Genetic and Other Health Issues of Toy Poodles

Unfortunately, I have learned from personal experience that just as in humans, toy poodles and their owners are faced with the possibility of their poodle having one or more of the many different health and genetic issues that can affect toy poodles. An ethical breeder WANTS to know if a dog of her/his breeding has developed any serious health issues so that they can take steps to remove any possible carriers of that problem from their breeding program. No breeder wants to have have serious health issues in their lines. An ethical breeder wants to know about these issues. An unethical breeder will do all they can to try to hide or deny that the issues exist.



Certain breeding practices such as overly relying on inbreeding or line breeding can increase the possibility of dogs carrying defective genes and passing these genes on to their offspring. Many "backyard" breeders and puppymills have no idea of the genetic backgrounds of their dogs and therefore have no idea of any defective genes these dogs may be carrying. Fifi and Fido may look cute but to breed them without knowing (or in some cases without caring) if they are carriers of bad stifles, retained testicles, incomplete tear ducts, legg-perthes, degenerative osteoarthritis, PRACD, etc. is irresponsible and the consequences can be devastating for the offspring and their owners. There is a term used to describe breeders who refuse to see or admit to the problems in their lines and that term is Kennel Blind. This link will take you to an excellent article from the AKC defining Kennel Blindness. Here is an excerpt from the article.

"Found in many purebred dog kennels, kennel blindness is a “disease” that results in breeders’ inability or refusal to admit to the failings in their own lines of dogs, whether they relate to conformation traits described in the AKC breed standards, behavior or genetic disease. Kennel-blind breeders are given to justifying the dogs they breed by developing warped and unrealistic interpretations of their breed’s standard, said Ann Seranne in her book, The Joy of Breeding Your Own Show Dog."

When you are looking for a new puppy, ask the breeder about their breeding practice beliefs. Ask about the prevalence of the health issues (see below) that have cropped up in their lines. If a breeder tells you they have never had any health issues with their dogs-find another breeder, an honest one!

Ask the breeder if they periodically contact people who have puppies from them. Some of these problems don't show up for several years. A good, responsible breeder WANTS and NEEDS to know if there are health issues in their dogs!

A good breeder cares about the puppies they produce for their entire life. If a health problem does arise, you want to know that the breeder will still be there for you. When you are already dealing with the emotional upheaval of having a dog who is suffering from health problems, you don't need the added emotional stress of having the breeder blame YOU for those problems if they are genetic in origin.

A good way to learn about a potential breeder is to join several of the Internet groups that exist. Ask the members if they know of this breeder and if they know of people who have dogs from the breeder. The more you learn, the better. Do not just assume that because a breeder has been breeding for a long time or because they have bred many champions that they are necessarily breeding healthy dogs.


The following is from the University of Pennsylvania College of Veterinary Medicine


Breeding practices in purebred animal populations are controlled almost entirely by the owners of the animals; random matings rarely occur in these groups. Human populations, on the other hand, exhibit primarily random mating practices, limited only in certain circumstances, such as by religious restrictions, by which genetic isolates have arisen. Animal breeders commonly use inbreeding, often euphemistically referred to as "line-breeding," to "fix" certain desirable traits in a breed. Such practices fix these traits by increasing the homozygosity of alleles at all genetic loci. Therefore, along with those alleles that produce desirable traits, some that produce undesirable traits may also appear in increased frequency and result in an increase in the number of animals exhibiting that trait. Another common practice in these populations is the widespread breeding of a few males that exhibit desirable traits, usually show champions. If such a dog or cat has a recessive allele for some undesirable trait, it can rapidly become widespread in the population, since 50% of all his offspring will potentially carry this gene. It may not be until several backcrosses or matings of the F. and future generation offspring occur that such a situation becomes apparent. By that time the gene may be widespread in the population. This is known as the "founder effect" and can have extremely deleterious effects on a breed. Therefore, when problems, such as bone dysplasias, are recognized in purebred animals, it becomes important to report them in the literature so that other veterinarians will have a frame of reference for any new cases seen. Possibly such problems in a breed can thereby be recognized early enough to help prevent widespread dissemination of the mutant gene or genes responsible for these disorders. It is also important to try to educate breeders to the widespread implications of such problems and help to minimize the long-existent practice of "hiding your mistakes."


The Poodle Health Registry is an open registry of health issues affecting all three varieties of poodles. This is an excellent site to check to see if any health issues have been entered into the database regarding a breeder. The database, however, is far from complete.

Genetic Health Issues

Heritable disorders result from alterations (mutations) in genes responsible for building tissues. Alterations in these genes may change the structure and development of skin, bones, joints, heart, blood vessels, lungs, eyes, ears, etc. Some mutations also change how these tissues work.


"To date, over 350 genetic diseases have been described in the dog, many of which are analogous to human genetic diseases. The number of canine models used for the study of inherited diseases is rapidly growing and dogs have been invaluable for the understanding of both disease processes and a variety of therapies."


The successful sequencing of the dog genome sheds light on the structure and function of the human genome, and could help researchers better understand diseases that affect both humans and dogs. "Dogs suffer from more than 350 genetic disorders, many of which resemble human conditions," said Ewen Kirkness, a molecular biologist at the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Maryland, who led the research. "The genes responsible for these are probably constant to humans and dogs." (

Degenerative Osteoarthritis-results from destruction of the cartilage that protects the bones that make up the joint.

Ligamentous Laxity- is a connective tissue disorder. In a 'normal' body, ligaments (which are the tissues that connect bones to each other) are naturally tight in such a way that the joints are restricted to 'normal' ranges of motion. This creates normal joint stability. If muscular control does not compensate for ligamentous laxity, joint instability may result. The trait is almost certainly hereditary. In the case of extreme laxity, or hypermobility, affected individuals often have a decreased ability to sense joint position, which can contribute to joint damage. The resulting poor limb positions can lead to the acceleration of degenerative joint conditions. Many hypermobility patients suffer from osteoarthritis.

Ligaments are fibrous tissues that connect bone to bone. There are dozens of ligaments in the body and almost every joint has at least two of these structures. Ligaments are short, elastic bands of fibers composed of collagen (protein) bundles. Collagen diseases commonly arise from genetic defects that affect the biosynthesis, assembly, postranslational modification, secretion, or other processes in the normal production of collagen. Ligaments have cells for maintaining the bundles, and some blood vessels. Nerve fibers are found in these bundles, which play an important role in proprioception—the ability to know where the limbs are in space, even without looking at them. When the ligaments are no longer taut, this sense can be lost, causing clumsiness and instability.

Osteogenesis Imperfecta-is a heritable connective tissue disorder. Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) is a genetic condition found in both humans and dogs and is characterized by extremely fragile bones and teeth. This bone fragility can result in the bones breaking with no apparent caus.. OI can also cause weak muscles, brittle teeth, a curved spine and hearing loss. The cause of OI is a genetic defect that affects how the body produces collagen, a protein that helps make bones strong. Collagen is the main protein of connective tissue in animals. The mutation which causes OI has been located in Dachshunds and is located on dog chromosome 21.Usually humans and animals inherit the faulty gene from a parent. Sometimes, it is due to a mutation, a random gene change. OI can range from mild to severe and symptoms vary from one individual to another.

When a young dog is evaluated for multiple fractures with no apparent cause, osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) is suspected. Radiographic findings showing multiple bone fractures in various stages of healing is used to confirm the diagnosis of OI.. Clinical signs consist of pain, spontaneous bone and teeth fractures, loose joints, and reduced bone density on radiography. Primary teeth are extremely thin-walled and brittle.

In dogs, OI has been reported in Golden Retrievers, Collies, Poodles, Beagles, Norwegian Elkhound, and Bedlington Terriers.



Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome ("Rubber Puppy Syndrome") - refers to a group of inherited disorders that affect collagen structure and function. Genetic abnormalities in the manufacturing of collagen within the body affect connective tissues, causing them to be abnormally weak.

Hypermobility type
Excessively loose joints are the hallmark of this EDS type, formerly known as EDS type III. Both large joints, such as the elbows and knees, and small joints, such as toes and fingers, are affected. Partial and total joint dislocations are common, and particularly involve the jaw, knee, and shoulder. Many individuals experience chronic limb and joint pain, although x rays of these joints appear normal. The skin may also bruise easily. Osteoarthritis is a common occurrence in adults. EDS hypermobility type is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner.
There are two major clinical diagnostic criteria for EDS hypermobility type. These include skin involvement (either hyperextensible skin or smooth and velvety skin) and generalized joint hypermobility. At this time there is no test for this form of EDS.


An important characteristic of dominant gene mutations is that they can have variable expression. This means that some individuals have milder or more severe symptoms than others. In addition, which systems of the body the mutation affects can vary as can the age at which the disease starts, even in the same family. Another important characteristic of dominant gene mutations is that in some cases, they can have reduced penetrance. This means that sometimes a n individual can have a dominant mutation but not show any signs of the condition.


Cutaneous Asthenia-Cutaneous asthenia (literally, weak skin) is part of a group of hereditary disorders characterized by skin that is unusually stretchy and droopy. It is caused by a genetic mutation that is passed from parent to offspring. More than one genetic disorder is suspected, but this condition cannot be determined by skin and tissue samples, it is diagnosed through observation.

This condition is also known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a disease characterized by deficient levels of collagen, the protein molecule necessary for providing strength and elasticity to the skin and ligaments, along with much of the rest of the body. Collagen is the “glue” that holds the body together. A lack of collagen will result in abnormal collagen synthesis and fiber formation.

Dogs affected with this disorder suffer from painful dislocation at the joints due to the instability of the ligament fibers that hold the bones to each other. The ligaments stretch with movement, but without the elasticity needed to return to their form they stay stretched out, allowing the bones to pop out of their connective joints. This creates a painful physical environment for the sufferer of cutaneous asthenia.

The primary cause of this medical condition is heredity. It is caused by a genetic mutation that is passed from parent to offspring, and can be either dominant – from both parents, or recessive – from only one parent.


Canine Demodicosis-a disease caused by a mite (Demodex canis) that lives deep in the hair follicles. This mite is transmitted from the bitch to the offspring during suckling and is found in small numbers on all dogs. It is believed that these mites may initially cause problems in dogs due to an immulogic or genetic disorder. This can occur in two "general" ages of dogs. One group is less than 2 years old at onset--junvenile demodicosis. The other age group affected is older dogs-adult onset demodicosis.

Congestive heart failure is a condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to the body's other organs.
The heart keeps working but not as efficiently as it should. As blood flow out of the heart slows, blood returning to the heart through the veins backs up, causing congestion in the tissues. Often swelling results. Sometimes fluid collects in the lungs and interferes with breathing, causing shortness of breath, especially when lying down. Heart failure also affects the kidneys' ability to dispose of sodium and water.


Atresia of nasolacrimal puncta is a condition where the holes on the inside of the lower eyelids (puncta) are too small or closed so tears spill over the lid instead of draining to the nose.

Distichiasis is a disorder where extra eyelashes grow inside the eye lid. There is often a second row of eyelashes; this can be a complete row or just a few lashes. These abnormal lashes tend to fall out and regrow, just as normal lashes do. Districhiasis indicates that there is more than one lash growing out of a follicle - commonly seen with distichiasis. This is presumed to be hereditary, but the mode of inheritance has not been determined. If not treated, it may lead to corneal ulcers and infection.

Allergy is one of the most common conditions affecting dogs. In the allergic state, the dog's immune system overreacts to foreign substances (allergens or antigens) to which he is exposed. These overreactions are manifested in three ways. The most common is itching of the skin, either localized (one area) or generalized (all over the dog). Another manifestation involves the respiratory system and may result in coughing, sneezing, and/or wheezing. Sometimes, there may be an associated nasal or ocular (eye) discharge. The third manifestation involves the digestive system, resulting in vomiting or diarrhea.

There are five known types of allergies in the dog: contact, flea, food, bacterial, and inhalant. Each of these has some common expressions in dogs, and each has some unique features.


Atopic dermatitis is known by many names including: canine inhalant dermatitis, inhalant allergy, allergic inhalant dermatitis, atopy and canine atopic dermatitis. It is a condition in which the immune system is hypersensitive and reacts abnormally (allergic reaction) to various substances in the environment such as pollens, molds or dust mites. These substances are called allergens. Dogs may either inhale the allergens or contact them through the skin.

The condition is clearly inherited but the exact mode of transmission is not yet clearly established. A combination of factors are necessary though for atopy to develop. It occurs when a dog who has the genetic make-up for allergy is exposed to specific allergens to which he shows an abnormal immune response.


Glaucoma is a condition of the eyes occurring in dogs and cats much the same as in human beings. More common in dogs, it appears glaucoma has an inheritable tendency. Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Beagles, are a few breeds which can carry the trait for glaucoma.


The following information is from

Progressive Retinal Atrophy a disorder of the eye in which the light cells in the retina wither and die due to insufficient blood supply. the disease progresses Gradually, results in blindness and has no known cure. Its onset in the Poodle is between 5 to 6 years old. The presence of PRA can be detected by ophthalmascopic examination by a veterinary ophthalmologist.

Corneal Dystrophy - Corneal dystrophies" are diseases of the cornea that are bilateral, non-inflammatory and inherited.

Legg-Calve'-Perthes - a disorder in which non-inflammatory a vascular necrosis of the femoral neck and head result in one of both of a young dog's rear legs becoming lame. Irritability and pain are other primary symptoms. Some dogs recover and function without treatment, but in severe case surgical removal of the femur head is indicated.

Patella Sub-luxation - or slipped kneecap, a condition in which the patella slides in and out of the groove where it is normally held in place by ligaments. This causes hopping or favoring of the leg until the kneecap slips back into place. In some cases, in can be surgically corrected.

Epilepsy - a neurological disorder marked by recurring seizures that follow episodic, abnormal discharges of electrical impulses by nerve cells in the brain. As in humans, it is controlled with drugs such as Phenobarbital or Dilantin.

Hypothyroidism - a condition resulting from an inadequate production of thyroid hormone. Also treated with drug therapy, its symptoms include a coarse, brittle coat that falls out, thickening and discoloration of the skin, lethargy, obesity, mental slowness and irregular heart cycles.

Cryptorchidism - or undescended testicle, a condition in which one or both testicles are retained in the abdominal cavity. Hormone injections, given to stimulate testicular descent, sometimes are successful. When the treatment is unsuccessful, removal of the testicles is recommended because cryptorchid testicles may become cancerous.

Mitral Valve Disease - The heart consists of 4 chambers - 2 atria and 2 ventricles. The atrioventricular (AV) valves ensure that the blood flows from the atria to the ventricles when the heart beats. A defect in the mitral valve (the left atrioventricular valve) causes backflow of blood into the left atrium, or mitral regurgitation. Less commonly, a narrowing or stenosis of the valve can be identified. Because of the leaky valve, the heart is less efficient at pumping blood to the body.

Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA)
- A decrease in the number of red blood cells (RBC's) or the amount of hemoglobin, resulting in a decrease in the oxygen- carrying capacity of the blood.

Cushings Disease - This is a disease that occurs from the overproduction of cortisone by the adrenal glands.

Addisons Disease - A disorder caused by a deficiency in adreno cortical hormonesmost commonly occurring in young to middle aged dogs.

Liver Shunts - Liver Shunts are abnormal vascular connections between the hepatic portal vein and systemic circulation. Such anomalies cause blood in the gastrointestinal tract to be diverted past the liver, there by limiting the liver's vital functions in metabolism and detoxification of compounds.

Entropian - An eye condition in which the eyelids are grown inward, causing the eye lashes to come into contact with the eye itself.

Autoimmune Disease - If a dog has an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakenly attacks self, targeting the cells, tissues, and organs of a dogs own body. A collection of immune system cells and molecules at a target site is broadly referred to as inflammation.

Lupus - This is a rare disease of the immune system. In this disease, the immune system forms antibodies against the nuclear component of its own cells.


Other Health Issues

The following information is from

Heart disease - Can be either present at birth or acquired, often developing during middle age. Acquired heart disease is more common, affecting many older dogs.

Heartworm - Once in the dog's heart, the worms can grow to as long as 14 inches and cause significant damage to the heart, lungs and other vital organs. If left untreated, heartworm disease can result in death.

Canine distemper - a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. Canine distemper virus is most often transmitted through contact with respiratory secretions. Contact with the urine and fecal material of infected dogs can also result in infection. Younger dogs and puppies are the most susceptible to infection. Among puppies, the death rate from distemper often reaches 80%. The disease also strikes older dogs, although much less frequently. Even if a dog does not die from the disease, its health may be permanently impaired. A bout with canine distemper can leave a dog's nervous system irreparably damaged, along with its sense of smell, hearing or sight. Partial or total paralysis is not uncommon, and other diseases — particularly pneumonia — frequently strike dogs already weakened by a distemper infection.

Canine Parvovirus - a highly contagious viral disease that attacks the intestinal track, white blood cells, and in some cases the heart muscle.

Canine Bordetellosis (Kennel Cough) - caused by bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica which is present in the respiratory tracts of many animals. It is a primary cause of tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) which results in a severe chronic cough. In addition to the cough, some dogs develop a nasal discharge. Transmission most frequently occurs by contact with the nasal secretions of infected dogs.

Parainfluenza - caused by a virus which produces a mild respiratory tract infection. It is often associated with other respiratory tract viruses. In combination these viruses are usually transmitted by contact with the nasal secretions of infected dogs


Diarrhea and vomiting - Diarrhea is not a disease; rather, it is a symptom of many different diseases. Many mild cases of diarrhea can be resolved quickly with simple treatments. Others are the result of fatal illnesses, such as cancer. Even diarrhea caused by mild illnesses may become fatal if treatment is not begun early enough to prevent severe fluid and nutrient losses. Some of the minor causes of diarrhea include stomach or intestinal viruses, intestinal parasites, and dietary indiscretions (such as eating garbage or other offensive or irritating materials). (





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Regarding the lawsuit filed by Hildegard Patton against Carol Kay

Carol Kay and Hildegard Patton have agreed to settle the litigation between them involving several posting and emails on Internet sites maintained by each of them concerning two poodle dogs once acquired by Kay from Patton. Carol, for her part, hereby issues a statement apologizing to Ms. Patton, if the medical information posted on her website concerning the health and medical conditions of the dogs has been construed or interpreted by any readers to impugn the integrity of Hildegard Patton, the name “Gold Star Toy Poodles,” Gold Star Poodles, or of her poodle breeding practices and the quality of her poodles in any way. Ms. Kay’s only intentions were to provide information to assist others in obtaining further knowledge and understanding of canine health.

Hildegard hereby issues a similar statement apologizing to Ms. Kay for statements she posted regarding Ms. Kay which suggested Ms. Kay’s actions in posting the medical information may be the result of any health issues relating to Ms. Kay or to any acts of Ms. Kay.

Both Carol and Hildegard affirm their mutual respect for each other, acknowledge their respective accomplishments and express appreciation that this unfortunate misunderstanding has been mutually resolved and put behind them.