Considering Common Poodle Conditions

In This Chapter
  • Examining everyday illnesses and injuries
  • Handling other health issues common to Poodles
No dog is perfect — health wise, that is. Unfortunately, you may have to deal with a sick Poodle once in a while. This chapter discusses common Poodle health issues with and how you can fight back. I also address everyday Poodle illnesses and injuries.
Remember
Generally, any minor but still uncomfortable health problem that lasts for more than 24 hours calls for a trip to the veterinarian. Any problem that worsens over several hours, such as fever, weakness, or lack of appetite, needs veterinary attention immediately. When you get a Poodle, put your vet’s phone number on speed dial, memorize it, and post it next to your home phone (see Chapter Taking Basic Care of Your Poodle’s Health for tips on finding the right vet for you).

Ouch! Treating Everyday Illnesses and Injuries>


In the following sections, I describe a variety of ordinary illnesses and injuries that may afflict your Poodle.

Cuts and scrapes


Your Poodle can acquire cuts and scrapes in many ways, just like kids. You can treat surface scrapes and shallow cuts on a Poodle the same way you treat your own cuts or scrapes. Wash the area with soap and water, and apply a bit of antibiotic cream. Watch the area in the hours that follow; if it gets red or puffy or feels warm to the touch, go to your vet’s office. If the wound is deep, get to your vet.

Lumps and bumps


Lumps and bumps can go undetected under your Poodle’s coat, which is why you should run your hands all over your Poodle at least once a week (see Chapter Taking Basic Care of Your Poodle’s Health for details on checking your Poodle regularly). A lump or bump may be the result of a fall or bumping into something, or it may just be a fatty deposit. You have no way of knowing what a lump or bump is without seeing your vet. Any lump or bump should be aspirated.

Skin problems


All kinds of things can irritate the skin: allergies to bug bites to serious diseases, like sebaceous adenitis. I cover many common skin problems and how you can treat them in the following sections.

Allergies


Just like people, dogs can have allergies. If your Poodle is scratching and biting at his skin, he may have fleas (see the later section “External parasites” for more about getting rid of these pests). If he’s chewing and licking his feet, he may have a food allergy. Dogs also can be allergic to airborne substances, such as pollens and molds. Some dogs can even be allergic to people dander.

Make an appointment with your veterinarian if your Poodle is biting, licking, and scratching. This is a common symptom of food allergies. If she suspects a food allergy, she’ll put your Poodle on a single-food diet and add other ingredients gradually to try to determine what’s causing the problem. If an allergy is airborne, your vet may recommend frequent baths or prescribe a medication. If she determines that the problem is fleas, she’ll suggest a flea preventative, and she may also give you medicated shampoo for bath time (see Chapter Providing Your Poodle with a Nutritious Diet for more on bathing your Poodle).

Hot spots


Hot spots are raw, oozy sores that your Poodle creates when he bites and chews at an itchy spot, caused by an irritation (like flea bites). The spots form quickly if they happen to be covered with hair, because hair holds in the moisture and further irritates the spots.
Tip
I treat hot spots with a dab of triple antibiotic cream, which you can find at any drug store. If you don’t trust the drugstore, your vet can supply something to help. Listerine can also help dry up a hot spot. If a hot spot you treat doesn’t clear up in a couple days, visit your vet, who may prescribe an oral antibiotic.

Sebaceous adenitis


Sebaceous adenitis (SA) is an inflammatory disease of the sebaceous glands and may be inherited, metabolic, or immune-mediated in Standard Poodles. Because SA is hereditary, buyers should only buy puppies from parents who have had an annual skin punch biopsy to prove that they aren’t currently affected with this disorder. Currently, you can’t find a DNA test for the SA gene, and unfortunately, SA has no cure.

The condition is hard to diagnose, because it may look like an allergy or hypothyroidism (which I cover later in this chapter). Your dog may lose hair, have dry, brittle hair, or develop white scales and skin lesions.

Any Standard Poodle who develops an unresponsive skin ailment should have a skin punch biopsy to test for SA. You can download forms, instructions, and a list of qualified diagnostic laboratories from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals Web site (www.offa.org). Medicated shampoos can help; soaking scaly areas with baby oil and then shampooing removes scales. Your vet may also prescribe medications to guard against infection.

Tummy aches


Many dogs have sensitive stomachs. If you happen to change your Poodle’s diet for a day, for instance, or if your little guy gets into something he shouldn’t have, be prepared to clean up some messes later. You can probably suppress a simple tummy ache with a day of fasting and then a day of feeding well-cooked lean ground meat or chicken with rice to your Poodle (make sure meat is drained of fat). Make sure your Poodle drinks plenty of water while fasting. Offer ice cubes if that helps. If your Poodle is vomiting or has diarrhea for more than 24 hours, however, you need to make a trip to the vet.

Ear issues


Poodles have floppy ears, which prevent air from circulating — a situation that can lead to infection. You may notice a smelly discharge or the ear may be red and painful. Pulling hair from your Poodle’s ears and using ear cleaner once a week can help prevent ear infections. If your Poodle still winds up with an infection, you’ll probably have to give him drops prescribed by your vet.

Internal parasites


Internal parasites that invade dogs include tapeworm, roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, and heartworm. With the exception of heartworm, which migrates to the dog’s heart, these parasites find your dog’s intestines to be the perfect home. And all, without exception, require aggressive treatment. For some parasites, you can give your dog preventative medicine. Some heartworm pills now also contain medication to prevent hookworms and roundworms.

Tapeworm


Tapeworm is the least harmful of all the worms. Your Poodle can get tapeworm from eating a flea, which is another good reason to keep your dog flea-free (see the next section for details). Another way to get tapeworm is to eat birds or small mammals. Tapeworms rob your Poodle of his nutrients, so get rid of the worms fast.

Tapeworm segments look like grains of rice in your dog’s stool. If you see them, or if your Poodle starts scooting his rear across the floor, contact your vet for a checkup and the proper medication.

Roundworms


Roundworms, which frequently show up in puppies, can cause abdominal distension, colic, coughing, and poor appetite. These worms are life threatening in puppies. The good news is that vets routinely worm most puppies. Roundworms can produce the same symptoms in adults, but the worms aren’t as threatening. Twiceyearly fecal tests should let your vet know whether your Poodle has any type of worm, and your vet will then prescribe the appropriate medication to kill the worms.

Whipworms


Whipworms cause large-bowel inflammation, resulting in diarrhea that often contains mucus and fresh blood. Whipworms can be difficult to diagnose on fecal exams, and false negatives aren’t uncommon, but the classic symptom is the three-part stool. The dog passes stool that starts out normal, then becomes soft, and the last part is runny, often with mucus or even blood.

Whipworm eggs form in soil, and they can stay viable in soil for years. It’s very easy for a dog to ingest the eggs from grass or twigs, or almost anything a dog may put into his mouth (the eggs can get on paws and fur and be licked off as well). Therefore, after your dog receives a whipworm diagnosis, you need to test regularly for a recurrence of the worm, and your vet will prescribe the appropriate medication. You can’t get rid of the worms in the soil, unless you pave your yard!

Hookworms


Hookworms are bloodsuckers that can leave bite sites that continually seep blood. Blood loss can leave your Poodle with pale mucus membranes; he may have dark, tarry stools; and he could experience either diarrhea or constipation. Other symptoms include a cough or a poor appetite. Hookworms get picked up in the environment, either from the dog ingesting the eggs, or from the larvae penetrating the skin of the dog. If you suspect hookworms are sucking the life out of your Poodle, a fecal exam can diagnose the problem, and your vet will prescribe medicine.

Heartworms


Mosquitoes transmit heartworms when they bite your dog. Your Poodle’s blood carries the microfilaria to the heart. In the heart, the worms mature into adult worms and gradually clog the chambers of the heart. Fortunately, you can administer a preventative medicine for heartworm. After your vet uses a blood test to determine that your Poodle doesn’t have heartworm, he’ll put your dog on a monthly pill or chewable. If your dog goes off the medication for any amount of time, for instance, during winter months, your vet will test annually. If your dog stays on the medication yearround, your vet may test every three years or so as a precaution.
Tip
It is very important never for your Poodle to never miss a dose of his heartworm preventative medicine. A missed dose will allow the worms to become adults in the heart.
If your dog is diagnosed with heartworm, a cure exists. But the medication that kills the worms is harsh, and dead worms can cause a problem as they travel to the lungs, possibly blocking blood vessels, so your dog’s activity must be limited for four to six weeks. Some dogs show no signs of the disease, however, so keep your Poodle safe. Get the blood test and put your dog on a preventative.

External parasites


Fleas and ticks are the most common external parasites that attack dogs. I cover both of these bugs in the following sections.

Fleas


Fleas are nasty little critters that bite dogs and suck their blood. One flea can bite your Poodle as many as 400 times in just one day. Fleas bring the danger of anemia from a large infestation. Many dogs also are allergic to flea saliva; they’ll bite and chew themselves because the saliva makes them itch. They may also scratch. This biting, chewing and scratching can lead, in turn, to raw sores, or hot spots (see previous section on this topic).

Fleas seem to be everywhere. Wild animals, besides dogs and cats, can have fleas, and the flea eggs are hardy. Any grassy area can harbor fleas. If you think your Poodle is harboring some of these nasty freeloaders, roll him over and check his tummy, where his hair is thinner — especially near his hind legs. If you don’t see a flea at all, you may notice little black flecks of “flea dirt.” Gather a few of these flecks and put them on a paper towel or piece of white paper and dampen the surface. If the black flecks turn red, you’ve got yourself some flea dirt. The war has begun!
Tip
If your Poodle is scratching and biting, but you can’t find any evidence of fleas, have your vet look at your dog to make sure she can’t find some other kind of skin problem.
To launch a full-scale attack in your war with fleas, perform the following tasks:
- Give him a bath in flea shampoo. Remember that flea shampoo will kill many fleas, but will not further prevent infestations.
- Vacuum regularly to keep the flea numbers down in your house. Before you vacuum, cut up a flea collar and put it in the bag or canister. Empty your vacuum cleaner frequently so it doesn’t turn into a breeding colony for fleas.
- Wash your Poodle’s bedding. The fleas have been laying their eggs there, as well as everywhere else in your house.
- You can set off a flea bomb. Bombs do work, but you have to make sure there’s no food out, and you need to wash down all food preparation surfaces. You can’t leave any living thing in the house when you bomb it. I’ve had good luck with other methods and would rather avoid poisoning my entire house.
Tip
After you win the first stage of the war against fleas, or before if you’re a pacifist and want to avoid the war altogether, consider putting your Poodle on one of the following flea preventatives:
- Program acts as birth control for the prevention of flea births. Fleas absorb the medicine with their blood meals, and it prevents cocoons from forming so the flea larvae never develop. You can use Program with other products, too.
- Frontline, a topical flea preventative, fights ticks for a month.
- Advantage is a monthly topical product.
Different people have different preferences and needs when it comes to these preventatives. If you’re unsure whether to put your Poodle on a preventative or when to do it, be sure to consult with your vet to find the best option for you and your Poodle.

Ticks


If you and your Poodle take long walks in tall grass or shrubs, you’re more likely to pick up an unwanted hitchhiker than if your Poodle is always in a nicely mown lawn, although that doesn’t mean your Poodle can’t still pick up a tick. Besides making your dog an unwilling blood donor, ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease, and tick paralysis. Talk to your vet about what ticks may be in your area.

Because ticks carry many serious diseases, effective prevention of tick bites is very important. Spot-on products labeled for ticks are more effective than tick collars.

Ticks can be hard to see, but you may be able to feel them as you run your hands over your Poodle. Push your dog’s hair aside and check his skin. If you find a tick, use tweezers to remove it. Grasp firmly where the tick is attached to your dog and pull gently and slowly. You want to make sure you don’t leave the tick’s head imbedded in your dog, so don’t crush or squeeze the tick. Placing alcohol on the tick may make it back out on its own.

Don’t handle the tick, and if you do touch it, wash your hands immediately. After the tick is off your dog, flush it down the toilet, or drop it in a container of alcohol. Wash the area where it was imbedded in your dog, and then apply a topical antiseptic. Keep a close eye on the area of the tick bite for several weeks afterward. If you see a rash, or if the dog develops any illness symptoms, see a vet immediately, and be sure to tell her exactly when the tick bit your Poodle. This info will help the vet determine whether your pet has possibly contracted a tick-borne disease.
Warning!
Never use a cigarette, or anything else that will burn, to remove a tick. No doubt holding a lit cigarette to a tick will get the tick’s attention, but you might also burn your dog.
If you can’t remove a tick yourself, or you’re afraid to try, get your dog to your veterinarian. Never leave ticks on your dog.

Limping


Limping can be caused by something serious or by something as simple as slipping while chasing a squirrel. If you know what caused the problem — you watch your dog fall or see another dog bump him during play — then wait a day or two and see if it resolves itself. A baby aspirin or two can help ease the soreness.
Tip
If your dog is limping and you don’t know why, check his paws. He may have cut a pad or picked up a burr or a thorn. If it’s winter, ice balls may be between the pads. If everything looks fine, but he’s still limping, call your vet. Some large dogs experience lameness because of rapid growth, but you won’t know without an exam.

Surveying Other Common Poodle Health Issues


Hopefully your Poodle will never show signs of any of the serious problems I present in this section, but I discuss them here because these health issues do affect Poodles. If you notice any of the symptoms I mention (or if your dog is just not acting right), don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian with your concerns right away.

Bloat


Bloat, or Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), is more common in larger dogs, but any dog can have the condition. This means your Standard Poodle is more apt to have the problem than a Toy or a Miniature. If a dog has bloat, his stomach fills with gas and bloats, or stretches, which causes abdominal pain. After some time, the stomach flips over, which cuts off any chance for the gas to escape. The flipping also cuts off the blood supply, and the dog will die unless a vet performs surgery as soon as possible. The dog shows signs of discomfort, and the abdomen may be distended. The dog may pace and cry or try to vomit but won’t be able to because the stomach is closed off.
Tip
You can help prevent bloat in a few different ways:
- By feeding your Poodle two or more smaller meals a day rather than one large meal once a day
- By waiting at least an hour after meals to exercise your Poodle
- By waiting an hour after strenuous exercise before feeding your Poodle
See Chapter Making a Match with a Poodle for general info on properly feeding your Poodle.

Epilepsy


Epilepsy can occur in all three Poodle varieties (see Chapter Socializing Your Poodle for more on variety distinctions). Idiopathic epilepsy is an inherited condition that can cause mild or severe seizures, which is the only recognizable sign. We have no cure for it, but certain medicines can help stop or lessen the seizures. Other factors can cause seizures, too, so you need to see your veterinarian if your Poodle has a seizure so you can determine the cause.

Current research indicates that it is best to put a dog that has a seizure on medication to prevent seizures right away, in order to prevent the development of a seizure pattern in the brain. A number of effective medications are available.
Warning!
Some dogs may bite during seizures. Don’t try to handle or restrain your Poodle during a seizure.

Hormonal problems


Sometimes, the hormones in your Poodle can become unbalanced. Your Poodle may have an autoimmune reaction that upsets the normal production of a hormone. When that happens, the health problems in the following sections can occur.

Addison’s disease


Addison’s disease, or hypoadrenocorticism, is a lack of sufficient adrenal hormones produced by the adrenal glands. Cortin is a complex of hormones that help regulate weight, mineral balance, the structure of connective tissue, some white-blood-cell production, and skin health. Addison’s may be caused by an immune problem, or it may be triggered by a condition like pituitary cancer, which interrupts the production of hormones that trigger the adrenal glands. You also may trigger Addison’s when you suddenly stop giving your Poodle a cortisone drug that he’s been taking regularly.

Symptoms of Addison’s, although they can be vague and similar to renal failure, include vomiting, lethargy, and poor appetite. If a dog has high stress levels, and his potassium levels rise, his heart may be involved and he could die.

The only way to diagnose Addison’s is with an ACTH response test. ACTH is adrenocorticotropic hormone from the pituitary gland. The test should stimulate the production of cortin. If it doesn’t, the dog has Addison’s. Your vet may give fludrocortisone acetate, suggest salting your Poodle’s food, or prescribe corticosteroids like prednisone.

Cushings


Cushings, or hyperadrenocorticism, is the opposite of Addison’s. With Cushings, the adrenal glands produce too much cortin. A tumor on the adrenal glands or on the pituitary gland can cause Cushings. A dog with Cushings may have the following symptoms:
- Increased appetite
- The need to drink and urinate more
- High blood pressure
- Hair loss
- Muscle weakness
- Bulging, sagging abdomens
A vet diagnoses Cushings with a blood test. You can treat cases caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland with drugs, but you can’t cure them. The drugs can ease the symptoms and improve the quality of life for your Poodle. If the cause of Cushings is a tumor of the adrenal glands, it may be possible to remove the tumor.

Hypothyroidism


Hypothyroidism is the inadequate production of thyroid hormone. The production of thyroid may be affected by an autoimmune problem, which causes the condition. If you notice the following symptoms, your Poodle may have a thyroid problem:
- Skin problems
- Persistent hunger
- A coarse coat
- Inability to stay warm
- Weight gain
- Lethargy
A blood test can tell your veterinarian if the problem lies in your Poodle’s thyroid. If your Poodle gets a hypothyroidism diagnosis, your vet will prescribe daily medication to correct the problem.

Orthopedic issues


Poodles, like people, can deal with the aches and pains of orthopedic issues. Here I describe three common orthopedic issues that can appear in Poodles, including hip dysplasia, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, and patellar luxation.

Hip dysplasia


Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint. The socket of the joint wears on the head of the femur, which doesn’t fit properly into the joint. Sometimes, the femur comes out of the joint altogether, causing pain and damage to surrounding ligaments. A dog also may develop arthritis in the joint.

Larger dogs, like Standard Poodles, are more prone to hip dysplasia, although any size dog can have it. Larger dogs also are more apt to show signs of a problem than smaller dogs. If your dog is limping or shows a reluctance to sit, it may be a sign of hip dysplasia.

You can treat mild cases of hip dysplasia with proper exercise and diet. Severe cases require corrective surgery. Consult your vet for a proper diagnosis.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes


In a Poodle with Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease (LCPD), the head of the femur bone dies and then reforms, causing an irregular fit in the hip socket. The condition causes stiffness and pain, similar to hip dysplasia (see the previous section). The disease appears to be genetic, but no precise cause is known.

If you notice that your dog is limping, have the vet check him out. X-rays will determine if the problem is Legg-Calvé-Perthes. The disease is common in small dogs, and Toy Poodles come from a breed with a high incidence rate.

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals offers a database for LCPD similar to its database for hip dysplasia evaluations.

Patellar luxation


Patellar luxation is the dislocation of the patella, or kneecap. The condition is common in Miniature and Toy Poodles. : Like hip dysplasia, patella luxation is a polygenetic hereditary trait. Toy and miniature Poodles used for breeding should be certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals as being clear of this disorder.

Your Poodle may have patellar luxation if he
- Has trouble straightening his stifle
- Is limping
- Has a hock that points outward while his toes point inward
Each case of patellar luxation has a different grade of severity, and the problem can progress from not-too-bad to very serious, so you should treat it early. Surgery can correct the problem.

Vision conditions


If your Poodle shows signs of limited vision, or appears to be blind, the cause could be one of the three conditions listed in this section.

Optic nerve hypoplasia


In optic nerve hypoplasia, the optic nerve fails to develop normally, causing a dog to have visual impairment from birth. The condition eventually causes total blindness.

One or both eyes may be affected by the condition, and no cure
exists. The disease is hereditary in Miniature Poodles and is also seen in Toy Poodles. Breeding stock should be tested for this problem, and affected dogs shouldn’t be bred.

Progressive retinal atrophy


Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an inherited disease that affects the retina and eventually leads to blindness. The condition is seen in many breeds, including Toy and Miniature Poodles.

In Toys and Minis, progressive rod-cone degeneration (prcd) is the PRA form you see most often. The rod cells in the retina lose function, and then the cone cells follow. Initially, a Poodle exhibits diminished vision; finally, he’ll succumb to total blindness. There is no known cure for PRA.

According to the Poodle Club of America’s Web site (www.poodleclubofamerica.org), OptiGen (www.optigen.com) offers a genetic test that can identify whether a Toy or Miniature Poodle has, or is a carrier of, prcd-PRA. This test isn’t available for Standards because the prcd form of PRA isn’t common in them.

Breeders should test their breeding stock for PRA. The Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) maintains a registry, similar to the databases of the OFA and PennHip for hip dysplasia (which I cover earlier in this chapter).

Von Willebrand’s Disease


Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) is an inherited bleeding disorder in which a clotting agent, the von Willebrand factor (vWF), is in short supply. After the dog uses up the short supply of clotting ingredient, he bleeds more. This condition can be a big problem during situations like surgery. We have no cure for the condition, but thyroid supplementation may increase the vWF in hypothyroid dogs (see the section “Hormonal problems” for more).

Responsible breeders test for von Willebrand’s Disease and won’t breed affected dogs. A DNA test is now available, and breeding stock should be tested prior to breeding. Be sure not to buy a Poodle from a breeder who doesn’t test her stock.

by Susan M.Ewing

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