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"My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am."

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Tibetan Spaniel

The Tibetan Spaniel is a breed of assertive, small, intelligent dogs originating in the Himalayan mountains of Tibet. They share ancestry with the Pekingese, Japanese Chin, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, and Pug. This breed is not a true Spaniel; its breeding and role differs quite a bit (Spaniels are gun dogs.)

The Tibetan Spaniel standard allows all colors, but with brown eyes and a black nose. Their temperament should be confident, active, and alert. The outline should give a well balanced appearance, slightly longer in body than the height at withers. Size Height about 10 inches. Their head should be slightly domed with a medium length, strong muzzle. Weight 9-15 pounds being ideal. They carry a medium length double coat with flarings, and a high set plumed tail, carried over their back.

Happy and assertive, highly intelligent, aloof with strangers. "Tibbies", as they are often called, make excellent housepets for many people, including families with small children. Tibetan Spaniels enjoy attention and involvement with their owners, but have an independent nature and can be willful. They will bark to warn of strangers and strange occurrences, but generally reserve barking. A fondness for sitting in high places is another feature of the breed.

Health Issues

Progressive Retinal Atrophy
This is an inherited form of blindness in dogs that occurs in two forms: generalized PRA and central PRA. Generalized PRA is primarily a photoreceptor disease and is the form found in Tibetan Spaniels. The clinical signs have been observed between 1½ and 4 years, but as late at seven years.

What are the signs of Progressive Retinal Atrophy?
The earliest clinical sign is "night blindness." The dog cannot see well in a dimly lit room or at dusk. The dog will show a reluctance to move from a lighted area into darker surroundings. The night blindness develops progressively into complete blindness. The british institution Animal Health Trust - AHT, is at present intensively researching PRA in Tibbies aiming at isolating the gene causing the ailement. Considerable progress has been made recently.

Is there any treatment?
No, this condition is hereditary and if your dog carries the genes for PRA, it will develop.

What effect will it have on your dog?
Even though your dog will become completely blind, the condition is painless. Many dogs adjust to their loss of sight and do just fine in their own surroundings.

Weeping Eyes
"Weeping Eyes" is one of those vague symptoms that can be the result of any number of different causes. Some tearing in Tibbies is attributable the natural configuration of the face. The combination of facial hair, facial fullness, "bulky eyelids" and "tight" lower lids. What apparently happens is the fullness of the face may push the facial hair against the eyes, irritate then and cause tearing. Some of the tears drain away through the nose (as they are supposed to do) but when there are a few too many tears, there's no place for them to go except to overflow those tight lower lids onto the face. Facial hair also sometimes acts like a "wick" to draw the tears onto the face. In most cases this really isn't anything to worry about with no consequence other than cosmetic.

Cherry Eye
"Cherry Eye" is actually a prolapsed third eyelid. What happens is that the eyelid becomes "loose" allowing one of the tear glands to protrude. Tacking is the recommended procedure that should only be done by a qualified vet or a veterinary ophthalmologist.

Among the less serious health problems a Tibetan Spaniel is susceptible to is allergies. This is not unique to Tibbies as allergies appear to be on the rise among all dogs. Things to be on the lookout for are very similar to human allergies symptoms such as watery eyes and scratching. Probably the number one allergic reaction among all dogs is to fleas. The dogs are allergic not to the bite, but the flea saliva.


Tibetan Spaniel
Nicknames: Tibbie
Country of origin: Tibet

Liver Shunt -
Portosystemic Shunt

A portosystemic shunt is an abnormal vessel that allows blood to bypass the liver. As a result the blood is not cleansed by one of the bodies filters: the liver. This condition is often referred to as a "liver shunt".

What are the signs of liver shunt?
Most shunts cause recognizable by the time a dog is a young adult but once in a while one is diagnosed at a later time in life. Since the severity of the condition can vary widely depending on how much blood flow is diverted past the liver it is possible for a lot of variation in clinical signs & time of onset for the signs to occur. Often, this condition is recognized after a puppy fails to grow, making an early diagnosis pretty common. Signs of portosystemic shunts include poor weight gain, sensitivity to sedatives (especially diazepam), depression, pushing the head against a solid object, seizures, weakness, salivation, vomiting, poor appetite, increased drinking and urinating, balance problems and frequent urinary tract disease or early onset of bladder stones. If these signs increase dramatically after eating, it is a strong supportive sign of a portosystemic shunt.

Small monastery dogs, thought to be early representatives of the Tibetan Spaniel, loyally trailed behind their Lama masters and came to be regarded as "little Lions", thus giving them great value and prestige. The practice of sending the dogs as gifts to the palaces of China and other Buddhist countries grew significantly, and in reciprocity more "lion dogs" were presented back to Tibet, continuing until as late as 1908. Through exchange of Tibetan Spaniels between palaces and monasteries, the breed is likely to have common ancestors with a number of the Oriental breeds, including the Japanese Chin and the Pekingese.

Professor Ludvic von Schulmuth studied canine origins by studying the skeletal remains of dogs found in human settlements as long as ten thousand years ago. The Professor created a genealogical tree of Tibetan dogs. It shows that the "Gobi Desert Kitchen Midden Dog", a small scavenger, evolved into the "Small Soft-Coated Drop-Eared Hunting Dog" which then evolved into the Tibetan Spaniel, Pekingese, and Japanese Chin. Intermixing of Tibetan breeds then involved the Tibetan Spaniel with the Lhasa Apso and the Shih Tzu, resulting in both the latter breeds birthing the occasional "Prapso" in their litters - a pup with a shedding coat greatly resembling the Tibetan Spaniel.

Although legend has it that Tibbies were trained to turn the monks' prayer wheels, it is more likely that their keen sight made them excellent monastery watchdogs, barking to warning of intruders and alert the monks.

Village-bred Tibetan Spaniels varied greatly in size and type, and the smaller puppies were usually given as gifts to the monasteries. In turn, these smaller dogs used in the monastery breeding programs were probably combined with the more elegant Tibetan Spaniel-type dogs brought from China. Those bred closer to the Chinese borders were characterized by shorter muzzles.

Not only was the Tibetan Spaniel prized as a pet and companion, it was considered a very useful animal by all classes of Tibetans. During the day, the dogs would sit on top of the monastery walls keeping a steady watch over the countryside below. Their keen eye and ability to see great distances, as well as their persistent barking, made them exceptionally good watchdogs. Modern-day Tibbies retain their ancestors' love of heights.

Tibetan Spaniels were being bred in the United Kingdom by the 1890s. The first authenticated reference we find to Tibetan Spaniels in the United States is a litter born out of two imported dogs from a Tibetan monastery in 1965. In January 1971, the Tibetan Spaniel Club of America was formed with 14 charter members. After a period in the Miscellaneous classes, the Tibetan Spaniel was accepted for AKC registration and became eligible to compete as a Non-Sporting breed effective January 1, 1984.