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French Standard Poodles
South of France



Dogs bred specifically for show are not likely to be healthy - partly bacause of their lifestyle, but more because of genetic problems.

If you are looking for a healthy dog, your best bet is to avoid show-breeders and go for a dog that has a varied pedigree. You can do that either by going for a mongrel - unlikelely to be inbred - or for a pedigree where you can see that there is no in-breeding.

If you're thinking of buying a dog for show, read on to learn about potential physical problems for pedigrees dogs.


It is widely known that a pedigree dog is less likely to enjoy good health than a 12th generation mutt. As with all pedigrees there are breeders who shamelessly favour cosmetic details over virtues of health and temperament. Breeding dogs with close family (line breeding) is done to achieve a predictable and particular look quickly. Dogs from the same family lines can be bred close exceptionally but when abused in-breeding further reduces an already necessarily limited gene pool of a pedigree and the results can become tragic.

Typical tell-tale signs of in-breeding are :

  • Failure to conceive
  • Fewer puppies in a litter
  • Smaller size
  • Less vigorous puppies
  • Less resistance to infection
  • Cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy may cause blindness
  • Chronic Runny eyes, allergies, Ear infections

Whilst these characteristics are unpleasant and expensive to care for there are more acute life and quality of life-threatening conditions that standard poodle breeders and keepers must be aware of.


Addison's disease in the standard poodle

The American Kennel Club estimates that 50% of standard poodles in the United States are affected or carriers. A great many North American show lines carry the disease.

This is a devastating condition that is finally being addressed in the standard poodle community. Addison's disease affects the production of the hormone adrenalin and diseased dogs that survive the first attack must spend the rest of their lives on medication. There is also no genetic screening test for this nasty condition which must be inherited from both parents.

Addison's is now believed to be polygenic - ie dependent on a number of genes. Only certain genetic combinations result in the disease. There are not yet tests for the genetic dispositions to these deseases. Because they are late onset and hard to detect the process of excluding these diseases from breeding programmes has been slow to take off. Until the disease is better understood, the best policy is vary the gene pool as much as possible, avoiding lines which have previously manifested the disease.


Sebaceous Adenitus in the standard poodle

This condition is believed to be be autosomal recessive. A carrier will appear perfectly healthy, but when bred to another carrier, can produce affected offspring. There are not yet tests for the genetic dispositions to this desease. Because it is late onset and hard to detect the process of excluding this disease from breeding programmes is difficult. Until the disease is better understood, the best policy is vary the gene pool as much as possible, avoiding lines which have previously manifested the disease.

Sebaceous Adenitis often only produces mild discomfort. However the sebaceous glands of an affected dog may become inflamed and can be destroyed. The production of sebum, a fatty secretion important in preventing dry skin is diminished. The disease typically waxes and wanes, and affects different parts of the body.

Conventional veterinary medicine does not offer reliable treatment. The condition may improve or worsen regardless of medications.

Attention to grooming products and fatty acid nutritional supplements are most effective. More severely affected dogs will have areas of thickened skin, extensive hair loss and often a musty or rancid odour but this is rare. If secondary skin infections occur they must be treated promptly to prevent further complications from scarring and irreparable damage to sebaceous glands.

If your dog shows symptoms of SA it may well not be SA but Dietary deficiencies or a seasonal allergy and the condition will pass with a good diet and exercise.


Other health problems to be aware of

Bloat Whilst not on the rise bloat is nevertheless a killer and can affect all deep-chested breeds of dog. Bloat means that the dog's stomach has filled up with air to the extent that the stomach begins to twist in the body cavity preventing blood flow to some organs causing the death of the dog. The various beliefs about how to prevent it vary and often amount to general good feeding practice such as avoiding situations where a dog feels obliged to bolt food down and a number of small meals a day rather than a large one, high quality low grain croquettes, and a feeding dish raised from floor level. Due to the unpredictability of bloat dog owners are strongly advised to know and recognise the symptoms. If treated rapidly bloat can be corrected with relatively safe surgery.

Time is of the essence. Symptoms include:

  • Pacing around continuously and lying down in odd places in an attempt to get comfortable.
  • Salivating, panting, whining
  • Unproductive vomiting or retching (the dog may produce frothy foamy vomit in small quantities)
  • Excessive drooling, usually accompanied by retching noises
  • Swelling in abdominal area (may or may not be noticeable)

Monorchidism. This means that one testicle in a male dog has not dropped. Current veterinary practice recommends that the undropped testicle should be removed.

Von Willdebrand's disease. A bleeding disorder that can be genetically detected with a blood test.

Hip dysplaisia. Hip dysplaisia means that the hip joint of the dog is more shallow than ordinary.

The understanding of the causes of hip dysplaisia is crude. Dogs are x-rayed to examine the hip articulation. Mis-diagnosis is nevertheless not uncommon due to incorrect positioning of the hips of the anaesthetised dog.

Hip dysplaisia has a complex mode of inheritance and is also subject to rearing. If a dog is given poor nourishment and hard damp inadequate living quarters they will develop symptoms of hip dysplaisia even where a genetic disposition was not present.

If dog can walk with no difficulty or discomfort on hind legs it is an indication that hip alignment is good but hip displacement may still emerge later in life. A dog suffering from poor ball and socket contact in the hip will often show discomfort going from standing to sitting position.

Veterinary doctors have found that hip dysplaisia can develop as a result of improper exercise like having a puppy running after a bike for exercise when its bones are still forming.

Some breeders avoid exercise of small puppies fearing that stress may provoke hip weaknesses. They may be correct for certain breeds under certain circumstances but we encourage our puppies to strengthen their bones and legs a little and often from an early age and feed highly nourishing food to optimise healthy development.

The modes and occurrence of hereditary conditions is a growing field of research. It seems clear that there are genetic and environmental factors that apply to all these conditions.

Further information contacts

  • Federation Cynologique International
  • Canine genetic disease information

Realstandards will donate 20% of all merchandising to veterinary research dedicated to isolating the genetic fingerprint of Addison's disease so that it can be chased back out the door.

At Real standards we sacrifice control of the look and select for more random qualities of beauty, temperament and health. We aim to enrich the gene bank of the pedigree. Our dogs have great quarters, feet, heads, chests and good ears and coats. In our choice of stud we are looking for grace, no chronic illnesses or weaknesses, Low risk as possible Addisons and SA familial history and good natured and intelligent temperaments.

We would like the beauty shows for poodles to include much older dogs. We're all beautiful when we're young.

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