta.org.uk
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