Hereditary Health Problems in Poodles
Poodles come in three different sizes and have done so
for hundreds of years.
The largest is the "Standard" which are over fifteen
inches at the shoulder with many show specimens being up to 22 inches. The
Poodle is the "Miniature" which is to be between ten and fifteen
inches and then there is the tiny "Toy" size, which is smaller than
Although all three of these are shown in different classes
at a dog show, they all
back to the same roots in history. There are German writings in existence,
which describe a breed of dog that was called the "Pudel." Pudel
in German simply means to splash in the water. The German writings speak of a black,
dog that retrieved waterfowl.
Eventually the dogs migrated into France where they became
exceptionally popular once again as a fowl dog. As their number grew, the French
called the hardy dog "Chiencanne" or duck dog.
As far back as the 15th and 16th centuries, the smaller
versions of the poodle, the miniature and the toy are seen in paintings. In
England, Queen Anne supposedly saw a group of poodles that danced to music and
fell in love with the breed.
The Poodle has had many duties over the centuries such
as retriever, working and herding dogs as well as circus performers. They have
been companions to royalty and commoner alike. Their quick wit, agility,
adaptability and loyalty have made them one of the American Kennel Club's
most consistently top ten breeds with the first one to be registered being
Czar in 1887. Unfortunately
Poodles like so many other pure bred dogs have become known for certain hereditary
conditions and diseases.
Poodles have a wide variety of eye problems and a qualified
veterinarian BEFORE breeding should examine all breeding stock.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). A very common eye problems
in Poodles. It is an insidious disease because it worsens as the dog ages
and may not even show up until the dog is between two and a half to eight years
of age. PRA causes destruction of the photoreceptors in the eye that are located
on the retina. As the disease progresses, the retina atrophies or "shrivels
up." Eventually the dog goes totally blind. One of the most common symptoms
of PRA is a dog suddenly appearing afraid of darkened areas. PRA is a recessive
gene and it can lie dormant in a line of dogs for several generations before
showing up. There is no cure for PRA and it can occur in all sizes of Poodles.
Iris atrophy also occurs in Poodles and like PRA it is a progressive type
disease. As the name implies, it causes the Iris to shrivel and die. This
is another condition for which there is no cure.
An odd condition in Standard Poodles is when an extra row
of eyelashes (distichiasis) occurs. Interestingly enough, distichiasis can
occur at any age.
Another "eyelash" problem is entropion. When a dog has
entropion problems, its eyelid rolls for some reason and the eyelashes become
tucked in under the eyelid and constantly irritate the eyeball. This condition
is fairly common in many breeds and most veterinarians will be able to surgically
"fix" the problem.
Micropthalmos is another strange condition in Standard
Poodles. Micropthalmos is when a normal sized dog has eyes smaller than their
size would call for.
All sizes of Poodles are prone to epiphora (excessive tearing).
This is often obvious by the stains that are seen starting from the inside
corner of the eyes and running down the face. Epiphora can happen on its own
the result of distichiasis or entropion. If your Poodle suddenly develops
this condition, it is best to have him or her checked out by your veterinarian
rule out these disorders, corneal ulcerations or some type of eye trauma.
Miniature and Toy Poodles sometimes have an absence of the opening at the lacrimal
(tear duct). This condition is called nasolacrimal puncta atresia.
Cataracts are also seen in all sizes of Poodles. Often
considered an "old age" disease, it can show up in Poodles that are only
six to eighteen months.
Miniature and Toy Poodles have had some incidences of day
blindness or "hermeralopia".
Eyes arenít the only problems in Poodles though:
Von Willebrandís Disease
Von Willebrandís Disease is a bleeding disorder that causes
problems with the proteins in platelets. These affected platelets donít have
the normal adhesive qualities so they donít stick together to stop the bleeding.
Instead, the blood continues to run out of the holes. Many times an owner will
never know the dog has a problem until it has surgery or some traumatic injury
Allergies are common in all sizes. These can be flea, inhalant
(pollens and molds) or food induced. These allergies can in turn cause seborrhea,
pyoderma (moist, smelly skin) or pruritus (pustules) on the face and feet.
Miniature Poodles have been known to have abnormally short
legs that are caused by the ossification (hardening) of the long bone cartilage.
This condition is known as "achondroplasia."
Standard Poodles can suffer from hip dysplasia (malformation
and laxity of hip socket and femoral head).
Epilepsy has been reported in all sizes of Poodles as well.
Gastric torsion or "bloat" occurs in Standard Poodles.
Gastric torsion is a condition that can occur in almost any large, deep chested
dog. Its exact cause isnít known but the results are quickly fatal. A certain
amount of gas and stomach fluids are normal but with gastric torsion the stomach
fills with an excessive amount of each and literally "blows up like a balloon."
The fluids and gasses increase because the stomach itself flips over and both
ends become twisted (torsion). A dog with this condition has only a few
hours if that to receive surgical care from a veterinarian. With out this care,
the dog will die an agonizing death. Even with surgery, there is a high chance
that the dog wonít survive.
Please see our Pets First Bloat in
Dogs article for more information.
Problems Specific to Miniatures
Miniature Poodles have been known to have congenital
deafness and cryptorchidisn (retained testicles). They also are prone to patellar
luxation (knee caps that move out of place), a condition that will often require surgery.
By this time many non-Poodle owners will begin to wonder
why anyone would want to deal with a breed that could develop so many different
types of disorders. While there are dogs that have one or more of these conditions,
there are many times as many of those without.
Poodles are like any other breed.
When purchasing one you take a risk with your money. A wise course of action
when purchasing a poodle is to get the breeder/seller to guarantee the dog
for the seven to ten days after purchase against contagious diseases like
parvovirus or distemper as well as against PRA and other hereditary problems
that often show up later on in life.
As with any contract/agreement, handshakes and nice
words are not enough. Insist the breeder/seller writes any and all promises
down and signs the agreement. This covers you for future problems and a
reputable, conscientious breeder will want to know of hereditary/congenital