Poodles come in standard, miniature and toy varieties. As a group, poodles are generally healthy, but individuals inherit from their ancestors a greater or lesser risk for certain health problems. The risk for a particular type of genetic disorder may be high among one poodle variety, while rare in another.
The Healthy Dog
Your chances of owning a poodle who will live a long life unimpeded by health issues are best when you obtain a puppy from a reputable breeder. The goal of such a breeder is to produce pups that are free of genetic disease and with proper structure according to breed standards. The breeder raises the puppies in clean surroundings with plenty of socialization before they go to permanent homes. Such a breeder will provide you with a health guarantee and evidence that the parents are certified free of hip dysplasia by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
Poodles of all varieties are at risk for hip dysplasia, a heritable disease in which the hip joint is not properly developed. Arthritic bone changes are progressive over time because of the poor fit and instability of the joint. Dogs with hip dysplasia may or may not eventually become lame. Surgery can help severe cases.
Toy and miniature poodles may be at higher than normal risk for patellar luxation, a heritable problem often seen in dogs, in which the kneecap becomes displaced. Surgery may be necessary for repair.
The painful Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is an inherited hip joint conformation problem that causes loss of a blood supply to the head of the femur, resulting in die-off of bone cells, erosion of the hip joint, and lameness.
Among the eye diseases seen in poodles, inherited progressive retinal atrophy eventually renders the dog blind. A specific type of the disease affects toys and minis, with onset at approximately 3 years.
Optic nerve hypoplasia is inadequate development of the optic nerve, so that the dog does not have vision in the affected eye.
As they age, some poodles develop cataracts, which may be surgically removed. Juvenile cataracts, as the name implies, affect younger dogs.
Addison's disease results from insufficient production of adrenaline by the adrenal gland. Poodles with this condition may exhibit weakness or frequent vomiting. Severely affected dogs may develop heart problems or go into shock. If your poodle is diagnosed with Addison's, hormone replacement may help.
Another common poodle malady is hypothyroidism, or low levels of thyroid hormone. Symptoms include constant hunger, itchy and inflamed skin, changes in the coat, and lethargy. Thyroid supplementation relieves this condition.
Like other tiny breeds, toy poodles are more prone to tracheal collapse than the average dog. For safety, always use a harness and leash on your toy poodle, rather than a collar and leash. A harsh tug on a tiny poodle's collar can cause or aggravate tracheal issues. If your toy poodle coughs and wheezes or has respiratory problems, take her to her vet for a diagnosis.
Cancer and Bloat
According to Canada's Guide to Dogs, about 40 percent of standard poodle deaths are attributed to cancer. Standard poodles may also suffer from a rare heart malformation, an atrial septic defect or hole between the upper chambers of the heart. Surgery can repair this defect if it is found in time.
Standard poodles, like all large, deep-chested dogs, are at risk of bloat, also known as gastric torsion. The dog's stomach fills with gas, expanding like a balloon, and may twist, cutting off blood supply to the stomach and blocking escape of the built-up gases. This rapidly fatal condition requires immediate emergency veterinary care. The exact cause is not known, but preventive measures include dividing your dog's daily ration into two or three meals; ensuring your dog has a constant supply of fresh water; and refraining from feeding your dog just before or after strenuous exercise.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.