Written by Dr. Marcelle Landestoy, DVM
Poodles are playful and intelligent dogs that are guaranteed to capture your heart.
Being purebreds, they are also prone to a range of health issues.
As a responsible Poodle parent, it’s essential to be knowledgeable about the common health issues that may develop and how to prevent them.
Common Poodle health issues include bloat, Addison’s disease, hip dysplasia, thyroid issues (hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism), progressive retinal atrophy, luxating patella, epilepsy, and hypoglycemia (in puppies).
As a licensed veterinary doctor, I’ll explain how each of these Poodle health issues develops, the symptoms you should look for, and how your vet will likely treat the condition.
Many health issues for Poodles are genetic.
If you’re a Poodle owner or looking to get one, this article will explore some of the more common problems you should know about.
Top Poodle Health Issues
Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus or GDV)
Bloat occurs because gas becomes trapped in a dog’s stomach. Due to their deep chests, Poodles are especially prone to developing extreme bloat.
This disorder is excruciating. When left unchecked, bloat can be fatal, and even surgical intervention has a 20% mortality rate.
Scientifically, bloat is known as gastric dilatation and volvulus or GDV.
Gastric dilatation describes the pressure build-up and stomach expansion.
In a bloated stomach, food and gas stretch far beyond normal size, causing immense abdominal pain.
Volvulus refers to the twisting motion of the stomach that typically follows gastric dilatation.
It is still unclear why the distended stomach tends to rotate, but when it does, it twists up to 180 degrees, cutting off its blood supply as well as the exit routes for gas to escape.
Poodles with bloat will die in pain in just a few hours unless drastic measures are taken.
Knowing the symptoms of bloat beforehand will help you to identify this condition before it is too late.
Remember, if you observe these in your Poodle, you only have minutes to respond.
Symptoms of bloat include:
- Firm and expanded stomach (like a hard balloon)
- Pacing and panting
- Sudden distress
- Excessive drooling
- “Dry” vomiting (motions produce nothing)
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you observe your Poodle being restless and in pain with a large, bloated stomach, call your veterinarian or local emergency pet hospital immediately.
Surgical intervention as early as possible is one of the only ways to alleviate pressure and save the dog’s life.
Poodles experiencing bloat have limited time, and owners need to react quickly.
Bloat becomes life-threatening within hours if gas is unable to pass naturally, and if stomach twisting reaches the 180-degree mark, it is unlikely that surgical intervention will save your dog.
As a preventative measure to bloat, promote healthy digestion by feeding your Poodle small amounts of food throughout the day and limiting the time spent running after meals.
Underproductive adrenal glands bring about Addison’s disease.
It is less deadly than other conditions but equally common for all Poodles, with the Standard Poodle most often diagnosed.
Typically, Addison’s disease occurs in middle-aged female dogs; nevertheless, it can develop in male dogs as well.
Otherwise known as hypoadrenocorticism, this diagnosis means that the Poodle’s adrenal glands insufficiently produce cortisol and aldosterone hormones.
These abnormal hormone levels may cause various symptoms; however, Addison’s disease is often missed early on because symptoms are somewhat vague and typically infrequent.
Symptoms of Addison’s disease include:
- Increased thirst
- Lack of appetite (anorexia)
- Random vomiting
- Bloody stool (often diarrhea)
- Increased urination
- Weight loss
- Hair loss (alopecia)
- Weakness and lethargy
- Muscles spasms and shaking
- Painful abdomen
- Irregular or slow heart rate
- Low temperature
- Hyperpigmentation of the skin
Poodles generally have a relaxed temperament, so keep a sharp eye out for extra calm behavior, as this may be a sign of insufficient hormones.
Such symptoms typically begin around four years old and may develop over time or quickly emerge within a few days.
The sudden onset or flare-up of symptoms may occur during stressful times for your Poodle, like traveling or consecutive days of celebrations, for example.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There are numerous ways the adrenal glands may be affected.
A proper diagnosis of Addison’s disease requires blood and urine testing by a veterinarian.
The vet may recommend an ACTH stimulation test, where a synthetic hormone is introduced to see how your Poodle’s adrenal glands respond.
If your Poodle has any of the above symptoms and is otherwise acting strange, immediately take them to the vet for testing.
There is no cure for Addison’s, but it can be treated with daily oral medication.
This life-long hormone replacement therapy can lead to a full and healthy life for your Poodle.
Of course, this is dependent upon getting the right diagnosis and getting it early.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of Addison’s are consistent with the aging process.
More often than not, owners confuse symptoms of this disease with signs of aging, meaning this disease is almost always diagnosed in its acute stage, the Addisonian crisis.
Symptoms at this progression include severe vomiting and diarrhea as well as collapse.
If this occurs, immediately take your Poodle to the vet for stabilization and testing.
Of all the common Poodle health issues, Addison’s disease is one of the easiest to deal with, but early detection is critical.
Routine check-ups with a veterinarian are essential, and inform your vet if you notice changes in your dog between 6 months or annual visits.
Hip dysplasia is a condition of weakened or deteriorated hip joints.
Older Poodles are more commonly affected, though pups can develop early signs of this problem as young as five months old.
In general, this breed must be extra careful when exercising or participating in strenuous physical activities.
This condition is often the result of an under-developed or overdeveloped socket or weak ligaments, which causes the ball of the joint to become dislodged from the socket.
The continual dislocation and relocation eventually compromise the joint’s integrity and causes hip dysplasia.
While generally believed to be genetic, other factors can exacerbate hip dysplasia.
Overweight Poodles tend to suffer from this condition because the additional weight puts a more significant strain on their hips.
Additionally, excessive exercise as a pup can cause prolonged stress to the hips through adulthood.
Another issue that provokes hip dysplasia is if a Poodle’s growth rate is faster than average.
Symptoms of hip dysplasia include:
- Stiffness or limping
- Difficulty getting up off the floor
- Taking small, hesitant steps
- Hopping gait (lifting hind legs, similar to a bunny)
- Only using front legs to stand, dragging rear end when moving
- Refusing to walk inclines, climb stairs
- Unwillingness to jump, play, or exercise
- Loss of thigh muscle mass
- Enlargement of shoulder muscles (due to compensation for the hind end)
Pet owners tend to quickly spot hip dysplasia symptoms, as dogs will display obvious signs of pain.
If your Poodle is walking strange or hesitant about participating in playtime, it could be because of their hips.
Take your dog to see a veterinarian for diagnosis and care advice.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A veterinarian can better determine the severity of a hip dysplasia diagnosis and recommend the appropriate treatment for your Poodle’s specific case.
If you notice any of the above symptoms or are concerned about this condition, see your veterinarian right away.
They will perform a physical exam, and blood work and X-rays will likely be needed for a definitive diagnosis for the severity of the condition.
There are basically three treatments for hip dysplasia, depending on your dog’s age and condition.
Younger dogs may need only to reduce activity and get extra rest to allow for proper joint development.
Typically, this is all that is necessary for minor cases. For older dogs, pain medication and anti-inflammatories are available to help reduce discomfort levels.
However, bed rest is often prescribed as well.
Lastly, hip-replacement surgery can be performed. This option should be considered a worst-case scenario and only when the pain is lowering your Poodle’s quality of life.
Some dogs will have ongoing dislocation issues that get progressively worse as their bones wear down.
If recovery is not made with bed rest and medicine, surgery may be warranted.
Since hip dysplasia is genetic, there is very little you can do to prevent it from occurring.
However, there are some safeguard measures you can take, whether it be to lessen a risk or delay an inevitability:
- Ensure your dog maintains fitness and an appropriate weight for its size.
- Avoid strenuous exercise until your dog reaches adulthood.
- Minimize exercise for fast-growing pups and consult with a veterinarian to create a good routine.
Epilepsy refers to a seizure disorder. Seizures are more common in Poodles than other breeds and can be caused by several different factors.
If repeated episodes are experienced, the dog will be diagnosed with epilepsy.
There are two types of epilepsy in dogs: primary and secondary.
Primary epilepsy is genetically inherited, and diagnosis is typically idiopathic, meaning the specific cause is unknown.
This is one of the more common diagnoses of epilepsy in Poodles, and seizures range from mild to severe.
Secondary epilepsy is diagnosed when a different condition is identified as causing seizures.
Causes include infectious brain diseases (such as distemper), metabolic disorders, severe head injuries, exposure to poisons, tumors, and more.
The more information you can collect about your dog’s seizures, the more helpful it will be for your veterinarian to determine what may be causing them.
Depending on the type of seizure, your dog may display a wide range of symptoms and unusual behavior, such as staggering, frantically running (as though being chased), or hiding in a closet or bathroom.
Other symptoms experienced during a seizure may include:
- Staring into space and aloof
- Pacing back and forth or walking in place
- Making odd movements
- Stiff limbs
- Sudden unconsciousness
- Labored breathing
Diagnosis and Treatment
Poodles can still live long, healthy lives after an epilepsy diagnosis.
This disorder can generally be effectively managed with medication and frequent monitoring.
Witnessing your dog having a seizure can be a frightening experience for both you and your dog.
Still, it is crucial to remain calm. You can do some things to help your dog during the ordeal and help your veterinarian correctly diagnose the type and severity of seizure occurring.
If your Poodle starts having a seizure:
- Immediately turn off bright lights and loud noises (TV, radio, etc.).
- Move any nearby objects away from your dog, including chairs or coffee tables.
- Gently place a thin pillow under your dog’s head.
- Note the time and record how long the seizure lasts.
- Stay nearby and keep your voice and demeanor calm.
- Do not hold your dog’s tongue—it is not needed and only creates the risk of being bitten.
When the seizure has ended, your dog may still be conscious yet confused.
Allow some time to recover before going to the vet.
However, your dog may be unconscious after the seizure, at which point you should call your vet to report the incident.
The cause of epilepsy may not be easily determined, and veterinarians must run several tests to diagnose the root cause.
Veterinarians will ask to know:
- When the seizure happened
- How long it lasted
- Frequency of seizures (or if it’s the first time)
- What your dog was doing immediately before the seizure
- Any observed symptoms either before the seizure or after (drooling, pacing, unresponsive, etc.)
This information will help your veterinarian determine the best kind of medication to use, so your Poodle can still live a full, happy life despite such a diagnosis.
In general, providing your Poodle with a balanced diet and plenty of exercises and maintaining regular vet check-ups are essential for potentially preventing seizures in the first place.
Thyroid issues involve an improper production of thyroxine, the hormone responsible for regulating a dog’s metabolism, and thyroid glands also assist in proper heart, brain, liver, and kidney functions.
Problems are expected for most Poodles to develop at some point in their lives, but this concern comes more with aging.
Hyperthyroidism involves increased production of thyroxine.
By contrast, hypothyroidism is brought about by a decreased hormone production.
Poodles are more likely to develop hypothyroidism, meaning they don’t produce enough thyroxine for their bodies to function.
This may result in various behavioral or physical changes and, if left untreated, lead to more and potentially fatal complications.
When the thyroid begins to deteriorate, a gradual change develops in your dog. Both behavior and capability for physical activity decreases.
However, these symptoms are also those of an aging dog, often making hypothyroidism difficult to catch.
If you think your Poodle’s thyroid may be in trouble, visit a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.
Physical symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Weight gain
- Excessive hunger
- Hair loss
- Itching (especially around the ear)
- Ear infections
- Weakened immune system
- Wounds that won’t heal
- Abnormal heart rate
Behavior changes you might notice include:
- Atypically aggressive behavior
- Head tilting
- Seeking out warm spaces
- Increased fatigue and frequent napping
- Less interest in playtime
Diagnosis and Treatment
A veterinarian can adequately diagnose thyroid issues and prescribe the medication necessary to restore your Poodle’s health.
Hypothyroidism (and hyperthyroidism) are readily treatable with hormone supplements, which work to correct the thyroxine imbalance so a dog’s metabolism and other organs can function correctly.
Typically, these supplements come in chewable or liquid forms and must be taken daily.
If you suspect a thyroid issue in your Poodle, visit your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
Hormone supplements should never be given without the guidance of a doctor.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a condition affecting the photoreceptors in a dog’s retina and preventing the capture of light.
Science has found ways to slow the process of PRA; however, there is no cure, and it eventually leads to blindness.
Based on which photoreceptors are affected, there are two types of PRA:
- Nyctalopia is retinal atrophy affecting the rod photoreceptors, responsible for night vision.
- Hemeralopia affects the cone photoreceptors, responsible for daytime vision, color distinction, and overall defined vision.
If both rods and cones are affected simultaneously, dogs lose their sight regardless of brightness.
Complete blindness is unpredictable, but the younger a Poodle has symptoms, the faster PRA will progress.
The condition is hereditary, provoked by a gene mutation, and tends to be more common in miniature and toy Poodles.
Additionally, PRA isn’t always detected with DNA testing, so it’s essential to select a reputable breeder knowledgeable about health history and pedigree when picking a Poodle.
When progressive retinal atrophy emerges, it will affect both eyes at the same time.
Symptoms of PRA include:
- Vision loss: Typically, night vision first, followed by day vision, and a general difficulty in seeing moving objects.
- Dilated pupils: Eyes may be glossier than usual and show reflections in orange, yellow, and green due to retinal hyperreflexia.
- Cataracts: A secondary consequence of eye damage encouraged by retinal degeneration and produced by substances secreting from the damaged retina.
Once PSA symptoms are apparent, a dog typically loses its sight within six months.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A veterinarian must confirm the diagnosis of progressive retinal atrophy.
Although there is no cure for PRA, research continues.
Some treatments are available that have proven to slow the progression of the disease in some breeds.
Overall, it has been found that many dogs living in a loving environment tend to cope effectively with PRA since the change happens slowly.
Techniques for PRA diagnosis include ophthalmoscopy, where the vet observes the eye’s base, and electroretinography, where electrodes measure photoreceptor response to various types of light.
In some circumstances, surgical intervention may be considered, but you cannot prevent PRA progression altogether.
Reasons for surgical intervention include:
- Side effects of cataracts
- Dislocated lens
- Crystalline-dependent glaucoma
- Crystalline-dependent uveitis
- Other reasons as observed by a veterinarian
Maintaining an annual schedule of eye appointments for your dog is essential for catching PSA early and having a chance to slow down its progression.
Luxating patella is otherwise known as a dislocated knee.
It is more common among small breeds, but all types of Poodles can be affected.
This is usually a genetic issue that causes congenital deformities or bone malformations that are present at birth.
However, poor nutrition, injury, excess joint stress, and other medical problems may also cause a luxating patella to develop.
The patella (or kneecap) is a small bone held in place by ligaments that safeguard the front of the stifle joint.
When knee joints move, the patella slides in a groove in the femur.
Weak ligaments, a shallow femoral groove, and malalignments of the muscles and tendons that straighten the joint will all put Poodles at higher risk of a luxating patella.
The patella may slip out to the inside of the stifle joint. This is known as medial luxation.
When it slips to the outside, it’s called lateral luxation.
The more common condition in smaller dogs is medial luxation, and lateral luxation tends to occur in larger breeds.
This condition is milder initially, and the patella may pop out from time to time but mostly remain in place.
Dogs will have a normal gait except when the luxation occurs.
Then, their gait becomes abnormal. You will observe the bent stifle joint in the affected leg as the foot turns inward when the patella slips out of place.
Puppies may show signs of this issue when they start walking, or symptoms may arise later in life.
Poodles may show intermittent luxating patella symptoms, but this issue usually worsens over time if left untreated.
For some dogs, pain is experienced only when the kneecap is out of place, and it soon goes back to normal.
However, anywhere from hours to days later, inflammation will develop, causing pain and lead to the manifestation of other symptoms.
Don’t allow infrequent bouts of this condition to prevent you from getting your dog treatment.
Symptoms of luxating patella include:
- Occasional hopping or limping
- Difficulty straightening the knee
- Lameness in one leg
- Holding leg in an odd position
- Toes point inward while hock tip points outward
- Pain in the stifle
- Reluctance to exercise
Diagnosis and Treatment
Luxating patella is diagnosed by pushing the patella out from the groove.
How easily this dislocation is coerced and whether or not the patella spontaneously returns to the groove determines the degree of luxation diagnosis.
Levels of a luxating patella are graded one to four:
- Grade 1: The patella can be manually pushed out of the groove, but once the pressure is released, it returns to its normal position.
- Grade 2: The patella can be manually pushed out of the groove or spontaneously moves when the joint is flexed, and it stays out of place until the veterinarian repositions it manually.
- Grade 3: The patella mostly stays out of the groove but can be repositioned manually by extending the joint. However, extending and flexing the joint causes the patella to slip out of place again.
- Grade 4: The patella is always out of the groove. Moreover, it cannot be repositioned manually. The groove is either too shallow or missing entirely.
Poodles diagnosed with Grade 1 luxating patella may only require pain medication and bed rest.
For some dogs, this mild condition may not worsen.
However, dogs with higher grade diagnoses will likely require surgery to correct one or more issues. Surgery may be performed to:
- Deepen the groove
- Release ligaments
- Tighten ligaments
- Repair torn ligaments
After correction, the outlook on this condition usually is good to excellent, except for some very extreme cases.
Please note that Poodles diagnosed with luxating patella will be more susceptible to osteoarthritis later in life.
However, if diagnosed and treated early, the likelihood of this is decreased significantly.
Hypoglycemia (in Puppies)
Puppies have some different risks to their health than full-grown Poodles, and one of the most common of such is hypoglycemia.
Toy and Miniature Poodles are likely to develop this condition, though puppies of all breeds are at risk.
Typically, development occurs within four months of birth.
Hypoglycemia is the result of a sudden drop in blood sugar.
This often occurs due to stress or routinely not eating enough and can be fatal.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia in puppies include:
- Head tremors
- Slowed breathing
- Tripping or falling down
- Shaking or shivering
If this condition is not promptly treated, puppies risk slipping into a coma, which could be fatal.
It’s normal for puppies to take naps and be sleepy during the day.
There is generally no need for worry if just one symptom of hypoglycemia is observed.
However, if you are concerned your Poodle puppy has a severe problem, consult your veterinarian.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you suspect your puppy is experiencing hypoglycemia symptoms, a quick treatment to raise the puppy’s sugar levels should be performed before you seek assistance from your veterinarian or local animal hospital.
Treat hypoglycemia by gently rubbing your puppy’s gums with honey.
It will be absorbed into the bloodstream directly and work quickly.
Some sources may recommend Karo syrup, but you should avoid this as it can have laxative effects.
If you don’t have honey, spoon-feed your Poodle some warm sugar water.
Improvement should be seen within minutes, at which point you should bring your Poodle to see a veterinarian.
In extreme cases, puppies may require an IV and monitoring until blood sugar levels leave the “danger zone.”
If you are ever unsure whether your Poodle is experiencing hypoglycemia, it’s better to be safe than sorry and offer one or two teaspoons of sugar water.
This will not cause damage if unnecessary. Instead, you’ll have a rather hyper puppy for a short while.
Poodles have a variety of health issues that owners need to know about, and it’s virtually impossible to know which problems may develop, as each dog has unique genetics.
One puppy may suffer issue after issue, while its sibling may live a long, healthy life, just based on luck.
Proper care and regular visits to your veterinarian will help you maintain the best health possible for your Poodle.
- Vets Now: GDV study shows bloat is no longer a death sentence for dogs
- American Kennel Club: Addison’s Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention
- American Kennel Club: Hip Dysplasia In Dogs: Prevention, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
- Canine Epilepsy: Canine Epilepsy Network
- Lucy Pet Products: 5 Most Common Poodle Health Issues
- Animal Wised: Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Dogs
- The Poodle Club of America: Health Concerns
- Canna Pet: Poodle Health Issues & Problems
- Animal Wised: Most Common Health Issues for Poodles
- Popular Doodle: Poodle Health Issues: 7 Common Poodle Health Problems to Look Out For!
- Gallant: 5 Common Poodle Health Concerns
- All Poodle Info: Poodle Health Problems | Common Concerns – Toy, Mini, Standard
Veterinary Hospital Director at UCE
Dr. Marcelle is a general veterinarian with a Small Animal Medicine Specialty | Director of the UCE School of Veterinary Medicine | Certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society