Dog lovers around the world are being drawn to the shaggy-coated Labradoodle, the most popular in America among newer “designer hybrids” such as the goldendoodle, Yorkiepoo, cockapoo, schnoodle and puggle.
Emerging in Austrailia in the 1970s, the Labradoodle is a cross-breed between a Labrador retriever and a standard or miniature poodle. Most Labradoodles, complementing their playful name, exhibit a friendly nature. Of course there is also the high-energy factor, common in both Labs and poodles. Doodles are smart and sociable, and they generally get along well with other dogs and children. The life expectancy of these wavy-haired pooches with lovable expressions is about 13 to 15 years.
Labradoodle Health Issues
Not surprisingly, because they share a combined history of the Lab and poodle, Labradoodles have shown health concerns stemming from both breeds. A “hybrid” is not always healthier than a purebred dog, says Allan Reznik, editor at large for Dog Fancy and Dog World magazines and a recognized dog breed expert.
Reznik says that many careful breeders now use genetic testing to reduce the risks of inherited diseases. If you are considering buying a puppy, make sure both parents were health tested.
For example, both parents of a Labradoodle puppy should have had their eyes checked in the past year, and the breeder should be able to produce current testing certificates upon your request.
The important lesson is that being a “hybrid” doesn’t make the Labradoodle some sort of super illness-free pet. They do have health problems. Says one breeder in Australia:
“I’ve heard from, and spoken with numerous people with labradoodles that have major health issues, and it would be extremely unfortunate for potential owners to be led to believe that they are ensured a healthy dog simply because this is a cross breed.”
Trouble Areas From the Lab Side
Labs are prone to joint problems, including hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. Either of these diseases can bring about arthritic issues.
Eye problems are also common in Labs. Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) or cataracts have a potential to lead to total blindness. Retinal dysplasia is another possibility.
Trouble Areas From the Poodle Side
Poodles, although in general a healthy breed, have also been diagnosed with hip dysplasia and PRA.
Other health risks concerning poodles are:
- Von Williebrand’s disease, a bleeding disorder that causes inadequate blood clotting, comparable to hemophilia in people. For this disease there is no cure.
- Addison’s disease, a pituitary gland problem that cannot be detected before onset. Once diagnosed, however, with proper treatment the affected pet can lead a normal life.
- Sebaceous adenitis (SA), a rare condition, sometimes occurs in poodles. As the oil-producing glands in the skin stop working, the result is a rank odor, dry, scaly skin and hair loss.
Allergies in Labradoodles
Labradoodles often have allergy problems. Certain allergies (such as food allergies) are becoming more commonplace in various different breeds and can be hard to diagnose. Skin problems or excessive foot-licking can be signs of an allergy. If your Doodle is diagnosed with a food allergy, your veterinarian may recommend a hypoallergenic diet.
Hold on, all you Doodle lovers — I’m not trying to sway your desire to own one of these easy-to-train dogs. Please understand that not all health problems are inherited! The best genetics the world over won’t add up to much if your dog does not receive the proper care. Please see your veterinarian for a complete physical examination after adopting a new dog.
Keeping a regular checkup schedule, providing great nutrition and keeping your pet well groomed and parasite-free can make all the difference in your Labradoodle’s life. (And, of course, showing him that he is one of the loves in your life won’t hurt, either!)
- Family Pet Veterinary Center: Hybrid breeds — designer dogs or disaster in the making?
- Australian Labradoodle Association of America: General care and health
- Canine Health Blog: Health concerns present regardless in Labradoodles