Taking Basic Care of Your Poodle’s Health

In This Chapter
  • Selecting and visiting a vet
  • Organizing a regular checkup schedule
  • Opting for alternative medicine
  • Getting the facts on vaccinations
  • Considering spaying or neutering your Poodle puppy
  • Taking care of your Poodle’s health at home
You’ve been a busy Poodle owner lately! You’ve found your perfect companion and readied your home for her arrival; you may have even drawn up a training schedule that you can’t wait to start. However, one of the most important aspects of animal ownership awaits you: Securing medical care for your Poodle. You can start your Poodle on the path to a long and healthy life by finding a reputable veterinarian in your area and starting her a vaccination schedule.

In this chapter, I discuss options for selecting a good vet and making sound vaccine choices. I also cover alternative health options, spaying and neutering, and watching out for your Poodle’s health at home.

Choosing the Right Veterinarian and Setting a Schedule


You can just go to the Yellow Pages and find a veterinarian, and this may work well for you, but you’ll have better luck finding the best vet for your dog (and you) if take time to think about what you want in a veterinarian.

In the following sections, I let you know what to look for in a vet so you can make the right choice; I give you questions to ask a potential vet; and I explain the importance of scheduling regular checkups
with your vet.

Knowing what to look for in a vet


You can find a veterinarian before you get your Poodle, or you can wait until a Poodle has joined your family; either way, you should find a veterinarian before you need one. You don’t want to waste time frantically flipping through the Yellow Pages when your Poodle is seriously ill or injured and needs immediate attention.

Getting a veterinarian before you get your Poodle means you can set up that important first visit right away. Most breeders give buyers a window of time for a medical exam. If a veterinarian finds a problem, the breeder will take the puppy back and refund the purchase price. When that window closes, most breeders will not refund money, although they may agree to replace the puppy with another.
Remember
Asking friends who have dogs for vet recommendations is a good place to start. Your breeder or rescue group may also be able to give you some tips. Keep the following points in mind as you go over your choices:
- How far is the vet’s office from your home? You may have heard great things about a particular vet, but if his office is 20 miles away, he may not be the best choice for you. However, you shouldn’t automatically use the vet next door. Distance should be a factor in choosing your vet, but it shouldn’t be the only factor.
- Do you prefer a hospital with more than one vet, or do you want the personal touch of a one-doctor practice? At a small practice, the vet gets to know your Poodle personally and will have an understanding of her entire health history, but in an emergency, if you need to go to a different practice, your dog’s records won’t be on file. At a large practice, you may see a different doctor for each visit, but no matter who sees your dog, he has access to all her health records.
- How does the vet handle emergency and off-hours visits? At a large practice, the vets probably rotate being “on call,” so a doctor is always available for an emergency. At a single-vet practice, you need to find out how it handles emergencies? Do you have an emergency veterinary clinic in your area? Does another practice cover for your vet during off-hours? Can you page the vet if you have an emergency?
Tip
In most larger cities, you can find at least one emergency veterinary clinic that handles after-hours cases. Ask your vet if he has a preferred ER clinic and where it is located and its hours of operation. If you have to use an emergency clinic, drive to it at least once, so you will know the way and not lose time finding it in an emergency.
- Do you want a traditional veterinarian, a holistic vet, or a vet who combines the traditional Western approach with acupuncture and herbal treatments (which I cover later in this chapter)? Don’t expect your vet to change his ways to meet your needs. Find out what a practice offers before you make your choice.
- Are the staff members at the vet’s office helpful, courteous, and nice to the animals? To get a good feel for the staff, you need to find an office before you’re desperate for one. You can build a rapport with the staff if you check the office out before you get your Poodle. With one visit, you can get a general feel for whether the staff is friendly or all business.
- Is the vet’s office (and other work areas) clean? The waiting room, as well as the individual examining rooms, should be clean.
- Do you like the vet? No matter how highly recommended a vet may be, if you don’t get a good vibe from him and you aren’t comfortable in his presence, you should find another vet. You and your vet are partners when it comes to your Poodle’s health, so open communication is very important.

Asking a potential vet important questions

Remember
Sometimes, you just can’t tell whether a potential vet is right for you and your Poodle without actually making an appointment and talking with him. A vet’s office can be clean and close, and his staff can be friendly, but you need to get to know his views and principals to be comfortable with him as your vet. Be sure to cover the following topics during your interview — the answers should help you make your choice:
- Vaccinations: Which vaccinations does he routinely give? How often does he vaccinate? Some vets view certain vaccines as requirements, and others think they’re optional. Many doctors no longer give boosters every year. In addition, does the vet consider titer testing, which evaluates an animal’s level of immunity to a disease, instead of routinely revaccinating? (For more on vaccinations, see the later section “Taking a Shot at Good Health with Vaccinations”.)
- Second opinions and specialists: Most vets don’t hesitate to refer you to a specialist if you have questions and concerns about a diagnosis. If your area doesn’t have a specific specialist, you can ask for a referral to a veterinarian college. Ask whether he has a problem with you seeking a second opinion or wanting a specialist to look at your dog. Ask whether he routinely consults with any specialists in the area.
- Alternative healthcare: You may be interested in combining traditional medicine with alternative forms of healthcare. Some vets combine traditional Western medicine with other treatments, such as acupuncture, herbal treatments, and chiropractic techniques. Other vets recommend that you see a specialist for these treatments if they don’t offer the service themselves. Ask the vet which, if any, alternative forms of healthcare he practices. Ask whether he can refer you to practitioners. You may discover that a particular veterinarian won’t treat your dog if you use alternative forms of medicine. You have to make the final decision on the type of care you want, because you won’t change your vet’s mind. (I cover alternative forms of healthcare later in this chapter.)
- Experience with the health needs of Poodles: Ask the vet about his familiarity with medical conditions that occur in Poodles, such as hip dysplasia in a Standard Poodle or patella luxation in Toys or Miniatures. A complete list is available at www.poodleclubofamerica.org.
Choosing a veterinarian is a personal choice. You need to weigh the pros and cons and decide what’s important to you and your Poodle. Along with the vet’s responses to the preceding topics, don’t forget to take into consideration the office’s distance from your home and whether single or multiple doctors are in the practice.

Setting up regular checkups

Remember
Along with the vaccination schedule you and your vet decide on (find out more about vaccinations later in this chapter), you need to book an annual exam schedule. Regular checkups give your vet a chance to check your Poodle’s vital signs, ears, teeth, eyes, and weight. Your vet also may take blood tests to make sure nothing serious is going on. A regular checkup also gives you a good chance to ask your vet any questions you may have about your Poodle’s health.
Typically, your veterinarian should see your Poodle at least once a year, and the recommendation now is twice a year. These wellness checks can help your veterinarian catch anything out of the ordinary before it develops into something harder to treat. No one time of year is better than any other.

Surveying Alternative Healthcare Choices


Veterinary medicine has come a long way since the “horse doctor” days, where a vet gave annual shots and smiled on your way out. Today, amazing medical advances have helped extend the quality and length of dogs’ lives. Doctors and dog owners also are discovering that other treatments are available outside the realm of traditional veterinary medicine.

Holistic veterinary medicine, for example, deals with the whole animal — not just individual parts. Traditional medicine may treat varying symptoms, but holistic practitioners study everything in an animal’s physical and social environment. Holistic treatment may include combinations of methods, including acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, massaging, herbal treatment, and Bach flowers. I cover these methods in the following sections so you can make informed decisions about your Poodle’s health.

On pins and needles: Acupuncture


Acupuncturists have been treating humans for over 4,500 years and animals for about 2,000 years. These alternative medicine professionals use hair-fine needles to stimulate acupoints on the body. Acupoints are areas of skin that contain concentrated levels of nerve endings and blood vessels. Acupoints usually reside in small depressions on the body, detectable by trained acupuncturists.

Studies show that acupuncture has the following benefits for humans and animals:
- Increases blood flow, which speeds heeling
- Lowers heart rate
- Improve the function of the immune system
- Reduces the need for large amounts of pain medicine
- Encourages the release of neurotransmitters, such as endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers) and cortisol (an antiinflammatory steroid).
Specifically, veterinarians can use acupuncture to treat chronic conditions, such as arthritis, allergies, and skin conditions, along with the normal function of relieving pain. Acupuncture also may help with epilepsy and the side effects of cancer (for more information on addressing serious medical issues your Poodle may have, see Chapter Staying Prepared with First-Aid Basics).
Technical Stuff
Reiki, which is a Japanese technique, produces results similar to acupuncture but without the needles. It eases stress and promotes relaxation and healing by helping to increase and direct a person or animal’s life force.
Many veterinarians use acupuncture as a complement to Western medicine. They make diagnoses based on traditional medicine and then use acupuncture to help ease pain and hasten healing. You can help your Poodle between acupuncture treatments by manipulating certain acupressure points. Ask a vet trained in acupuncture to show you how.

Another facet of acupuncture deals with alarm points on the dog’s body. When stimulated, certain points on your Poodle’s body may give an indication of when something is wrong. When a vet stimulates an alarm point, your Poodle may have no reaction at all, but if a problem exists with a specific organ in your Poodle’s body, stimulating a certain alarm point may cause a reaction, at which point the vet can investigate.
Warning!
A dog’s reaction may be to bite when certain points are stimulated, so if you decide to stimulate alarm points in between vet visits to make sure all is good with your Poodle, use caution.
The frequency of acupuncture treatments depends on the reason for the treatments. Typically, there will be four to six weeks of one treatment a week, then a treatment every two or three weeks.

For as long as acupuncture has been around, people brought up on traditional Western thought have found it strange. There’s just something about all those needles sticking into your pet. In reality, your Poodle feels no pain at all, and acupuncture can help your dog, especially with pain. Acupuncture does require more visits than if your veterinarian just prescribed some pills, but it has no side effects, as there can be with medicines. If you live in a larger metropolitan area, you’ll have no trouble finding a veterinarian who practices acupuncture, but if you live in a smaller area, you may not be able to find an acupuncturist locally, which can be a downside to this healthcare alternative.
Tip
If your current vet (or a prospective vet) isn’t familiar with acupuncture, ask him if he can refer you to acupuncturists in your area. If that route fails, you can search for veterinary acupuncturists by state at the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society Web site, www.ivas.org.

Back to basics: Chiropractic medicine


Chiropractic adjustments manipulate the spine and the connecting bones. The theory behind the practice is that if the bones around the spine are even slightly out of alignment, the situation irritates the surrounding nerves and causes discomfort. A chiropractor’s job is to gently push the bones back into their correct alignment.

An active Poodle that performs in agility competitions (see Chapter Showing Off and Enjoying Your Poodle’s Talents) may misalign her spine during a jump or trick. The occasional chiropractic adjustment may be just what she needs to stay healthy and in tip-top shape. Even Poodles that exercise only by getting on and off the couch can benefit from chiropractic adjustments. They may land wrong as they jump off! You’ll know that an adjustment may be necessary if your dog is lame or can’t manage stairs easily, or if her back is roached, or hunched, indicating she’s in pain. (However, Poodles as a breed are not known for having back problems.)
Remember
If you suspect that your Poodle is having back issues, have your veterinarian examine your dog first to make sure she has no other causes for the soreness or lameness, such as a tumor. If your vet rules out serious illness, he may refer you to a veterinarian who specializes in chiropractic work. Some people take their dogs to chiropractors for humans if they can’t find chiropractic veterinarians.
Tip
To find out more about chiropractic adjustments for animals, visit the Web site for the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association, at www.animalchiropractic.org.

Doggie day spa: Massage treatment


A massage technically isn’t a medical treatment, the likes of which only a vet can administer, but it can help to relax your Poodle and ease her stress and sore muscles. Symptoms of a problem that could use a massage include muscle soreness, a strained muscle from overactive play, or a wrong landing after a jump.
Remember
Massaging isn’t a substitute for veterinary care. If your Poodle is limping or in pain, you need to make an appointment with your veterinarian. If he gives you the go-ahead to massage along with administering any medications he provides, you’ve done your due diligence.
Linda Tellington-Jones developed what’s possibly the best-known technique for massaging an animal. Her method, called Tellington TTouch, uses repeated massage movements to generate specific brain-wave patterns that help ease anxiety — especially that anxiety that follows injury or surgery. The calming effect helps promote healing. Tellington TTouch is a very specific method of massage. In a highly populated area, you may be able to find Tellington TTouch practitioners. You can also visit the Web site, www.tteam-ttouch.com, for more information on how you can learn to use this method on your Poodle.
Warning!
Much of massaging is just extended stroking, but you need to pay attention to how your Poodle reacts to a massage. If you seem to be hurting or annoying your dog, stop the massage. Not every dog loves every kind of massage, and the point of a massage is to soothe and relax your dog, not annoy her.
Massaging your Poodle also can help to strengthen the bond between the two of you. You can find out more about massaging your Poodle with the help of Dog Massage — a book by Maryjean Ballner (St. Martin’s Griffin).

All-natural: Herbal treatments


In your search for a veterinarian that practices alternative medicine, you may notice the initials TCM attached to some practitioners. TCM stands for Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes not only acupuncture but also herbal treatment. Many herbal compounds, when used correctly, are gentler than synthetic compounds used in traditional veterinary medicine to produce the same results.

Herbs are classified as pungent, sweet, sour, salty, or bitter:
- Pungent herbs help with circulation problems.
- Sweet herbs relieve pain and slow the progression of diseases.
- Sour herbs solidify. If your Poodle has diarrhea, a veterinarian trained in the proper use of herbs would prescribe a sour herb.
- Salty herbs have the opposite effect of sour herbs. Vets use them to relieve constipation and to treat muscle spasms and enlarged lymph glands.
- Bitter herbs treat kidney-related diseases.
Warning!
Just because herbs are “natural” doesn’t mean that you can give them to your Poodle indiscriminately. Don’t be tempted to diagnose a condition and treat it on your own. You can make your dog sicker, or even kill her. Consult with a veterinarian who’s trained in the use of herbs, or get a referral from your veterinarian.
Many people who are concerned about additives, preservatives, and the overuse of chemical for themselves extend this concern to their pets. Herbs may be gentler and have fewer side effects than mass-produced pills. This type of treatment can be more expensive and again, depending on where you live, you may not be able to find someone trained in the use of herbs for dogs.

Buying the (state) farm: Pet insurance for your Poodle


Veterinary costs continue to rise as technology improves and as animal medicine continues to follow human techniques. Dogs can get MRIs, X-rays, and hip replacements. Procedures for dogs that were unheard of ten years ago are now commonplace. Medicine is giving our dogs longer lives and a higher quality of life.

But these benefits come at a cost to your wallet. Your Poodle may never ask for a pair of designer jeans or special jogging shoes, but she may require expensive medical attention in the future. During a time of crisis, you’ll want pet insurance to come to your rescue.

An insurance policy for your Poodle can cost between $10 and $70 a month as of press time, although some companies offer discounts for carrying multiple pets on a policy. Like insurance for humans, pet insurance policies cover different situations. Some policies cover accidents, injuries, and illnesses, but not regular checkups. Other policies cover annual visits but not hereditary diseases or visits to specialists. You may be able to add options to the basic policy you purchase, depending on the type of coverage you want. Generally, you choose your own vet, pay the bill, and then send in your claim for reimbursement.

If you want to pursue alternative therapies for your Poodle’s condition, such as acupuncture, shop around for a policy that covers this type of care. As an alternative, many dog owners open savings accounts for veterinary care. They deposit monthly sums to prepare for situations when their dogs will need something more than a booster shot.

If you register your dog with the American Kennel Club (AKC), you can sign up for the AKC Pet Healthcare Plan. You can also find several insurance companies online:
- www.petcareinsurance.com
- www.petinsurance.com
- www.petshealthplan.com

Before deciding on an insurance policy for your Poodle, request a complete list of what’s covered, especially exclusions of genetic conditions that can occur in Poodles.
Tip
Many holistic vets recommend Rescue Remedy for your dog’s firstaid kit. This mixture contains five of the single Bach essences, named for Edward Bach, an English doctor who studied the healing properties of plants and identified 38 flowers and trees with specific healing powers. You use Rescue Remedy in cases of shock, collapse, or trauma. Many health-food stores carry Rescue Remedy. (See Chapter Staying Prepared with First-Aid Basics for more info on stocking your Poodle’s first-aid kit.)

Homeopathy


Homeopathy is based on the theory that “like heals like.” A substance, frequently a plant, is diluted in stages so that it’s harmless, and free from side effects, but can still heal. Homeopathic remedies come in liquid form, in tablets, in powders, and in ointments.
Tip
The concept may be hard to grasp, but one homeopathic practitioner explained it to me as being similar to a vaccine that is made from a weakened, or killed, virus. These weakened or dead germs, in vaccine form, prevent the disease that they would normally cause, were they at full strength. To discover more about homeopathy as an alternative form of healthcare for your Poodle, check out the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy’s Web site, www.theavh.org.

Taking a Shot at Good Health with Vaccinations


In the following sections, I give you the basics on setting up a vaccination schedule for your Poodle, and I present the types of vaccinations available to Poodles.

Checking out available vaccines


As veterinary medicine continues to advance, along with medical advances in all fields, more and more vaccines are becoming available. The vaccines you choose for your Poodle depend on where you live and may also depend on how much you travel with your dog. The following sections list the vaccination options you’re most likely to encounter. Your veterinarian will help you to decide what your dog will need.
Tip
Your area of the world may have regional diseases, so ask your vet if your Poodle needs any special vaccines, based on where you live.

Core vaccines


Core vaccines are vaccines that a veterinarian will always give a dog. Core vaccines protect against deadly diseases. As recently as five years ago, there were more core vaccines than there are today. In fact, it was common to give every vaccine available. Today, veterinarians realize that this isn’t always a good idea. Dogs can have severe reactions to too many vaccines. Today, the core vaccines are rabies, distemper, and parvovirus:
- Rabies: A rabies shot is the one vaccine your Poodle absolutely must have, according to state law. The shot is the only protection your Poodle has against rabies. Currently, no cure exists for rabies, which attacks a dog’s central nervous system. The animal either becomes paralyzed or enraged — the “mad dog” response with snapping, snarling, and biting randomly. The disease spreads through the saliva of bats, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. The disease is fatal after the symptoms appear.
- Distemper: Distemper is a highly contagious, deadly virus with a very low recovery rate. The virus is spread by airborne and droplets from the respiratory system of infected dogs. The threat of distemper is greatest for dogs under 6 months and over 6 years of age. The symptoms include coughing, vomiting, and fever. Add a distemper shot to your list of “must haves.”
- Parvovirus: This virus is potentially fatal, and puppies are highly susceptible to it. An adult Poodle with a mild case may recover, but puppies generally die. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, and depression. If your Poodle also starts vomiting and having bloody diarrhea along with the other symptoms, she may die no matter her age. Parvovirus is spread through the feces of infected animals. If your dog sniffs, tastes, or eats contaminated feces, she may contract parvovirus.

Noncore vaccines


Noncore vaccines protect against many diseases, but your Poodle may not need all available vaccines. It can depend on where you live and what diseases are likely to threaten your dog. Talk to your vet about what vaccines may be necessary where you live. Here’s a sampling of some available noncore vaccines:
- Bordetella: This highly contagious airborne disease, known as kennel cough, is caused by a virus. Its symptoms include a dry, hacking cough. In severe cases, the dog may have a persistent, low-grade fever. If your Poodle has been around other dogs and exhibits the symptoms, she may have bordetella. Check with your veterinarian.
Most boarding kennels require that dogs have a bordetella vaccination before they can gain acceptance. Although you shouldn’t take any disease lightly, you can treat kennel cough with antibiotics, and it isn’t usually serious. If you’re traveling with your Poodle or showing her (see Chapter Showing Off and Enjoying Your Poodle’s Talents), you may want to vaccinate against bordetella. Remember, though, that over 100 varieties of bordetella exist, and a vaccine only protects your Poodle against a few of them. Your dog may still get kennel cough even if you vaccinate.
- Hepatitis: The hepatitis virus spreads through the feces and urine of dogs. Its symptoms include fever and lethargy. Your Poodle may be reluctant to move. Her abdomen may be tender, and her mucus membranes may be pale. In severe cases, she may begin to vomit, have diarrhea, and cough. A dog usually can recover from a mild to moderate case of hepatitis in about a week; however, in severe cases, a dog can die.
- Leptospirosis: These bacteria are generally transmitted through the urine of rats and mice. This condition can be fatal. Symptoms of leptospirosis include vomiting, fever, and a reluctance to move. Leptospirosis also can cause renal failure. Your Poodle may urinate more frequently as her kidneys begin to work harder and with less efficiently, or she may stop urinating altogether. If you think your Poodle will be exposed to rat and mice urine, you should have her vaccinated against leptospirosis; otherwise, this may be one of the shots you can skip.
Tip
Having a leptospirosis vaccine in a combination shot seems to increase the risk of your Poodle having a reaction to the shot. However, a newer leptospirosis vaccine is hitting the market; it causes less reaction and can be given as a separate shot. Talk to your veterinarian about this option.
- Lyme disease: This disease causes lethargy, lameness, and loss of appetite in dogs. Deer ticks, which are more prevalent in the eastern part of the United States, spread Lyme disease. If you live in this part of the United States or you plan on traveling there, talk to your veterinarian about having your Poodle vaccinated. You need to understand all the benefits and risks of Lyme vaccination. You can also treat the disease with antibiotics or through a topical tick preventative.

Scheduling shots


In the “good old days,” you took your newly acquired puppy to the veterinarian’s office, where the vet gave your dog a vaccine for every condition there was a vaccine for. Generally, a vet gave five or six vaccines in one shot, and he followed that combination shot with a rabies shot, all during the same visit.

Today, vets are moving away from the practice of loading your Poodle with shots in one visit. Instead of giving a shot that includes vaccines for distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus, many vets now vaccinate for distemper and parvovirus during one visit, along with a rabies shot, leaving the other shots for another visit. Some vets even schedule distemper and parvovirus for different visits.

After you get your Poodle puppy and find the right vet for you (see the previous sections in this chapter), you should contact your vet to set up a vaccination schedule. Your Poodle probably came to you with a record of shots that her breeder had already started. Many vets give puppies their first shots at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks, and then annually. (Breeders may let their puppies go anywhere between 8 and 12 weeks, although it could be longer. A breeder will wait as long as necessary to place a puppy in the right home.) Some vets recommend shots at 18 to 20 weeks as well and then annually following that period. Make sure your breeder gives you the shot record for your puppy, and share the record with your vet.

When setting up your schedule, ask your veterinarian about how and when he inoculates. He may recommend yearly vaccinations for young Poodles or Poodles that travel frequently. If you adopt an older, stay-at-home Poodle, your vet may suggest vaccinations every three years.
Remember
The exception is the rabies shot. Every state requires a rabies shot by law. Some states require that dogs have the shot every year, and some extend the period to every three years. Ask your vet about the law in your state.
Warning!
When your Poodle gets her first shots, don’t head for home right away. Hang around the waiting room for a bit to see whether she has a reaction to the shots. A mild reaction may be some swelling at the site of the injections. If the reaction is more serious, your Poodle could itch or have hives, her face could swell, or she may vomit or have diarrhea. If you leave the office and any of these symptoms occur, call your vet immediately.

Nip and Tuck: The Basics of Spaying and Neutering


Neutering and spaying can help keep your dog healthier and will definitely prevent unwanted litters. A neutered male will be less apt to wander, and neutering may eliminate annoying marking. In the following sections, I explain both processes, and I let you know when you should have one of them performed on your Poodle.

What happens during spaying and neutering?


Unless you want to show or breed your Poodle and have an entire litter scurrying through your house, spaying or neutering should be on your Poodle’s upcoming agenda. Spaying is the removal of a female’s reproductive organs. Neutering is the removal of a male’s testicles.
Technical Stuff
Technically, you can apply the term neutering to both males and females. Spaying may be the removal of a female’s reproductive organs, and castrating the removal of a male’s testicles, but common usage refers to castration as neutering, so I do, too.
To neuter your Poodle, the veterinarian makes a cut at the base of his scrotum, removes his testicles, and then stitches up the cut. Frequently, vets use dissolving stitches. If not, your vet will have you and your Poodle return about ten days after the procedure so he can remove the sutures. Usually, dogs go home the same day.
Tip
If you prefer a “natural look” for your male Poodle, ask your vet about a vasectomy or implanting artificial testicles (called neuticles). Both of these alternatives cost more than just plain neutering, however and with a vasectomy, your dog will still produce testosterone and still be able to mate (without reproducing). A vasectomy won’t eliminate or reduce marking or dominance behaviors.
Spaying involves abdominal surgery for a female Poodle. The veterinarian cuts through the abdominal muscles to remove both the ovaries and the uterus and then stitches up the wound. After about ten days, you’ll go back so he can remove the sutures, unless he has used dissolving stitches. If you can see the stitches, they need to come out. If you can’t see them, they will dissolve.

Neutering is the less invasive of the two procedures, and problems are rare (but possible) in a healthy, young Poodle.
Remember
Keep an eye on the surgery site in the days after your Poodle’s procedure — especially with a spay. If the area becomes red or puffy, seems warm to the touch, and/or is oozing puss, go back to your vet’s office, because the site may be infected. To minimize the chance of infection, keep the area clean. This time isn’t good for your Poodle to roll in the dirt.

When should you spay or neuter your Poodle?


Ideally, you should neuter or spay your Poodle before he or she reaches sexual maturity and has the opportunity to meet your neighborhood Barbie or Beefcake. The following sections describe the right times for neutering or spaying males and females.
Tip
I don’t know of any shelter or rescue group that doesn’t spay or neuter an adult dog before sending her or him to a new home. However, if your adult Poodle is the exception to this rule, remember that it’s never too late to spay or neuter.

Males


With male Poodles, sexual maturation usually happens sometime between the ages of 6 to 18 months, so you need to be on the lookout as that time nears. Look for the following signs:
- Your Poodle will start to lift his leg to urinate. He wants to mark his territory to let other males know that the neighborhood is his turf. Your walks, if you let them, will become a series of bush-sniffing and leg-lifting exercises. Your male also may decide to mark his indoor territory, choosing table legs and sofa fronts as his targets.
- Your Poodle may become less tolerant of other males. Generally, Poodles are good-natured with other dogs.
- Your Poodle will definitely take an interest in girl dogs. When a male dog smells a female dog who’s in season (see the following section for the definition of in season), his brain turns to mush. If he gets loose, he’ll follow her seductive scent wherever it leads. Obeying your calls for him to come will be far down on his to-do list.
Neutering before maturation behavior starts prevents it from ever happening. Talk to your veterinarian about neutering at one of your first appointments with your puppy. Neutering also can prevent prostate problems in males, so you’re doing your Poodle’s health a favor.

Females


Females reach sexual maturity sometime between the ages of 6 and 18 months. This period is marked by the female coming in “season” or “heat.” Females come into heat about every six months, and this cycle is marked by a bloody discharge. A heat cycle lasts 21 days, but your dog is only receptive to a male for three to five of those days. If you have both a male and a female, consider boarding the female while she’s in heat. A male in love can be pretty persistent, as well as vocal, and three weeks of whining and crying can be a long time.

Ask your breeder when her females typically come in season for the first time. If you can’t get this information, Toys and Miniatures should be spayed between 6 and 10 months, and Standards between 9 and 14 months. I’d go with the lower age in both cases.
Tip
If you have a fenced-in yard and plan to let your female out unattended, make sure you can’t find any holes or gaps in the fence. The fence also should be high enough to keep out any wandering neighborhood males. When walking your Poodle, keep a firm grip on her lead and keep a sharp lookout for any amorous males.
Remember
Spaying your female Poodle before she comes into season for the first time can help reduce the possibility of her developing mammary tumors. After her third heat cycle, you see no difference in the frequency of tumors. Removing the uterus also eliminates the possibility of your female getting pyometra, which is an infection of the uterus.

Keeping an Eye on Your Poodle’s Health at Home


In the following sections, I explain how to exercise your Poodle, how to check her regularly to make sure she’s in good health, and how to give her necessary medicines.

Exercising your Poodle


I’ve seen a sign in a gift shop that says, “If your dog is fat, you’re not getting enough exercise.” I certainly can’t judge whether you’re getting enough exercise, but I know that if your Poodle is fat, she isn’t. In the following sections, I explain why and how a Poodle should stay fit.

The benefits of exercise

Remember
Extra weight on a dog is as bad as extra weight on a human. Extra weight causes stress on your Poodle’s joints and makes her heart and lungs work harder.
Certain health-related issues, such as thyroid irregularities, can cause your Poodle to gain weight. If you believe your Poodle is overweight by no fault of your own, go see your vet.

Your Poodle doesn’t have to be overweight to benefit from exercise. Along with the health benefits, you get the fatigue benefits. A tired dog is a good dog. If you give your Poodle some exercise before you leave for work, she’ll be more content to snooze away the hours until you return.

Another benefit of exercise is that many physical activities exercise your Poodle’s brain. Involvement in a competitive event requires that your Poodle learn commands and think about what she’s supposed to be doing. Games like hide-and-seek make her use her nose and her brain. Even a walk around the block presents all kinds of sights and scents beyond what your Poodle experiences in your backyard.
Tip
An adult Standard Poodle should weigh between 40 and 55 pounds. A Mini should weigh in the range of 10 to 15 pounds, and a Toy somewhere between 4 to 7 pounds. Besides getting your Poodle weighed, you can run your hands along her sides. If you can’t feel her ribs, she could stand to lose a few pounds! Remember: Males generally weigh more than females.

Effective methods for trimming down


Exercise and fewer treats can make all the difference between an overweight, sluggish dog and a trim, healthy one. Why not try the following options for adding exercise to your Poodle’s day?
- If your daily exercise consists of walking three times around the block, make it four. Add another shorter walk to your regimen. The length of the walk depends on the size of your Poodle and her overall health. Build up gradually. Don’t go from once around the block to a five-mile jog.
- Go out in the yard and play a game of fetch or tag.
- Consider joining an agility class. Even if you don’t have an interest in participating in competitions with your Poodle, an agility class can be good exercise for you both. (See Chapter Showing Off and Enjoying Your Poodle’s Talents for more about agility events.)
Warning!
If your Poodle is extremely overweight due to very little exercise and too much food, start out slow. Begin with brisk walks around the block and work up to the mile jog that you may set as a goal. You don’t want to cause injury by putting too much stress on your Poodle’s body too quickly.
Tip
Cutting back on treats is another way to keep your Poodle fit. Through your training (see Chapter Keeping Your Poodle Clean and Attractive), your Poodle may become used to receiving treats at certain times, but you can make the treats smaller. Break dog biscuits in half, or buy a smaller size. If your veterinarian recommends cutting back on food, add some canned pumpkin or green beans to your dog’s smaller portions to make her feel fuller. (See Chapter Making a Match with a Poodle for more details on feeding your Poodle.)

Checking your Poodle regularly

Remember
One advantage of the need to groom your Poodle frequently (see Chapter Providing Your Poodle with a Nutritious Diet) is that you have your hands on her three or four times a week. You can take advantage of those grooming sessions by keeping an eye on your Poodle’s health. Follow these tips for maximum benefits:
- Run your hands over your Poodle’s body and legs. Feel for any lumps or bumps that you don’t think should be there. Look for cuts and scrapes. As you’re doing this, watch her reaction. Does she flinch as your run your hand over a leg? Does she pull away or snap when you touch a certain spot?
- When you trim your Poodle’s nails, check the pads of her feet and in between her toes for any objects that may have gotten stuck.
- Check inside your Poodle’s ears for any redness, swelling, or discharge.
- Look at your Poodle’s eyes. Are they clear, or are they running?
If you notice any problems during your checks, place a call to your vet. Scanning your Poodle as you groom only takes a minute, and the earlier you find a problem, the easier and faster you can fix it. Check out Chapter Providing Your Poodle with a Nutritious Diet for the full details on grooming.

Giving medications


Trust me, even the healthiest Poodle needs some kind of medicine during the course of her life. And unless Poodles make some amazing evolutionary strides in the near future, you’ll be the one to give your Poodle her meds. In the following sections, I show you how to administer pills, drops, and salve to heal your Poodle’s aches and pains.

Pills


Giving your Poodle pills is a fairly easy task. You can just hide the pill in a tasty treat and let your dog eat away. The tasty treat can be anything that will cling to the pill. Try burying a pill in the following foods:
- In canned food
- In the center of a piece of hot dog
- In a dab of cream cheese or peanut butter
Warning!

If your Poodle has breathing problems, don’t use peanut butter to hide pills. Peanut butter can stick to the inside of her mouth and make breathing even harder for her as she struggles to get the substance off her mouth surfaces.
- In a small spoonful of ice cream
- In some butter
Tip
If the pill you must administer is an antibiotic, put it in a large spoonful of live-culture yogurt. Antibiotics kill all the “bad stuff” that they target, but an antibiotic isn’t selective. It also kills the “good stuff” that your Poodle needs — the organisms that live in your dog’s intestines. The yogurt helps to renew those organisms.
Some Poodles are just too “clever” to eat treats that contain pills. If your Poodle is a pill detective, you may have to give pills the oldfashioned way. Follow these steps:
1. Grasp your Poodle’s upper muzzle from the top.
2. Push in on her upper lips.
3. When she opens her mouth, put the pill as far back on the tongue as possible, close her jaws, and, while holding her muzzle up, stroke her throat until she swallows.
4. Give her a treat for being a good girl!
Tip
Using a soft treat, such as a tiny spoonful of yogurt or vanilla ice cream or a small amount of milk will help soothe her throat and allow the pill to go all the way down the hatch. You also may find that it helps to straddle your Standard Poodle when giving her any kind of medicine so you can keep her in place.

Drops and salve


Someday, your Poodle may need some eye drops, salve (a medical ointment that you can use to treat eye issues), or ear drops to combat certain medical conditions, such as tearing and infection.

Use the following technique for applying eye drops:
1. Straddle your Standard Poodle and turn your feet in, under the dog.
Your legs help hold the dog steady and your feet prevent her from backing out of your leg hold.
Note: For Toy and Miniature Poodles, have the dog sit in front of you, facing to the side. Put the dog on a chair or table, so the dog is closer to eye level and also less able to get away from you. Then, you can go on to complete Step 2 and Step 3.
2. Use one hand to hold your Poodle’s head and open her eye.
3. Squirt the drops into the inner corner of the eye, and then hold the eye shut for a moment to help spread the drops around.
Remember
You use the same technique for applying salve, except that you try to start in the outer corner of the eye. You still hold the eye closed, but in this case you want to melt the salve. However, the inner- and outer-corner advice is the ideal. Sometimes, I consider it a victory to hit the eye at all!
Poodles are susceptible to ear infections. If your poodle does get an ear infection, request that the vet do a culture and sensitivity test to determine the specific causative agent and the antibiotic that will eliminate it. Using the “shotgun” method of prescribing a general antibiotic often results in the dog developing an antibiotic resistant strain of bacteria or fungus in the ears, which can be extremely difficult to treat. Follow the vet’s instructions for this medication exactly and don’t stop until it is entirely used up. After the infection is clear, be sure to use regular hygiene to prevent a recurrence.

Prevention of ear infections is far better than treating them. Ear cleaning should be a part of your Poodle’s regular grooming routine. You should start young, so that your Poodle accepts this necessary hygiene. The following are two schools of thought on this issue:
- Many Poodle breeders use a medicated powder to dry the ear canal, and then remove the hair from the ear canal, using blunt tweezers or an instrument called a hemostat, which can be obtained from your vet or many dog-supply catalogs. This cleaning should be done monthly. If you have your poodle professionally groomed, be sure the groomer does this.
- The other prevention method uses a weekly cleaning with a mixture of half vinegar and half water, or you can use rubbing alcohol to clean and dry the ear, but leaving the hair in place. Pour in the cleaning mixture, rub the ear to distribute it, and then wipe the ear clean with a cotton swab.
by Susan M.Ewing

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