Contrary to popular belief, the toy poodle is a playful, highly intelligent and easily trainable companion dog with an even temperament. As a bonus, this poodle is one of the few dog breeds that are hypoallergenic and virtually non-shedding and — with their adept watchdog skills, ease of training, and docile natures — toy poodles are a popular pet.
The average life expectancy of a toy poodle is 12 to 15 years, but individual dogs have set records for living up to 18 years. Furthermore, although they make fantastic pets, the toy poodle is a heritage breed and, therefore, more prone to certain inherited traits that can lessen their life expectancy.
The toy poodle is undoubtedly a popular breed but, as with any companion animal, they need specific care to ensure they thrive. This article will take a more in-depth look at breed-specific health problems and what you can do to extend your pet’s life expectancy.
Life Expectancy of the Toy Poodle
The idea that smaller dogs tend to live longer than larger dogs seems to hold true for the toy poodle, and poodles in general.
According to the UK Kennel Club, the toy poodle, standard poodle, and miniature poodle all have a life expectancy of over 12 years (source). The American Kennel Club lists the life expectancy of these breeds as 10 – 18 years. Regardless, if you decide to commit to this breed, you’re likely looking at approximately 15 years of fabulous companionship.
In general, the life expectancy for the toy and miniature varieties tends to be slightly longer than for the standard poodle. For many breeds, larger dogs age faster than smaller dogs, and such is the case with the standard poodle compared to its toy and miniature counterparts (source).
Hereditary Health Concerns
As is the case with many purebred dogs, toy poodles have been selectively bred so that they retain desired characteristics. However, the purebred breeding practice occasionally can emphasize certain health concerns, and the toy poodle is no exception.
The most commonly found genetic diseases and disorders for the toy poodle will be listed below (source).
In most cases, spotting the dangers early on, knowing the necessary preventative care measures, and understanding when to call in veterinary expertise will assist in lengthening the life span of your treasured canine companion.
Dermatological Diseases and Disorders
The two most common dermatological diseases and disorders that can affect toy poodles are otitis externa and skin tumors.
Otitis externa is quite common in breeds that have curly hair that can grow very long along with drooping ears, like the toy poodle.
Otitis externa is a condition that occurs as the hair around the ears curls inwards and grows down into the ear canal, causing irritation and discomfort, which can lead to inflammation.
In worst-case scenarios where the problem has been allowed to persist, they may require surgery to remove the ear canal’s outer wall and, sometimes, the entire ear canal itself.
Skin tumors in toy poodles happen due to abnormal cell growth, which causes lumps and bumps. These lumps are mostly completely benign but can cause discomfort.
Regardless of this, you should have any lump examined by a vet upon discovery, and they may need to conduct a biopsy to determine whether it is malignant or benign.
The only neurological disorder that is known to affect toy poodles is epilepsy. Epilepsy in toy poodles is almost always inherited and can cause mild or severe seizures. Seizures can take many forms, and some may incorporate elements of wild running as if being chased, hiding, or staggering around.
If your dog has seizures, you should take it to the vet to determine the cause, but generally, although the seizures can be frightening to behold, the prognosis for dogs that suffer from it is good.
Ocular Diseases and Disorders
The most common afflictions for toy poodles are unfortunately related to their eyesight. Toy poodles are likely to suffer from cataracts, distichiasis, Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy.
Distichiasis is related to the coat type and hair growth of the poodle breed. It occurs when eyelashes grow out of the gland openings in the eyelid instead of the eyelid itself, which then irritates the eye and can progressively worsen to such an extent that the cornea can get infected or even damaged.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy, cataracts, and Optic Nerve Hypoplasia all affect the toy poodle’s eyes and can cause pain, irritation, and eventual blindness. Cataracts can be removed but may return. For the other two diseases, in most cases, you can take preventative steps and perform treatments to ease the onset but, unfortunately, there is no cure.
Cushing’s Disease affects a significant number of dogs, as well as toy poodles. Cushing’s Disease causes the adrenal glands to malfunction and overproduce steroids. A dog that has Cushing’s will frequently be urinating, drinking more water and be more lethargic.
If Cushing’s Disease develops further, thin skin, hair loss, and potbelly are characteristic traits of an affected dog. Cushing’s Disease requires a veterinary diagnosis and life-long medication (source).
Skeletal Diseases and Disorders
The toy poodle is prone to three major skeletal diseases and disorders, and these are Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD), Patellar Luxation, and Legg-Calve-Perthes.
IVDD is common in small dog breeds with shorter legs and longer backs; thus, not all toy poodles will be susceptible. If your breed has a more “square” shape, meaning longer legs and a shorter back, then IVDD likely will not be a problem. A simple way to look at IVDD is as a slipped disc.
IVDD causes the cushioning between the spinal vertebrae to deteriorate or rupture. The discs then press against the spinal cord, causing pain and either a weakness or complete paralysis in the hind legs. In most cases, surgery is required to rectify the problem.
Patellar Luxation and Legg-Calve-Perthes both affect the legs of the toy poodle. Patellar Luxation is exceptionally common and found in almost seven percent of all puppies. It generally affects smaller breeds like the toy poodle, Chihuahuas, Boston and Yorkshire Terriers, and Pomeranians.
Patellar Luxation is a knee cap dislocation and, if a dog suffers from this, the knee cap will be outside of the femoral joint when flexed. It can cause lameness and pain (source).
Legg-Calve-Perthes is a degeneration of the hip joint. The toy poodle affected with Legg-Calve-Perthes will start to limp on the affected leg, and it may progress to a point where the dog is not putting any weight on the leg at all. This onset of pain and lameness may be gradual or sudden, depending on the circumstances.
Caring for Your Toy Poodle
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The toy poodle is an energetic and playful pup. More than that, the toy poodle’s hypoallergenic, virtually non-shedding coat makes them popular with people that have allergies or those averse to dog hair on the furniture.
Although they don’t really shed, the toy poodle’s close curly coat does require daily grooming and brushing unless clipped short. If you don’t pay attention to daily grooming, the fur closest to the skin can get matted, which can cause pain or discomfort and may result in you having to shave the entire dog for a new coat to grow out.
The toy poodle is highly trainable and intelligent, and their strong and athletic little bodies tally up to a dog that will excel in agility sports, obedience training, and retrieval. Due to their original breeding as hunters, they will also love playing fetch with you.
A friendly and companionable dog, the toy poodle requires daily exercise as they are very active dogs with a high energy level. Swimming or water retrieval exercises are good options as toy poodles are excellent swimmers and don’t mind getting their curls wet.
Toy poodles are very people-oriented and routine-driven but still like their peace and quiet during their downtime. This is why toy poodles aren’t the best choice for a house with children as they dislike roughhousing and chaos.
They are a regal breed and prefer to be treated that way, but far from being a cushion-sitter, they will enjoy a brisk jog with their human as much as lap time.
Toy poodles should be fed top-quality dog food that is coordinated to their age and activity level, and you should give them treats in moderation for training purposes. Toy poodles are quite prone to obesity, especially later in life, so a close watch should be kept on their food intake and weight (source).
It is in your best interest to get your toy poodle from a reputable breeder to rule out the most common health concerns. The cost of a toy poodle varies from breeder to breeder, so shop around until you find a reputable breeder you can trust that suits your budget.
The toy poodle is a highly intelligent and people-oriented pet but, as with many purebred dogs, they do have some hereditary health concerns related to the breed. Fortunately, many breeders are ethical in practice and will keep a close eye on these concerns to produce the best quality offspring.
A toy poodle is a generally healthy dog breed with a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years, on average. If properly cared for and you keep a close eye out for the warning signs of hereditary health concerns, the toy poodle will be a fantastic companion for you for a very long time.