Poodle Health

Like all breeds of dogs, standard and miniature poodles are susceptible to health problems, with some of them being of a hereditary nature. The following is a list of some of the health issues which are of concern:

Standard Poodle 

Bloat —Bloat, otherwise known as gastric torsion, is a condition which involves the twisting of the stomach, during which its contents and any gases are trapped. It results in a rapid swelling of the abdomen, accompanied by pain and eventual death if untreated. A case of bloat is a true emergency, requiring immediate veterinary action.

Bloat is believed to be caused by excessive swallowing of air whilst eating, by gastro-intestinal secretions, and by gas from food fermenting in the stomach.

Symptoms to look for include anxiety, evidence of abdominal fullness after meals, heavy salivating, whining, pacing, getting up and lying down, stretching, looking at abdomen, unproductive attempts to vomit, labored breathing, disinterest in food, and stilted gait. Severe symptoms, such as dark red, blue, grey or white gums, a rapid heartbeat and a weak pulse are normally followed by prostration and death.

In order to minimalise bloat, ensure that you do not exercise your poodle in anything other than a walk until at least an hour after feeding, also do not feed your poodle until at least an hour after exercise. Feed your poodle two smaller meals each day instead of one large meal. Make any diet changes gradually over a 10 day period, ensure water is always available, but limit the amount immediately after feeding.

Please use these links for more information concerning bloat:

Bloat - The Silent Killer - What every dog owner should know

Feeding More Safely

Life after Bloat (GVD)

Addison's Disease— Addison's is an inherited disease in which the adrenal glands fail to secrete a sufficient amount of adrenal hormones required by the dog. Initial symptoms include vomiting, lethargy and poor appetite. When an affected dog is stressed or when potassium levels are high enough to interfere with the heart, more severe symptoms may be seen, including potentially fatal severe shock and heart arrythmias.

If your poodle displays any of the symptoms listed, take it to the vet immediately and ask the vet to test for Addison's disease. The test is a simple blood test and treatment is relatively straight forward as long as diagnosis is made in time. Some vets have a tendancy to forget about Addison's disease and just give a course of antibiotics trusting that the symptoms will be treated effectively in that way. Antibiotics will not treat Addison's Disease. Requesting an Addison's test could save your poodle's life.

Hip DysplasiaHip Dysplasia is a conditon in which the head of the femur fits improperly into the hip joint socket and is a common disorder found in many large breeds, including the standard poodle. Factors which have an influence on the hips include nutrition, a dog's environment and the condition of the hips of its predecessors. Screening for hip dysplasia is recommended for breeding stock. Only dogs with hip scores equal to or below the breed mean (issued by the BVA) should be used for breeding.

The presence of HC can be detected by ophthalmoscopic examination and screening in breeding stock is strongly advised. This should be done annually.

Hereditary Cataracts (HC) A cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye caused by a breakdown of the eye tissue. This generally results in an inability to see clearly and can cause total blindness. In canines, some forms of cataract can be inherited, thus these types are referred to as Hereditary Cataracts.
Cataracts usually begin small and grow progressively, though the speed of growth is highly variable. Some cataracts will grow so slowly that the dog's vision remains relatively clear, while others will grow such that the dog will quickly go blind. Corrective surgery is possible, though it is costly and is not always effective.

Sebaceous Adenitis(SA) — This is an inherited chronic skin disorder resulting from abnormal and/or inflamed sebaceous glands. It is a major problem in the standard poodle breed. It can be misdiagnosed as hypothyroidism or allergies and, currently, there is no cure. All breeding animals should have an annual skin biopsy taken by a veterinarian.

Von Willebrand's Disease(vWD) — vWD is a blood disorder similar to haemophilia in humans. Poodles affected by the disease do not effectively utilize their platelets for blood clotting and therefore are more likely to have excessive bleeding episodes upon injury. A DNA test to detect vWD is available from VetGen and breeders should use this test on all stock being considered for breeding. Only those poodles tested as clear should be used for breeding.

Hypothyroidism — This is a condition resulting from an inadequate production of thyroid hormone and treated with medication. Symptoms include lethargy, obesity, excessive hunger, a coarse coat texture. Testing for thyroid malfunction is done through blood sample.

Epilepsy— Seizures can occur in all three sizes of poodle and the most common cause is idiopathic epilepsy which is an inherited form of epilepsy. However, many factors can cause seizures besides idiopathic epilepsy and it is very important to have the poodle diagnosed if seizures begin.

Cushings Disease— There are three forms of Cushings Disease. Most dogs which suffer have the more common form, Pituitary Dependent PD, whereby the dogs have a slow growing form of cancer that is located in the pituitary gland.

Cancer— An estimated 40% of all standard poodle deaths are from cancer. Those poodles which are affected are often those which were not neutered or spayed. If you do not require your poodle for breeding it makes sense to have it neutered/spayed.

Miniature poodle

Miniature poodles are also prone to health problems, some of which are the same as those found in the standard poodle and some of which are different. These are as follows

Progressive Retinal Atrophy(PRA) — This is a genetic eye disorder which progresses gradually, resulting in blindness. The onset in the poodle is usually between 5 and 6 years of age. PRA is an inherited condition and all breeding stock should be tested to determine their carrier status. A DNA test (carried out by Optigen) is available and the result will be either clear, carrier or affected. I prefer to breed from clear dogs only, although some breeders would argue that there is value in using carriers in some circumstances.

Legg-Calve-Perthes (LCPD) - This is an extremely painful disease which involves an interruption in the supply of blood to the femoral head (top of the thigh bone). This results in the death of the bone cells at this location which is followed by renewed blood supply and a period of new, but irregular bone growth and remodeling of the femoral head and neck, lead to stiffness and pain.

The OFA advises that  “No specific causes of LCPD are known, although it is believed to have a genetic mode of inheritance, and is not believed to be caused by trauma alone. Because there is a genetic component, it is recommended that dogs affected with LCPD not be used in breeding programs.

Patella Sub-luxation - This occurs when the kneecap pops in and out of the groove where it should be held in place by ligaments. A dog with this problem can often be seen to be favouring one of its back legs until the kneecap pops back into place. This problem can be surgically corrected.

Undescended Testicles - occurs when a male dog’s testicles are trapped in the abdominal cavity. This condition can sometimes be successfully treated with hormone injections. If the testicles still fail to descend they must be removed due to an increased risk of becoming cancerous.

Epilepsy (see standard poodle info above)

Hypothyroidism (see standard poodle info above)

Cancer (see standard poodle info above)