As I’m sure you all know by now, Labradoodles are a great family dog and are hybrids of Labrador retrievers and poodles. As a crossbreed, they have hybrid vigor. That’s a process of mixing two breeds, resulting in a pet that will be healthier than the parents. Still, there are diseases and health issues that our Labradoodles can be predisposed to. These range from problems that are easy-to-treat, like basic ear infections, to life-threatening bleeding disorders, such as Von Willebrand’s disease.
Your veterinarian will be instrumental in diagnosing not just your pet’s current health issues but also in helping to predict what diseases might develop. This can involve blood testing, such as a DNA test, or radiographs, more commonly referred to as X-rays. Treatment will all depend on what your fur baby is prone to or develops.
The Most Common Health Issues with Labradoodles:
- Ear infections: A common infection in many dogs, but especially Labradoodles
- Allergies: Reactions to outside substances
- Joint Issues: Effecting the hip, elbow or knees
- Epilepsy: A neurological condition that causes seizures
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy: A condition causing degradation of eyesight
- Von Willebrand’s Disease: A disorder that prevents regular clotting of the blood.
- Sebaceous Adenitis: A less common, but still worth noting condition that affects the skin and hair follicles.
We’ll tackle these one-by-one. You’ll be aware of them all and can discuss with your Vet and/or breeder as appropriate.
One of the most common types of infections we see in any dog, but especially in Labradoodles, is an ear infection. They tend to be prone to these due to their ear conformation. Floppy ears have the tendency to trap in moisture and debris, setting your dog up for an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria. They often have curly hair in their ears as well, which holds in moisture and debris, too.
You’ll often notice that your Labradoodle has an ear infection because he starts scratching at his ears. If you look into the ears, you might see dark brown debris or smell a stinky odor. Take your dog to the veterinarian, and they will look into the ears with an otoscope and check it out for you.
Many veterinarians will also perform a test called ear cytology, where they take a sample of the debris from the ear canals and smear it on a slide. This slide is stained and viewed under the microscope to determine if yeast or bacteria are causing the infection.
Once they have confirmed infection and what is causing it, your veterinarian will make recommendations for treatment. This can include plucking the hair out of your pup’s ears to allow the medication to penetrate the canal. They will usually prescribe medicine and a cleaner which is used within the ear canals. In severe cases, they may also send you home with oral medications for your Labradoodle, such as a steroid to decrease inflammation.
Preventing Ear Infections
Veterinarians get this question all the time. In some cases, they can’t determine how the infection came about so it cannot be prevented. More commonly, a situation occurred where moisture built up in the ear canal. Cleaning your dog’s ears after swimming and bathing are very important to help prevent this from happening. I clean my pup’s ears after each bath and swimming adventure with this ear cleaner from Amazon. It works great! Not a single ear infection yet. 🙂
Allergies affect not just people, but also our pets. They can cause itchy, watery eyes or make us prone to issues like skin infections. An allergy is basically an abnormal reaction when our body is exposed to a foreign substance. This can include medication, food, or even dust. For some people and animals, the signs of an allergy are seasonal, while in others, they last year-round.
Food allergies are common in younger Labradoodles, often those less than two years of age. They can occur in older pets exposed to new foods though. The two primary places that a dog will react are within the skin layers or within the gut. This can mean that a food allergy to chicken causes your dog to chew his paws and have soft stool.
Environmental allergies can occur in any aged dog, but especially in older Labradoodles. Their body produces an immunoglobulin when exposed to the allergen. Like with food allergies, it can cause a range of signs, from ear infections to breaking out in hives.
Your veterinarian may make a presumptive diagnosis of allergies based on how your Labradoodle looks during the same, such as if he has his third ear infection within the same summer. They may also perform a food trial, where your pet is put on a hypoallergenic diet and fed nothing else for several weeks. If the issues clear up, they might be related to the food. Veterinarians can also perform allergy testing; this involves either intradermal skin testing or taking a blood sample and submitting it to a laboratory.
There are a wide variety of treatments for allergies. Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, are often used to combat the histamine release that occurs when an animal is exposed to an allergen. Allergy shots may also be developed, which come as injections or drops you can put under your dog’s tongue.
In more severe cases, new medications may be used to combat your dog’s allergens. These can include an injection called Cytopoint or oral medications like Apoquel or cyclosporine. Your veterinarian will work with you to find the best medication option for you and your Labradoodle.
The only real prevention for allergies is avoidance. That’s not possible in many situations, especially when your pet is allergic to something such as dust mites. If they are food-based, eliminating that food from your Labradoodle’s diet may be all that is needed.
Like their originating breeds, Labradoodles can be prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as knee issues in smaller-sized Labradoodles. Over time, these issues can lead to the development of lameness, pain, and arthritis.
In some cases, your veterinarian can diagnose a joint problem just based on palpation of the joints, such as hip dysplasia so severe that the hip luxates out of position. More commonly, X-rays are needed to diagnose the issues. Depending on your Labradoodle’s temperament and what joint needs to be imaged, sedation may be necessary to get a good image.
Treatment for joint diseases depends on the severity and the joint involved. If a knee luxates or moves out of position, surgery is often all that is needed to correct it. Surgery is not always an option and medication may be required. Your veterinarian is likely to put your dog on a joint supplement to help protect the joint. These are the most popular joint supplements on Amazon.
If your dog is in pain, they may utilize medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. These medications are a staple of arthritis management and are often used with other treatments, including gabapentin.
There is very little that can be done to prevent joint issues in our Labradoodles. It largely goes back to the breeder. When you’re buying your puppy, you should make sure that the parents have passed the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals X-ray tests. These are usually images taken of the hips and elbows to ensure that dysplasia is not present. If it is, the adult should not be bred, as she can pass the issue to her offspring.
Labradoodles are prone to epilepsy. This is a neurologic condition involving seizures, generally repeated episodes of seizure activity. These seizures may occur as a single event or as clusters of seizures. They are a disruption of normal brain activity and result in loss of consciousness and often convulsions or fits.
Your veterinarian will often diagnose seizures based on the history that you provide. This includes a description of the event, what your dog did, and how long it lasted. Your veterinarian will likely perform blood work to rule out metabolic causes of the seizures, such as liver disease.
There are a wide variety of causes of epilepsy, and the most common is idiopathic epilepsy, where we don’t actually know what the underlying cause is. It tends to be an inherited health problem, although in some pets, trauma to the head can cause seizures to occur. Other causes of seizures include exposure to toxins, kidney failure, and tumors.
Treatment for epilepsy depends on the severity of the seizures. In cases where they rarely occur, your veterinarian may discuss not putting your pet on anti-seizure, or anti-convulsant, medications. This is usually when the risk outweighs the benefit. In cases where your Labradoodle keeps having seizures or they last for an extended period, your veterinarian will likely put them on medication. There are many different types of anticonvulsant medications, with some of the more common being phenobarbital and levetiracetam.
In most cases, there is nothing that can be done to prevent seizures other than not breeding pets that have epilepsy. This is because some cases are genetic. In many cases, your veterinarian will have you keep a log of the seizures. This is to see if some are preventable, such as your puppy having a seizure when he plays too hard outside (Source VCA).
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Another common disease that affects Labradoodles is progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). This is a disease in which the retina, a portion of the eye, degenerates. It generally occurs bilaterally, or in both eyes, and leads to blindness over time. It is often called retinal dysplasia when the disease occurs in puppies, while adult dogs are affected by progressive retinal atrophy.
The first sign of a dog developing PRA is often difficulty seeing at night. They might become more skittish or have trouble getting around in the dark or in low light. Your veterinarian will perform an ophthalmic exam of your Labradoodle’s eyes. If she notices an issue such as dilated pupils or a change in the optic nerve, she might suspect PRA. Your dog’s retina often becomes hyperreflective and shines brightly. A particular test, called an electroretinogram, is performed at the ophthalmologist to actually diagnose the disease (source).
If your pup is diagnosed with PRA, there is no known treatment. Some veterinarians will recommend antioxidant supplements or vitamins to help slow retinal deterioration, but it’s hard to determine their effectiveness. These supplements tend to be very safe so they might provide some benefit to your dog. They can help minimize the build-up of by-products that are toxic to the lenses of the eyes, which can lead to cataract formation (source).
PRA tends to be an inherited disease. It can be prevented by testing breeding Labradoodles with a DNA test. For most dogs, including Labradoodles, the disease is inherited as a recessive disorder, meaning they have to inherit a copy of the gene from both of their parents. In addition to not breeding pets that have the disease, their relatives should not be bred as they might also carry the gene.
Von Willebrand’s Disease
Labradoodles are prone to a genetic disease known as Von Willebrand’s disease. It is a disorder where normal blood clotting does not occur. This is due to a missing component known as Von Willebrand’s factor which allows normal platelet binding. It is also a protein that signals for the clotting cascade to occur regularly.
Symptoms of Von Willebrand’s disease include bleeding or bruising. This doesn’t have to just occur at the site of injuries. It can also spontaneously occur from places such as the nasal passages. It can also manifest as blood in the urine or stool.
Von Willebrand’s disease is the most common clotting disorder that can be inherited in dogs. Your veterinarian may want to test for this disease before they perform surgery on your Labradoodle since it can occur in them. There is a blood test that assesses for Von Willebrand’s factor. Another test simply checks to see if your pet can clot normally by making a nick on their gingiva, called the buccal mucosal bleeding time test.
Your Labradoodle may be treated with a blood or platelet transfusion if they have Von Willebrand’s disease, especially if they need to have surgery, such as before his neuter. For a pet who isn’t having a bleeding episode, treatment likely isn’t required. Instead, you should limit some of your pup’s activities if there is a risk of him getting injured. Medications that may increase the risk for bleeding, such as aspirin, should also be avoided.
Because Von Willebrand’s disease is an inherited disease, dogs that have it should not be bred. In addition, carriers of the disease should not be bred as they can pass the recessive gene on to offspring, which further propagates the disease. You should always check to see if your breeder has screened for this genetic health issue (Source petMD).
Of the possible “common” diseases that Labradoodles can get, sebaceous adenitis is the least common. It is an inflammatory and autoimmune disease. In affected dogs, the sebaceous glands in the skin are targets by the body and attacked. These are glands that are found within the hair follicles. As such, this disease affects the skin.
Symptoms of sebaceous adenitis vary in Labradoodles. For many, they have hair loss that is the same on both sides of their body. They often also have brittle hair that mats easily. It is most common to find these spots on your pup’s head and torso. They might even have white flakes on their skin.
Your veterinarian may presumptively diagnose sebaceous adenitis on the physical exam based upon her findings. The only real way to diagnose it is to biopsy the skin and have it evaluated by a pathologist. They are looking for signs such as inflammation of the sebaceous glands.
Treatments for sebaceous adenitis are varied. Many pets need antibiotics because this skin disease has caused a secondary bacterial infection. Other procedures are designed to decrease the inflammation that is occurring. Some topical therapies are also beneficial to help soothe the skin, as well as get rid of the dry skin flakes that your pet may have. Unfortunately, treatments have to be continued life-long.
Preventing sebaceous adenitis is most effective by not breeding affected dogs, as it may have a genetic predisposition. Standard poodles tend to be one of the most common breeds affected, which is why Labradoodles have also been changed. As such, affected dogs should be removed from the breeding pool (Source VCA).
Wrapping it up!
Well! Now that you’re paranoid about all these possible conditions, let’s try and bring it back a bit for you and sum up. Labradoodles as a whole tend to be a very healthy breed of dogs! They do get several diseases and disorders that their ancestors, the Labrador, and poodle, have inherited. When getting a Labradoodle puppy, it is essential to ask the breeder about their parents’ medical history. Screening tests, such as hip X-rays checking for hip dysplasia, help us predict what diseases might happen in our puppies.
With the increasing occurrence of DNA testing, many genetic panels are checking for diseases such as Von Willebrand’s disease. Getting your puppy tested will also help your veterinarian determine other diseases that they might develop, such as the uncommon degenerative myelopathy. Having this information can help protect your pet’s health for years to come.
Even if your Labradoodle has one of these diseases — or another one, there are plenty of treatment options to help keep them healthy and comfortable. Keeping your pet supplements to help keep them healthy may also be beneficial. Many veterinarians recommend joint supplements, which help protect the joints, and fish oils, which can help with joint and coat health. Always remember though to discuss any supplements you are giving with your veterinarian so they can make proper recommendations.