Tibetan Terriers are generally healthy, having survived the rough Tibetan climate for centuries, and are long-lived, often reaching 13 or 14 years of age and sometimes more than 18. As in most breeds, however, some inherited defects occasionally occur. The most common of these are Hip Dysplasia and Progressive Retinal Atrophy. Responsible Tibetan Terrier breeders will screen for these defects before breeding thereby reducing the occurrence of inherited diseases. Hip certification (OFA) and eye clearance (CERF) do not guarantee eradication of these problems, but breeding only cleared dogs will keep defects to a minimum.
Health problems that can affect Tibetan Terriers include:
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
An inherited eye disease, Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) eventually causes blindness. One of the first symptoms of PRA is loss of night vision with a dog being unable to see well in a dimly lit room or when it gets dark. This loss of night vision can occur as early as eight months or as late as five years. Diagnosis of PRA is made by a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dogs that are found to be clear from PRA can be registered with the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF). It’s recommended that dogs have their eyes examined on an annual basis, especially if they are used for breeding.
An abnormality in the development of the hip joint, Hip Dysplasia can exist with or without clinical signs, which can be mild to crippling and include lameness, difficulty walking or a bunny-hop gait. Severe arthritis can also develop, which results in pain as the disease progresses. Hip Dysplasia is detected through physical examination and x-rays. X-rays can be taken at two years of age and submitted to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for review by three orthopedic experts, who give a rating from excellent to good or fair. No rating means that the dog has been found to be dysplastic. Medical treatment with Aspirin, Cosequin or corticosteroids can be beneficial for dogs suffering from Hip Dysplasia. If medical treatment is insufficient then surgical repair is possible. The best surgical treatment for Hip Dysplasia is total hip replacement.
Lens Luxation is an inherited eye disease that involves dislocation of the lens of the eye, which may slip forward or backward. This usually causes glaucoma or pressure in the eye, and can result in blindness. Surgical removal of the lens may be necessary. Age of onset can vary from three to 10 years.
A cataract is any loss of transparency of the lens of the eye. A normal lens, which sits behind the pupil, is transparent and focuses light onto the retina. The retina sends the image to the brain, where vision is perceived. When the cells and the protein of the lens begin to deteriorate, a cataract forms. The lens gets cloudy and light cannot be transmitted to the retina. Loss of transparency can be confined to a small area of the lens or affect the whole structure. A complete cataract affecting both eyes will result in blindness, whereas small non-progressive cataracts will not interfere with vision. Primary cataracts usually appear at an early age. Secondary cataracts often develop secondary to PRA and Lens Luxation. Cataracts can also develop as a result of trauma.
Patellar Luxation is a dislocation of the kneecap, which can slide to the inside or to the outside, and is often genetic in nature. The milder form, where the kneecap pops back on its own, requires only minimal treatment, such as anti-inflammatory therapy and restriction of exercise. Severe cases cause intense pain with limping, and may require surgical correction. A veterinary examination can determine if the knee joint is stable.
Canine Ceroid Lipofuscinosis
An autosomal recessive disorder of the eyes and nervous system, Canine Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (CCL) causes visual abnormalities that are first noticed when dogs don’t see well in dim light. Pupils may be slightly dilated. Signs of mental changes are the development of aggressiveness toward people and other dogs, nervousness and loss of both behavioural and house training. Affected dogs have mildly uncoordinated gait with occasional stumbling and crossing over. They also have difficulty going up and down stairs. Research at the University of Missouri found a genetic marker, and a test for the condition is now available through partnership with OFA. Puppies as young as three weeks old can be tested