Your Toy Poodle
Caring for Your Faithful Companion
Toy Poodles: What a Unique Breed!
Your dog is special! She’s your best friend, companion, and a source of unconditional love. Chances are that you chose her because you like Poodles and you expected her to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle:
- Vigilant watchdog with a ready bark
- Hypoallergenic coat sheds very little
- Easily motivated and trainable
- Highly intelligent, playful, and energetic
- An excellent companion, family, or working dog
- Adaptable to a wide variety of living conditions
However, no dog is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:
- May have a tendency to bark excessively
- Standoffish toward strangers
- Needs to be exercised and groomed regularly
- Needs frequent attention from her family
Is it all worth it? Of course! She’s full of personality, and you love her for it! She is a joyful and clever companion that loves being the center of attention. All she needs is a lap and loving pet parent!
Toy Poodles were bred down in size from Standard Poodles, to be companion dogs. They are commonly used for therapy work, obedience, and agility. They thrive on close human companionship and are considered to rank among the most intelligent canine breeds. Although Poodles need grooming every 6-8 weeks, they tend not to shed making them an excellent choice for people with allergies. Toy Poodles have an average life span of 15-17 years.
Your Toy Poodle’s Health
We know that because you care so much about your dog, you want to take good care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Poodle. By knowing about health concerns specific to Toy Poodles, we can tailor a preventive health plan to watch for and hopefully prevent some predictable risks.
Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. There is a general consensus among canine genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners that the conditions we’ve described herein have a significant rate of incidence and/or impact in this breed.That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that she is more at risk than other dogs. We will describe the most common issues seen inToy Poodlesto give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.
This guide contains general health information important to all canines as well as the most important genetic predispositions for Toy Poodles. This information helps you and us together plan for your pet’s unique medical needs. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Poodle looking and feeling her best. You will know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your pal.
General Health Information for your Toy Poodle
Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your Toy Poodle is more likely than other dogs to have problems with her teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If we don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose her teeth and be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your Poodles’s life span may be cut short by one to three years! We’ll clean your dog’s teeth regularly and let you know what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites clean.
Toy Poodles are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections—the same ones that all dogs can get—such as parvo, rabies, and distemper. Many of these infections are preventable through vaccination, which we will recommend based on the diseases we see in our area, herage, and other factors.
Obesity can be a significant health problem in Toy Poodles. It is a serious disease that may causeor worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your pal food when shelooks at you with those soulful eyes, you can “love herto death” with leftover people food and doggie treats. Instead, give her a hug, brush her fur or teeth, play a game with her, or perhaps take her for a walk. She’ll feel better, and so will you!
All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Poodle’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest herskin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into hersystem in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep herhealthy.
Spay or Neuter
One of the best things you can do for your Poodle is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this means we surgically remove the ovariesand usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. This is convenient for you and easy for your friend. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss the specific problems we will be looking for when the time arrives.
Genetic Predispositions for Toy Poodles
Heart failure is a leading cause of death among Toy Poodles in their golden years. Most heart disease in dogs is caused by weakening of a valve. A heart valve slowly becomes deformed so that it no longer closes tightly. Blood then leaks back around this valve and strains the heart. Pets with heart valve disease (sometimes called mitral valve disease) have a heart murmur. If your dog has a heart murmur or outward signs suggesting heart problems, we’ll perform testing to determine the severity of the disease. The same tests will need to be repeated at least every year to monitor the condition. If heart valve disease is diagnosed early, we may be able to prescribe medications that could prolong his life for many years. Veterinary dental care and fatty acid supplementation can help prevent heart disease and weight control can help diminish symptoms.
Poodles are susceptible to a condition called Patent Ductus Arteriosis, in which a small vessel that carries blood between two parts of the heart does not close shortly after birth as it should. This results in too much blood being carried to the lungs, fluid build-up, and strain on the heart. Outward signs may be mild or you may see coughing, fatigue during exercise, weight loss, shortness of breath, or weakness in the hind limbs. We listen for a specific type of heart murmur to diagnose this problem during his examinations. If your pal has this condition, we may recommend surgery to close the problematic vessel.
Toy Poodles are especially prone to a life-threatening heart condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, in which the heart becomes so large, thin, and weak that it can no longer effectively pump blood to the body. As this problem advances, he may act weak or tired, faint or collapse, breathe in a labored way, or cough. We’ll conduct a yearly electrical heart screening(ECG) and/or an echocardiogram starting at age one to look for abnormal heart rhythms early. If found, we’ll treat this condition with medication and may also recommend dietary supplementation.
Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s )
Cushing’s Disease is a malfunction of the adrenal glands causing them to produce too much steroid hormone. This is a common problem in dogs, and your Poodle is more likely than other dogs to be affected. The condition usually develops slowly, and the early signs are easily missed. Symptoms include drinking and urinating more than normal, increased appetite and reduced activity level. Later, a potbelly, thin skin, and hair loss are characteristic. Treatment usually includes oral medications, and requires close coordination with us to ensure correct dosing.
Diabetes mellitus is a fairly common disease in dogs. Any breed can be affected, but Poodles have an above average incidence. Dogs with diabetes are unable to regulate the metabolism of sugars and require daily insulin injections. It is a serious condition and one that is important to diagnose and treat as early as possible. Symptoms include increased eating, drinking, and urination, along with weight loss. If he shows signs, we will conduct lab tests to determine if he has this condition and discuss treatment options with you. Treatment requires a serious commitment of time and resources. Well regulated diabetic dogs today have the same life expectancy as other canines.
Bone and Joint Problems
A number of different musculoskeletal problems have been reported in Toy Poodles. While it may seem overwhelming, each condition can be diagnosed and treated to prevent undue pain and suffering. With diligent observation at home and knowledge about the diseases that may affect your friend’s bones, joints, or muscles you will be able to take great care of him throughout his life.
Both hips and elbows are at risk for dysplasia, an inherited disease that causes the joints to develop improperly and results in arthritis. Stiffness in your Poodle’s elbows or hips may become a problem for him, especially as he matures. You may notice that he begins to show lameness in his legs or has difficulty getting up from lying down. We can treat the arthritis—the sooner the better—to minimize discomfort and pain. We’ll take X-rays of your dog’s bones to identify issues as early as possible. Surgery is sometimes a good option in severe and life-limiting cases. Keep in mind that overweight dogs may develop arthritis years earlier than those of normal weight, causing undue pain and suffering!
Sometimes your Poodle’s kneecap (patella ) may slip out of place (called patellar luxation). You might notice that he runs along and suddenly picks up a back leg and skips or hops for a few strides. Then he kicks his leg out sideways to pop the kneecap back in place, and he’s fine again. If the problem is mild and involves only one leg, your friend may not require much treatment beyond arthritis medication. When symptoms are severe, surgery may be needed to realign the kneecap to keep it from popping out of place.
Young Toy Poodles may be prone to a painful degenerative hip condition called Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease. The exact cause of this condition is still not completely understood, but it is thought to be a problem with blood supply to the hip, which causes the femoral head (the top of the thigh bone) to become brittle and easily fracture. Ouch! Usually occurring between six and nine months of age, it causes pain and lameness in one or both rear legs, and often requires surgery.
Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD ) is a common condition in Poodles. The disease is caused when the jelly-like cushion between one or more vertebrae slips or ruptures, causing the disc to press on the spinal cord. If your dog is suddenly unable or unwilling to jump up, go up stairs, is reluctant to move around, has a hunched back, cries out, or refuses to eat or go potty, he is likely in severe pain. He may even drag his back feet or be suddenly paralyzed and unable to get up or use his back legs. If you see symptoms, don’t wait. Call us or an emergency clinic immediately! For less severe cases, rest and medication may resolve the problem. In many cases involving paralysis, we’ll recommend surgical removal of the ruptured discs (within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms to get the best results). As with so many other diseases, weight control helps to prevent this problem. You should also use ramps or steps from puppyhood on so that your dog doesn’t spend a lifetime stressing his back by jumping on and off of the furniture.
There are several types of inherited bleeding disorders which occur in dogs. They range in severity from very mild to very severe. Many times a pet seems normal until a serious injury occurs or surgery is performed, and then severe bleeding can result. Toy Poodles are particularly prone to some relatively rare diseases of the blood.
Hemolytic Anemia and Thrombocytopenia occurs when the immune system goes haywire and starts attacking the pet’s own red blood cells or platelets. If the immune system destroys red blood cells, your dog quickly becomes anemic, weak, and lethargic. His gums will look whitish or yellow instead of the normal bright pink color. If the immune system destroys platelets, his blood won’t clot properly and he’ll have bruises or abnormal bleeding. We’ll perform diagnostic testing for blood clotting to check for these problems before we perform any surgeries. To slow or stop the immune system’s destruction of cells, we’ll prescribe steroids and other immune-suppressive drugs. Sometimes an emergency transfusion of red blood cells or platelets is needed.
Von Willebrand’s disease is a blood clotting disorder frequently found in Toy Poodles. We’ll conduct diagnostic testing for blood clotting time or a specific DNA blood test for Von Willebrand’s disease or other similar disorders to check for this problem before we perform surgery.
There are three types of seizures in dogs: reactive, secondary, and primary. Reactive seizures are caused by the brain’s reaction to a metabolic problem like low blood sugar, organ failure, or a toxin. Secondary seizures are the result of a brain tumor, stroke, or trauma. If no other cause can be found, the disease is called primary, or idiopathic epilepsy. This problem is often an inherited condition, with Toy Poodles commonly afflicted. If your friend is prone to seizures, they will usually begin between six months and three years of age. An initial diagnostic workup may help find the cause. Lifelong medication is usually necessary to help keep seizures under control, with periodic blood testing required to monitor side effects and effectiveness. If your dog has a seizure: Carefully prevent him from injuring himself, but don’t try to control his mouth or tongue. It won’t help him, and he may bite you accidentally! Note the length of the seizure, and call us or an emergency hospital.
Not many things have as dramatic an impact on your dog’s quality of life as the proper functioning of his eyes. Unfortunately, Toy Poodles can inherit or develop a number of different eye conditions, some of which may cause blindness if not treated right away, and most of which can be extremely painful! We will evaluate his eyes at every examination to look for any signs of concern.
Glaucoma, an eye condition that affects Toy Poodles and people too, is an extremely painful disease that rapidly leads to blindness if left untreated. Symptoms include squinting, watery eyes, bluing of the cornea (the clear front part of the eye), and redness in the whites of the eyes. Pain is rarely noticed by pet owners though it is frequently there and can be severe. People who have certain types of glaucoma often report it feels like being stabbed in the eye with an ice pick! Yikes! In advanced cases, the eye may look enlarged or swollen like it’s bulging. We’ll perform his annual glaucoma screening to diagnose and start treatment as early as possible. Glaucoma is a medical emergency. If you see symptoms, don’t wait to call us, go to an emergency clinic!
Cataracts are a common cause of blindness in older Poodles. We’ll watch for the lenses of his eyes to become more opaque—meaning they look cloudy instead of clear—when we examine him. Many dogs adjust well to losing their vision and get along just fine. Surgery to remove cataracts and restore sight may also be an option.
Distichiasis is a condition caused by extra hairs that grow inside of the eyelid and rub on the surface of the eye. This is one of the most commonly inherited diseases in dogs, and your Poodle is more likely than other dogs to develop this painful condition. If untreated, these abnormal hairs can cause corneal ulcers and chronic eye pain. Several treatment options are available, and the prognosis is good once the hairs have been permanently removed.
Fanconi syndrome is a disorder of the kidneys that allows vital blood nutrients to escape into the urine. Because these nutrients are so important, affected Poodles can experience excessive urination and thirst, weight loss and weakness from abnormal electrolyte levels. Symptoms usually appear between two and six years of age. The severity and course of the disease varies from dog to dog, with some remaining stable for years and others falling into fatal kidney failure. Routine urine screening can help to diagnose Fanconi syndrome in its early stages; prompt treatment can greatly extend both your pet’s lifespan and his quality of life.
Poodles are prone to a variety of skin problems, including one called sebaceous adenitis. You may notice that your dog has dry, scaly skin with patches of hair loss along the top of his head, back of the neck, and back (typically you’ll first notice it when your dog is between one and five years of age). Treatment is generally long term, and we’ll likely try a combination of approaches to determine what is most effective with your dog. The response to treatment is highly variable, but you’ll almost always need to give fatty acid supplements and use special shampoos to remove dead skin and hair. The earlier the skin is checked out, the better his results.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is a common form of skin cancer that in some Poodles tends to occur in the toenail bed, the base of the nail where the toenail itself forms and grows. If a toe or nail starts to look lumpy or swollen, or if the nail keeps breaking off, leaving a pink lump protruding from the broken end, call right away. If we determine cancer is the cause, amputation of his toe is needed to prevent the cancer from spreading.
Taking Care of Your Toy Poodle at Home
Much of what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual (see “What to Watch For” below). Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for her. This is when we’ll give her the necessary “check-ups” and test for diseases and conditions that are common in Poodles. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures she will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.
Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise
Build her routine care into your schedule to help your Poodle live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.
- Supervise your pet as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep her out of trouble and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
- Daily brushing and regular grooming is needed every 6-8 weeks to keep her coat beautiful.
- Toy Poodles often have serious problems with their teeth, so you’ll need to brush them at least three times a week!
- Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
- She is well suited to apartment life as long as she is given daily walks and short play sessions.
- She is highly intelligent and can be taught to perform a variety of tricks to keep her mentally stimulated.
- Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
- Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for her age.
- Exercise your dog regularly, but don’t overdo it at first.
What to Watch For
Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease, or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently. Many diseases cause dogs to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your Toy Poodle needs help.
Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of signs:
- Change in appetite or water consumption
- Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
- Itchy skin (scratching, chewing, or licking), hair loss
- Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
- Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes
Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these types of signs:
- Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
- Inability or straining to urinate; discolored urine
- Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
- Coughing, especially at night or upon rising after sleeping, rapid breathing at rest
- Drinks and urinates more, eats more, potbelly, poor haircoat
- Increased hunger and thirst, weight loss
- Gums that are a color other than bright pink
- Any abnormal shaking, trembling, or excessive involuntary tremors
- Leg stiffness, reluctance to rise, sit, use stairs, run, jump, or “bunny hopping”
Partners in Health Care
DNA testing is a rapidly advancing field with new tests constantly emerging to help in the diagnosis of inherited diseases before they can become a problem for your friend. For the most up-to-date information on DNA and other screening tests available for your pal, visit www.Genesis4Pets.com.
Your Poodle counts on you to take good care of her, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that she lives a long and healthy life. Our goal is to provide the best health care possible: health care that’s based on herbreed, lifestyle, and age. Please contact us when you have questions or concerns.
- Ackerman L. The Genetic Connection: A Guide to Health Problems in Purebred Dogs. Second edition. AAHA Press; 2011.
- Bell JS, Cavanagh KE, Tilley LP, Smith FW. Veterinary medical guide to dog and cat breeds. Jackson, Wyoming. Teton New Media; 2012.
- Gough A, Thomas A. Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats. 2nd Edition. Wiley-Blackwell; 2010.
- Crook A, Dawson S, Cote E, MacDonald S, Berry J. Canine Inherited Disorders Database [Internet]. University of Prince Edward Island. 2011. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http://ic.upei.ca/cidd/breed/poodle-toy
- Breed Specific Health Concerns [Internet]. American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, Inc. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/breed-specific-concerns/?breed=poodle
Candidate for most intelligent breed of dog.
Extremely willing to please.
Happy, lively, and playful.
Friendly and outgoing.
Poodles love everybody.
An excellent family dog for those who are prepared to maintain the coat.
The Poodle originated in Germany as a water retriever (Pudel means water in German). Today there are three sizes: toy, miniature, and standard. They are all judged by the same standard of perfection and are identical in every respect except height. The toy, which is the smallest of the three varieties, is a miniaturized version of the Standard. This diminutive Poodle was never used for sporting purposes. It was, instead, the pampered darling of the French nobility.
A squarely-built, active dog that carries itself with dignity.
Hanging ears are not altered.
Upright tail is carried at an angle to the body. It is docked.
The long coat of the poodle is double. The outercoat is wiry curls. The undercoat is thick and woolly.
If unhindered, the outercoat forms thin cylindrical mats known as cords. Corded Poodles are rarely seen in the United States because they are difficult to keep clean.
Any solid color is permitted. Common ones are black, white, apricot, brown, blue, or silver.
The skin color of Poodles varies. Skin may be pink, blue, silver, or cream.
Requires professional grooming every five or six weeks.
Two clips are allowed in the United States show ring: the Continental and the English Saddle. Puppies are exempted from this and can be shown in a puppy clip (their hair isn’t long enough to accommodate the adult clips) until they are one-year old.
The face, feet, and base of tail are shaved in all the clips.
A full coat may take two years to develop.
Health and Wellness
The immense popularity of this breed has resulted in many genetic defects.
Autoimmune thyroid disease.
Patent ductus arteriosis.
Tetralogy of Fallot.
Von Willebrand’s disease.
Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA).
Immune mediated thrombocytopenia (IMT).
Urolithiasis (oxalate and struvite).
Cushing’s syndrome (PDH and AT).
Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD).
What You Should Know
In spite of the name, the French Poodle is not Gallic. It is a breed made in Germany.
The pompoms and topknots of the Poodle had a utilitarian origin. As water retrievers, Poodles needed the chest and head hair to protect vital organs from the cold. The pompoms are placed on the joints to protect them from becoming arthritic.
Victorian merchants often had advertisements cut into the coats of Poodles, and hired someone to walk the dog around. A sort of living billboard.
Grooming contests attract international teams, clipping Poodles into artistic creations. Prizes are in the thousands of dollars.
The smaller varieties of Poodle are used as truffle sniffers.
Poodles are beautiful and they know it. You might even describe them as vain.
Love to be pampered, and it is easy to spoil these adorable clowns.