Common Poodle Health Problems
If poodles were people, we would consider them the cream of the proverbial crop. Originally bred to hunt, track, and retrieve, these happy little hairballs are among the smartest and most employed of all domesticated canines. Their keen sense of direction makes them wonderful guide dogs for the visually impaired, and their cheerful dispositions make them great choices for emotional support animals. They do a lot for us Humans, so it feels right that we learn how best to care for them and learn about common health issues that might arise.
We’re very aware of several health issues some of our poodle friends might have over the years. Among them are chronic conditions like:
Just like Humans, various dog breeds can sometimes suffer from Epilepsy or Chronic Seizure Syndrome. Seizures can be attributed to various types of trauma, exposure to toxins, tumor growths, additional existing health problems, or nothing at all. Epilepsy in dogs will normally manifest before they turn 3 (or 28 in dog years). Epilepsy is sometimes hereditary, and there isn’t always a definite cure. Treatment involves:
- Learning to provide pain-free care at home.
- Taking them in for regular checkups and testing.
- Working with your veterinarian to find a medication that works.
A genetic defect can cause epilepsy. This is the most common cause of epilepsy, and it’s inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. The carrier rate for this condition is about 1 percent to 2 percent among purebred dogs. It occurs more often than you might think because many breeders don’t know they’re breeding for it or aren’t aware that their puppies are at risk.
Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s Disease) is a disease that affects the adrenal glands. It can be caused by an autoimmune disorder or may occur as part of another condition such as diabetes mellitus. The most common symptoms are lethargy and weight loss. Other signs include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, depression, excessive thirst, increased urination, lack of appetite, muscle tremors, seizures, blindness, deafness, coma, and death. Diagnosis requires blood tests to measure levels of cortisol in the body.
Addison’s Disease is a potentially fatal condition caused by irregular hormone production that can cause systemic issues throughout the body. Hypoadrenocorticism is more likely to occur if adrenal glands are damaged or deteriorating. Any dog can contract Addison’s Disease, but our poodle friends are especially susceptible to this disorder. We should be vigilant to recognize tell-tale signs in like:
- Loss of Appetite
- Dehydration or Increase of Thirst
- Sensitive or Painful Abdominal Region
- Frequent Urination
- Bloody Droppings
- Hair Loss
- Hyperpigmentation or Dark Patches of Skin
- Low Blood Sugar
- Irregular Heart Beat
Addison’s Disease is a pretty serious disorder, and there is no known cure. Treatment for this condition will likely start with a long hospital stay and some physical therapy to deal with the plethora of problems that come with it. Any poodle friends suffering from this Disease will likely have to take shots to replace their adrenal glands’ steroids. But, with proper treatment and the right combination of drugs, they can live normal lives.
Bloat (Not “Bloating”) or Gastric Dilatation Volvulus can also be a life-threatening condition. It is caused by the stomach being too large for the small intestine, and it usually occurs when puppies are between 3 to 6 months old. The puppy’s digestive system has not yet developed enough to handle food properly. Bloat may also be referred to as gastric dilatation-volvulus. This term was coined because of its similarity with intestinal obstruction due to adhesions.
The condition derives from a sudden and very painful buildup of gas caused by twisting a poodle’s stomach. Gastric Dilatation Volvulus is an emergent and potentially fatal condition that would require immediate medical treatment. We should keep an eye out for bloating or pain in the abdominal region, dry heaving with little to nothing coming out, drooling, discomfort, restlessness, rapid or shallow breathing, elevated heart rate, shock, pale gums, or panting. We can prevent Gastric Dilatation Volvulus in our little poodles by watching what they eat, how they eat, and when we walk them.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Caused by an inherited genetic mutation that affects the retina of your dog’s eyes, producing progressive vision loss and blindness over time. The disease usually starts between two to four years old, but it may start at any age. Unfortunately, there are no known treatments for this disorder, so early detection is important.
Eventually leading to total blindness, Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a hereditary condition that attacks our poodle’s retinas and causes them to atrophy slowly. Because Progressive Retinal Atrophy progresses so slowly, our poor poodles will adjust to their loss of vision as they lose it and can normally lead relatively normal lives. Symptoms of PRA include:
- Slowly losing the ability to see at night in both eyes
- Slowly losing the ability to see during the day
- Cloudy or graying appearance to the eyes
- Unwillingness to descend stairs
- Hesitancy to jump down or off of things
- Prominent eye color reduction
- The visible presence of cataracts in the eye
- Presence of a grayish sheen
- Dual pupil dilation
While PRA can’t be cured, the process can be slowed with some treatments. We owners can also help make a living with this Disease easier on our hairy little friends. Keeping surroundings familiar before the loss of sight helps to ease the burden of navigating around their home.
Thyroid conditions are common, where they might be enlarged, have a hard nodule on the thyroid gland, or have abnormal tissue growth. These conditions usually do not cause any symptoms unless enlargement causes pressure to affect other organs such as the trachea or esophagus. If you notice your dog has these problems, it’s important to get them checked out by a veterinarian right away so they can determine if surgery will help alleviate their condition.
Thyroid Issues can cause a variety of the following symptoms:
• Weight loss or gain
• Lethargic behavior
• Vomiting and diarrhea
• Difficulty breathing
• Persistent cough
If you notice these warning signs in your pet, contact your vet immediately for an examination. Your dog may be suffering from thyroid disease, which needs immediate attention.
Hip Dysplasia can progress into very debilitating concerns. It is not uncommon for dogs with hip dysplasia to be euthanized because of the pain and discomfort they are experiencing. Hip dysplasia occurs when there is abnormal development or formation of one or both hips, which causes them to become dislocated from their normal position within the socket of the pelvis. The condition usually affects older dogs, but it may occur at any age.
Hip Dysplasia is a hereditary condition, usually provoked by weak or thin cartilage around the hip joints. Poodles with Hip Dysplasia often experience a great deal of pain and are more prone to hip dislocation. We should watch our poodles to see if they sway to avoid bending more while they walk, show signs of muscular atrophy, are less willing to exercise, cry out in pain if we pet near their hips or their joints click while they walk.
Poodle Puppy Problems
A few problems may only affect poodles in their infancy while their immune systems are still developing. One example of this would be Juvenile Hypoglycemia or Low Blood Sugar. Our adorable poodle puppies are more susceptible to Juvenile Hypoglycemia because of their low-fat stores. Juvenile Hypoglycemia can be fatal. So, we should watch our puppies and miniature poodles for the following symptoms:
- Weakness or Atrophy
- Sudden Onset Drowsiness
- Disorientation or Shock
- A Sway or Wobble as They Walk
- “Glassy” or “Dead” Eyes
- Random Twitching or Jerking
- An Uncontrollable Shake, Shiver, or Tremble
- A Lopsided or Tilted Head
- Pupil Dilation
- Fainting, Unconsciousness, or Coma-like Sleep
Treatment for Juvenile Hypoglycemia is pretty simple. All we have to do is get some sugar in their system by dabbing sugar water onto the underside of their tongue.
Pocket Poodle Problems
The poodles we love come in many different sizes, affecting the health risks they face every day. Pocket or Miniature poodles, in particular, have a longer list of potential health problems. On it are conditions like:
- Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s)
- Heart Disease
- Bone and Joint Problems
- Bleeding Disorders
- Multiple Skin Problems
- Digestive Disorders
- Tracheal Collapse
We may stumble upon any of these while looking for other health problems in our poodles.
A Lifestyle of Prevention
Taking proper care of our poodle friends can prevent them from developing conditions like Bloat, Addison’s Disease, and Juvenile Hypoglycemia. Caring for these happy little hairballs isn’t all that different from taking care of a child. We need to make sure their bodies are clean, their diets are balanced, and that they exercise daily.
Helping our poodles maintain proper hygiene can prevent matted hair and prominent dental issues and lower the risk due to bacteria. We should bathe our poodles once a week, brush their teeth thrice a week, and brush their hair daily. Getting active with our poodles for an hour a day can prevent Hip Dysplasia, but never within an hour of a meal, so we can prevent them from developing Bloat. Teaching our poodles to do tricks can help keep their minds sharp, and feeding them more frequent snack-sized meals throughout the day rather than one large sumo-style meal can help prevent Bloat and Juvenile Hypoglycemia.
Leaving a bowl of water out with a few spoons of sugar or Karo Syrup can keep miniature poodles and poodle puppies from slipping into Hypoglycemic comas. Not all of the conditions listed above can be prevented this way. For example, if our poodles were to develop a form of idiopathic epilepsy, there isn’t a single thing we could’ve done to prevent it. However, a good breeder can help make sure it doesn’t present itself in later generations.