Health Issues in Poodles
Like other dogs--and humans--poodles may have health problems, some common among all dogs and some specific to the breed and even to one Poodle variety. Health tests already allow us to screen breeding stock for some of these problems, and today's exciting era of DNA technology is putting researchers on the fast track to find abnormal genes and develop more tests to help eradicate genetic disease. Here are some health issues of concern to Poodle owners:
Click here for a list of variety specific tests that PCA recommends breeders screen for.
Find out more through organizations dealing with these problems. You can make a difference with these issues is by giving to the PCA Foundation, which is working hard to further the understanding of the diseases, genetic anomalies and injuries which affect these dogs.
Addison's disease is also known as hypoadrenocorticism. It is an insufficient production of adrenal hormones by the adrenal gland. Since these hormones are essential for life, this is an extremely serious disease and it must be treated as such.
Adrenal insufficiency can be primary or secondary. Primary adrenocorticism affects salt/potassium balance in the body and glucorticoid as well. Secondary adrenocorticism usually only affects the glucocorticoids. It is not known why primary adrenocorticism occurs but it may be an immune mediated process. Secondary adrenocorticism probably occurs most often when prednisone or other cortisone being administered for medical reasons are suddenly withdrawn. It can occur as a result of pituitary cancer or some other process that interferes with production of hormones that stimulate the adrenal glands.
Most dogs with Addison's disease initially have gastrointestinal disturbances like vomiting. Lethargy is also a common early sign. Poor appetite can occur as well. These are pretty vague signs and it is extremely easy to miss this disease. More severe signs occur when a dog with hypoadrenocorticism is stressed or when potassium levels get high enough to interfere with heart function. Dogs with this problem will sometimes suffer severe shock symptoms when stressed, which can lead to a rapid death. When potassium levels get high heart arrythmias occur or even heart stoppage which also is fatal. In some cases, especially secondary Addison's disease, there are no detectable electrolyte changes.
This disease can be picked up by changes in the ratio between sodium or potassium by accident at times. When this happens it is still extremely important to treat for it. It is confirmed by an ACTH response test -- administration of this hormone should stimulate production of adrenal hormones. If this does not occur then hypoadrenocorticism is present. In cases in which the electrolyte levels are normal this is the only test for the problem and it will be missed unless it is looked for specifically. At times this disease can be hard to differentiate from renal failure because the symptoms and even the blood work can be similar, so the ACTH response test may be necessary to differentiate them.
Atrial Septal Defects in Standard Poodles
Canine atrial septal defect (ASD) is a relatively rare congenital heart malformation in which the heart has a hole between its upper chambers. Some breeds considered at increased risk for ASD include Boxer, Doberman Pinscher, Samoyed and Newfoundland. The malformation has recently been recognized among Standard Poodles and seems to run in families, suggesting a genetic cause. Although dogs with ASD may have no symptoms if the hole is small, ASD signs might include coughing, trouble breathing, exercise intolerance and possibly collapse or fainting--even death from heart failure. Surgery can repair the hole in dogs suffering ASD symptoms. For more on ASD and current research, click here.
To learn more about how genetics and inheritance works, click here.
The normal stomach sits high in the abdomen and contains a small amount of gas, some mucus, and any food being digested. It undergoes a normal rhythm of contraction, receiving food from the esophagus above, grinding the food, and meting the ground food out to the small intestine at its other end. Normally this proceeds uneventfully except for the occasional burp.
In the bloated stomach, gas and/or food stretches the stomach many times its normal size, causing tremendous abdominal pain. For reasons we do not fully understand, this grossly distended stomach has a tendency to rotate, thus twisting off not only its own blood supply but the only exit routes for the gas inside. Not only is this condition extremely painful but it is also rapidly life-threatening. A dog with a bloated, twisted stomach (more scientifically called "Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus") will die in pain in a matter of hours unless drastic steps are taken.
Chronic Active Hepatitis
Chronic active hepatitis is a liver disease where there is inflammation of the liver and death of liver tissue present. Dogs that are affected with this disease develop a slow, progressive liver failure. Researchers have found in some breeds a familial predisposition to the disease. In Bedlington Terriers, the disease has been found to be the result of an autosomal recessive gene, and there is a marker test from Vetgen to test for it. In Dobermans, the disease seems to affect more females than males.
Symptoms of the illness usually don’t appear in the dogs’ early years, not until there is significant damage to the liver. Usually CAH appears around 5-7 years of age. Some of the early signs of CAH are loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, vomiting yellowish bile, weight loss, depression, increased water intake, increased urination, and sluggishness. As the disease gets worse, jaundice may appear (the whites of the dogs eyes will appear yellowish), and clotting problems may occur. Fluids can build up in the abdominal area, so that a dog may look like it’s in whelp. Behavioral changes may occur, such as the dog might stand and stare at the wall, or in a corner, or just stand and be confused. All of this is due to toxins that have built up in the body that used to be metabolized by the liver.
In some breeds copper will build up in the liver. This will vary from breed to breed. Copper will be stored in larger than normal amounts in the liver.
Yearly blood screening is always important to the health of your dog. To have a yearly baseline to judge future blood tests can prove to be valuable in assessing the health of your dog. One of the first signs of liver trouble would be an elevated ALT. To further define liver problems, a vet will usually perform a liver biopsy. This would give a definite diagnosis of CAH. This would determine to what extent the liver is damaged as well as establishing copper levels, if any. A vet will often do a guided needle biopsy, with the assistance of an ultrasound, to visualize the area of the liver in to determine which area to biopsy. This test is usually accompanied by bile acids tests before and after to complete a correct diagnosis.
Dogs can often be treated with medications and special diet, depending on how damaged the liver is when diagnosed with CAH. The dog will never be cured but can be maintained for a time if the condition is caught early and treated properly. Each dog’s case will vary.
There are 3 forms of Cushings Disease. Most dogs have the more common form, Pituitary Dependent PD. With this form the dogs have a slow growing form of cancer that is located in the pituitary gland. This causes the adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol because the tumor triggers too much ACTH to be produced.
The next form is the Non Pituitary. Here there is a tumor in one or both of the adrenal glands. Here also too much cortisol is produced as a result of the tumor. The tumor is often malignant and is called an Adenocarcinoma. It is aggressive and it can spread to other parts of the body and organs. The non-cancerous tumor is called Adenoma.
The last form comes from dogs being on long term use of "Cortisone". This drug comes in many forms and can cause problems with its long term use. This long term usage makes the body think it has more cortisone than it really does leading the body to misread the actual amount it has.
There are many warning signs of Cushings. Some of the more common ones are: excessive appetite, drinking large amounts of water, frequent urination, large pot belly, thin skin, hair loss on the body, thinning of hair and drastic change of texture of hair.
This is usually seen in older dogs, but can begin much earlier in life. It can be very slow in progressing. There are tests to tell you if your dog has Cushings. If you suspect it, call your vet and get proper testing done to get a correct diagnosis.
Seizures in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors. A common cause of seizures in all varieties of Poodles (as well as 25 or 30 other breeds) is "idiopathic epilepsy." Idiopathic epilepsy generally is inherited, and it can result in either mild or severe seizures. Sometimes, seizures involve episodes of unusual behavior, such as running frantically as if being chased, staggering, or hiding in the bathroom. Although seizures can be frightening to watch, the long-term prognosis for dogs with idiopathic epilepsy generally is very good. Importantly, however, many other factors can cause seizures in dogs besides idiopathic epilepsy. Causes include a variety of metabolic disorders (such as liver disorders), infectious diseases that affect the brain (such as distemper), tumors, exposure to poisons, severe head injuries, and more. The prognosis for seizures due to these other disorders varies depending on the particular disorder and how early it is diagnosed. Thus, when a dog begins to have seizures, it is very important for the dog to receive a thorough diagnostic work-up to determine the cause.
This website on canine epilepsy covers a wide variety of topics written by both lay persons and epilepsy experts. This is an excellent site; however, as with any website, you should check with a knowledgeable professional before applying any of the information to your own dog. Samples are currently needed from dogs with epilepsy and their close relatives for a University of Missouri study on idiopathic epilepsy. Click here for more on this study.
The hip joint is a ball and socket connection. If the joint is malformed the head of the femur will not properly align with the cup of the hip socket. This misalignment can range from mild to severe. In mild cases, with proper diet and exercise the animal can lead a full and active life. In more severe cases surgical correction or euthanasia are the only alternatives. Diagnosis is generally done with an X-ray. The two preferred testing and rating systems for this condition are Pennhip and OFA certification.
Hypothyroidism (malfunctioning thyroid) is caused by an inadequate production of the thyroid hormone. Symptoms include; skin conditions, obesity, excessive hunger, irregular heat cycles, excessive coarse coat texture, inability to stay warm, and lethargy. Treatment of hypothyroidism is the use of an inexpensive drug given daily.
Testing for thyroid malfunction is obtained by taking a blood sample. Females should be tested after sexual maturity and the blood tested between heat cycles.
Most laboratories can do T-3 and T-4 screening. Complete thyroid testing includes: TT4, TT3, FT4, FT3, T4AA, T3AA, TGAA and cTSH, OFA Thyroid Registry Panel, FT4D, cTSH and TgAA.
LCPD results when the blood supply to the femoral head is interrupted resulting in a vascular necrosis, or the death of the bone cells. Followed by a period of revascularization, the femoral head is subject to remodeling and/or collapse creating an irregular fit in the acetabulum, or hip socket. This process of bone cell dying and chipping followed by new bone growth and remodeling of the femoral head and neck, lead to stiffness and pain. The net results are similar to those experienced by larger breeds with hip dysplasia.”
OFA further notes: “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.
In an effort to assist breeders in establishing control programs to limit the prevalence of LCPD, the OFA is offering a new health database specific to LCPD. The OFA evaluations and the subsequent database of information will allow breeders to make more informed breeding decisions. With time as the database becomes more populated, statistical data regarding prevalence and improvement will be an added benefit. The LCPD database will operate in a similar fashion to the existing OFA database for hip dysplasia evaluations. Breeders who would like additional information should visit the OFA website.
Neonatal Encephalopathy (NEwS)
Neonatal Encephalopathy with Seizures (NEwS) is a fatal disease of the brain in newborn Standard Poodles. Affected pups are weak, uncoordinated, and mentally dull from birth. If they survive the first few days, their growth may be stunted. When normal puppies in the litter start walking, some pups with NEwS cannot stand at all and others struggle to their feet with jerky steps, falling frequently. Seizures develop in most at 4-5 weeks, and the puppies die or are euthanized before they reach weaning age. Researchers have identified the gene mutation that causes NEwS, and a DNA test is now available that allows breeders to avoid producing affected puppies by never breeding two dogs to each other if they are both carriers of the abnormal gene. For more on NEwS and the DNA test, click here.
Patellar luxation is the dislocation (slipping) of the patella (kneecap). In dogs the patella is a small bone that shields the front of the stifle joint. This bone is held in place by ligaments. As the knee joint is moved, the patella slides in a grove in the femur. The kneecap may dislocate toward the inside (medial) or outside (lateral) of the leg. This condition may be the result of injury or congenital deformities (present at birth). Patellar luxation can affect either or both legs.
The most common occurrence of luxating patella is the medial presentation in small or miniature dog breeds. Shallow femoral groove, weak ligaments and malalignment of the tendons and muscles that straighten the joint are all conditions that will predispose a dog toward luxating patellae.
Indications of patellar luxation are; difficulty in straightening the knee, pain in the stifle, limping, or the tip of the hock points outward while the toes point inward.
Grade 1: Intermittent patellar luxation - occasional carrying of the affected limb. The patella can easily be manually luxated at full extension of the stifle, but returns to proper position when pressure is released.
Grade 2: Frequent patellar luxation - in some cases luxation is more or less permanent. The affected limb is sometimes carried, although the dog may walk with the stifle slightly flexed.
Grade 3: Permanent patellar luxation - even though the patella is luxated, many animals will walk with the limb in a semi-flexed position.
Grade 4: Permanent patellar luxation - the affected limb is either carried or the animal walks in a crouched position, with the limb partially flexed.
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) refers to a group of diseases affecting the retina at the back of the eye. These diseases cause the retinal cells to become increasingly abnormal over time. In most cases, the eventual outcome is blindness. Some form of PRA has been recognized in over 100 dog breeds, including Toy and Miniature Poodles.
Optic Nerve Hypoplasia
Optic Nerve Hypoplasia is a congenital faliure of development of the optic nerve which causes blindness and abnormal pupil response in the effected eye. May be unable to differentiate from micropapilla on a routine (dialated) screening ophthalmoscopic exam. Micropapilla is a small optic disc which is not associated with vision impairment.
Additional known eye disorders in Poodles:
This is a common disorder in Standard Poodles involving inflammation of sebaceous glands that normally lubricate the skin and hair follicles. Heredity plays a role in SA, although the mode of inheritance is not yet understood. The disease has been identified in more than 30 breeds as well as mixed-breed dogs. While Standards represent the vast majority of Poodle cases, SA also has been reported in Miniature and Toy Poodles. Symptoms include scaling, flaking and thickening of the skin, hair loss (often with a "moth eaten" appearance) and sometimes odor and sores caused by secondary infection. The disease can be difficult to diagnose, often mistaken for hypothyroidism, allergies or other conditions affecting the skin. Although there is no cure for SA, oil baths and other treatments often can keep symptoms under control. Currently the only diagnostic test available for SA is a skin biopsy evaluated by a dermatopathologist, and Standard Poodles used for breeding should have a yearly biopsy. Because the age of onset varies and some affected dogs are "subclinical" with no outward signs of disease, SA is an especially challenging problem for breeders. On its web site, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals maintains a registry for SA tested poodles and lists names and addresses of approved dermatopathologists and laboratories, along with procedures for submitting samples for SA analysis. Samples are needed for a study supported by the Poodle Club of America Foundation on the genetics of Sebaceous Adenitis in Standard Poodles. Click here for more information.
Vaccinations might not seem like a "health issue" at first glance, until you consider the vast numbers of dogs killed by Distemper and Parvovirus before the era of effective vaccines to prevent these infections. Thanks to vaccinations required by law, canine rabies is seldom seen in the United States, but that dreaded disease is still a serious problem among dogs in some parts of the world. Modern vaccines can also protect our dogs against other infections when needed, such as Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, and kennel cough. Vaccination guidelines will continue to evolve with advances in veterinary knowledge and as new vaccines become available.
Von Willebrand's disease (vWD) is an inherited bleeding disorder. It is a complex and difficult disorder to deal with because genetics, diagnostic abnormalities, pathogenic mechanisms, and sometimes conflicting clinical signs are all involved. The commonality between all vWD is a reduction in the amount or function of von Willebrand factor (vWF), which is manifested through abnormal platelet function and prolonged bleeding time. Different breeds exhibit different variations of the disease; and some individual animals appear to "acquire" vWD. A DNA test is available to determine whether Poodles carry an abnormal gene for the form of vWD found in this breed. Because two faulty genes are necessary to produce the disease (one from each parent), this test allows breeders to avoid breeding two carriers to each other. See PCAF Health Testing for discounts.