Each dog breed comes with its own particular set of frequently-diagnosed inheritable diseases. Most often, these diseases come into play when you breed a dog that genetically carries the disease to another dog that carries the same gene(s), although some diseases require a contribution from only one parent.
Thanks to the efforts of many veterinarian universities, DNA markers for some of the diseases affecting the poodle breed have been identified, allowing breeders to eliminate them in the pups they produce. Many other diseases, like hip dysplasia, are believed to have several genes that contribute to their onsets. Efforts continue to establish DNA markers for hip dysplasia and many other genetic diseases, and we will continue to stay abreast of progress made in that regard.
Testing and ancestral analyses are the two most important things breeders can do to eliminate these diseases in dogs; however, we are not mother nature and many of the diseases have not had DNA markers established for them nor are we always able to locate enough information on ancestors to know definitively what they may or may not have carried. That said, the best we can do is to test and pair our dogs against other dogs that we believe will positively offset them (considering all things: temperament, health, drive, conformation, etc.).
Inbreeding (or line breeding as many breeders call it) perpetuates the problems found in dogs as a dog used over and over again in the same line may carry a disease unknown to the breeder, dramatically increasing the probability that the negative gene(s) will present itself in the offspring. Ongoing research consistently proves that inbreeding impairs our dogs' immune systems, making them increasingly vulnerable to infection, allergies, and other immune-mediated problems, even cancer. (Here's a great link to understanding the effects of inbreeding. While it references cats, it applies to any animal, including dogs.) Here's another excellent, 15 minute YouTube video that details the problem and how we as breeders must work together to solve it (and we, personally, are working with many breeders to that end): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3oL4ntrYj8&feature=youtu.be.
Because of all of the unknowns involved, our dog's are DNA tested by UC Davis' Veterinarian Genetics Laboratory (https://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/services/dog/GeneticDiversityInStandardPoodles.php) so we can assure the most genetically-diverse pairings.
Additionally, we test our dogs for the Standard Poodle's most common inheritable diseases. A brief description of these diseases follows:
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. A DNA marker is available for this disease, allowing us to eliminate it totally in our pups.
Eye Diseases: Eye diseases can cause a series of ailments, including eye pain, discharge, cloudy or filmy eyes, glaucoma, etc.
Hip Dysplasia: In a dysplastic hip, the head of the femur fits loosely into a poorly developed, shallow acetabulum. 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, which promotes abnormal wear and tear. While it is considered to be genetic, being overweight supports the genetic potential for hip dysplasia and other skeletal diseases. 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 should be discouraged from jumping up and down from heights and from standing up on their back legs. For the most part, we have chosen to use PennHIP for hip testing. You can read about their hip tests here.
Hypothyroidism (Thyroid): Thyroid 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.
Neonatal Encephalopathy: This 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 have survived past their fifth week. A DNA marker is available for this disease, allowing us to eliminate it totally in our pups.
von Willebrands (vWD): This is 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. A DNA marker is available for this disease, allowing us to eliminate it totally in our pups.
We no longer breed for coat color in our hunting program because it takes away from encouraging and rebuilding that which we feel has become nearly lost in the breed (that being health, temperament, and a working aptitude).
In order of importance to us, temperament, health, working instincts, and structure are primary considerations; and we have made the decision not to be swayed from breeding dogs that meet our requirements, regardless of the favorability or disfavorability of their coat colors.
Many of our dogs were tested for coat color prior to this decision, so if color is important to you, please discuss that with us prior to placing a deposit on a pup.