Siena Standard Poodles
Best-All-Round Red Standard Poodles


Testing, Genetics, Genetic Diversity

Genetic diversity is a major factor in producing puppies with healthy immune systems.  Through the years of inbreeding and line breeding in a quest for perfection, the Standard Poodle breed’s genetic diversity was compromised and their immune systems suffered. Although there is testing for many known genetic diseases and we’re able to breed away from them,  immune-suppressed, immune-mediated, and auto-immune disorders have grown exponentially.  For these, we have no tests, as they are often initiated by an environmental “trigger.” In his study of Sebaceous Adenitis in Standard Poodles, Dr. Niels Pedersen of UCDavis in California was unable to find a discernible difference in dogs with SA and dogs without, leading him to suspect the disease could be fixed in the breed.  Several studies have determined that even though a breeder may choose mates with low COI, low Wycliffe, and low Old English Apricot, that still does not always guarantee genetic diversity. There was great concern that the Standard Poodle’s gene pool had become limited, placing the future of the breed in peril.  So in 2014, Dr. Pedersen and the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VGL) agreed to identify the DNA and DLA in 100 Standard Poodles - if enough people would volunteer to send in cheek swabs - in an effort to discover which dogs were actually genetically diverse.  The response was overwhelming, and the results were exciting and encouraging.  Though the diverse genetics are far from prevalent, diversity does still exist in the breed, and the dogs who participated in the study - ours were among them - are now listed in a database that can produce a list of potential mates who, when bred, have the potential to produce puppies with greater diversity than either sire or dam.  This is far from the only breeding tool we use - of course temperament, health history of the lines, structure, and other factors must be considered.  From the list generated for our Kimber, I was able to find several suitable mates with lovely temperament, excellent structure, clean pedigrees, and who carried the genes for apricot and red.  The puppies from her breeding with Julie Reed’s Allegro are the first, or among the first, between two VGL-registered poodles and produced 5 pups with amazing temperaments lovely color, and outstanding structure. Her most-recent (and her last) breeding to our Little Bear has resulted in yet another robust litter of pups with great promise for the future of the breed. 

Every breed has its own particular set of common inheritable diseases.  We complete all available testing for those diseases inherent to the Standard Poodle.  As these tests are completed, each dog is registered with the OFA and CHIC. You may use a dog’s OFA or CHIC number to verify test results online at the OFA’s website.

CERF Evaluation and Registry

The Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) was formed by breeders who were concerned about heritable eye diseases.  The foundation worked with veterinary ophthalmologists to devise a yearly evaluation of breeding dogs, known as a CERF exam.  The phenotypic appearance of each eye is evaluated during the exam, though this does not imply that an ocular disorder will not subsequently develop.  Therefore, dogs with phenotypically healthy eyes are cleared for one year of breeding, but there is no genotypic clearance.  Breeding dogs may show phenotypic characteristics of an ocular disorder during a future CERF exam.  A dog is CERF registered once it has been examined by an American College of Veterinary Ophthalmology Diplomate and found to be unaffected by any major heritable eye disease, including (but not limited to) progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), corneal dystrophy, retinal dysplasia.  This certification is only valid for one year, after which the dog must be re-examined every successive year thereafter. 

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) has established their own eye evaluations in recent years, so these days our exams are done through them.

Hip X-rays for susceptibility to Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) and Osteoarthritis

There are currently two methods for screening canine hips for dysplasia and susceptibility to osteoarthritis: PennHip and OFA.  Both require sedation and X-rays; the difference between the two is procedural, i.e., the types of X-rays required.  We use both procedures for our dogs.  However, our position is that unless, or until, a genetic link is discovered, either evaluation is subjective at best. 

Explanation of Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) 

The acetabulum is the cup-shaped socket of the hipbone, or pelvis. In a dysplastic hip, the acetabulum is shallow or poorly developed, so the head of the femur fits loosely into it. Joint instability occurs as muscle development lags behind the rate of skeletal growth. As the stress of weight-bearing exceeds the strength limits of the supporting connective tissue and muscle, the joint becomes loose and unstable. This allows for free play of the femoral head in the acetabulum, thus promoting abnormal wear and tear. While it is considered to be genetic, being overweight supports the genetic potential for hip dysplasia and other skeletal diseases. Inadequate diet and/or inappropriate exercise during the period of rapid bone growth (generally up to 18-24 months of age) can also bring on the symptoms of hip dysplasia. Young dogs (up to 15-18months) should receive regular exercise such as daily walks and romps.  They should not be encouraged to jump up or down from heights or participate in sports such as agility, dock diving, long retrieving sessions, etc.  until their bones and muscles have a chance to mature.

Sebaceous Adenitis Genetic Disease Control (GDC) evaluation

Sebaceous Adenitis (SA) is an autoimmune skin disorder. The incidence of SA in Standard Poodles appears low at this point but increasing in frequency over time.  The sebaceous (oil) glands, located within the dog’s skin, both lubricate and protect the skin.  With SA, the body's sebaceous glands become inflamed and are eventually destroyed.  When the sebaceous glands are no longer functioning, the dog will exhibit a variety of symptoms, including loss of hair, thickening of the skin, scaly skin, secondary skin infections, and frequently a musty odor. 

Sebaceous Adenitis is not an uncommon skin disorder; and while no cure exists, there are treatments and procedures that control it and not only keep the affected animal comfortable but also may allow regeneration of the sebaceous glands.

SA can also occur in a subclinical form. The dog appears to be normal and the inflammation of the sebaceous glands is so subtle that it may only be detectable by biopsy analysis.

SA diagnosis is a relatively simple yet invasive process.  Three skin punch biopsies are taken under local anesthetic, with the removal site requiring sutures for closure.  The biopsied skin sample is then sent to a dermatopathologist for analysis. 

Researchers suspect that both SA and Addison’s Disease are complex genetic traits with incomplete heritability - i.e., scientists have yet to determine the method of transmission, and it is thought that there may need to be an environmental “trigger” in order for the disease to be expressed.

Thyroid Test (for Hypothyroidism)

Hypothyroidism results from the impaired production and secretion of thyroid hormone.  This deficiency can cause a host of problems in dogs including hair loss, absence of heat cycles and abortions in breeding females, weight gain, intolerance to cold, a slow heart rate, lethargy, and a variety of nonspecific symptoms.

In order to perform a thyroid test, your veterinarian must draw a blood sample.  This is placed in a special glass tube and allowed to clot, then it is placed in a centrifuge.  The centrifuge divides it into into two parts - serum and clotted blood - then the serum is removed and submitted to a laboratory for analysis. Some veterinary hospitals are able to perform thyroid tests in their clinic, although most rely on outside laboratories.

The good news about hypothyroidism is that it is easily treated with a daily dose of synthetic thyroid hormone called thyroxine (levothyroxine).

D N A  T e s t s  f o r  H e r i t a b l e  D i s e a s e s

DNA tests have been developed for the following diseases that may affect the Standard Poodle.  Each test involves ordering a test kit from OFA that is specific to one disease.  The owner/breeder swabs both of the subject dog’s cheeks to collect epithelial cells, then returns the swabs to the OFA for evaluation.

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)

Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs.  The disease has an insidious onset, typically between 8 and 14 years of age.  It begins with a loss of coordination in the hind limbs.  The affected dog will wobble when walking, knuckle over, or drag its feet.  This can first occur in one hind limb and then affect the other.  As the disease progresses, the limbs become weak, the dog begins to buckle, and he eventually has difficulty standing.  The weakness gets progressively worse until the dog is unable to walk.  The clinical course can range from 6 months to a year before dogs become paraplegic.  If signs progress for a longer period of time, loss of urinary and fecal continence may occur; eventually, weakness will develop in the front limbs.  The one bright spot is that DM is not painful for those afflicted.

A DNA test, available through OFA, identifies dogs that are clear, those who are carriers, and those who are at higher risk for developing DM.  Unfortunately, this test only identifies the presence or absence of a gene that has appeared with high frequency among dogs that show DM symptoms; however, many dogs identified as having 2 copies of the DM gene (A/A) have never shown symptoms, leading to the conclusion that there are other factors necessary for the disease to arise.  Whether these factors are hereditary, environmental, or a combination of both is yet to be determined.  What is known is that 1) All clinically-confirmed dogs with DM - from all breeds, including crossbreeds - have two copies of the defective gene.  2) Other factors must also be present to cause a dog with two copies of the defective gene to be clinically affected.  3) Dogs who test as carriers or non-affected have never been clinically diagnosed with DM and are highly unlikely to develop the disease.

Neonatal Encephalopathy (NE)

NE results in fatal developmental brain disease and has been found in an extensive family of Standard Poodles. The disease is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait, and most affected puppies die shortly after birth. With intensive nursing care, affected pups can be kept alive for a few weeks; however, none has survived past the fifth week.

The DNA test for Neonatal Encephalopathy (NE) was negative for the Sire and Dam of each of our poodles; thus, our poodles are clear by parentage and none can develop or pass along the disease to offspring.

von Willebrands Disease(vWD)

The most common inherited bleeding disorder in dogs, vWD is inherited as an autosomal dominant gene with variable expression. That is, the severity of the bleeding is related to the degree to which the gene is expressed. The bleeding is caused by a deficiency of a plasma protein called the von Willebrand factor, which is critical for normal platelet function in the early stages of clotting. In most cases, the bleeding in vWD is mild or inapparent, and lessens with age. Severe problems include prolonged nose bleeds, bleeding beneath the skin and into the muscles, and blood in the stool and urine.

The DNA test for von Willebrands Disease (vWD) was negative for the Sire and Dam of each of our poodles; thus, none of our dogs is a carrier, and none can develop or pass along the disease to offspring.

DNA Test for Coat Color

Testing for coat color and a D-locus test for color dilution have recently become available and our poodles’ tests all show the DD allele. The coat color test allows breeders to fairly accurately predict the colors of puppies that will be produced with each breeding. As for the D-locus test for fading, it was originally held that if both parents carried the DD allele their pups would not fade. Unfortunately, even in those with DD alleles, it appears that there are other genes at work particularly in red or apricot poodles that causes most to fade.  Until these elusive genes are identified, the D-locus test in red poodles is unable to predict whether or not your puppy’s coat will  fade. Therefore, when a breeder states that his/her red poodles are non-fading, this information should be viewed as opinion rather than fact!