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7 Common Labradoodle Health Issues to Watch Out For (Vet Answer)

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By Dr. Iulia Mihai

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Dr. Iulia Mihai

DVM MSc (Veterinarian)

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The Labradoodle is an incredibly friendly, intelligent, and loving hybrid breed. However, like any other breed, they are prone to certain health problems.

A Labradoodle is a mix between a Poodle and a Labrador Retriever, which means this hybrid can suffer from health problems that affect those two breeds.

Before mating, Poodles and Labrador Retrievers should be tested for hip and elbow dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) problems. Labradoodles can also suffer from skin and ear infections, epilepsy, Addison’s disease, and von Willebrand disease.

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The 7 Common Labradoodle Health Issues

1. Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition that Labradoodles can inherit from Labradors1. With this condition, the femoral head does not fit perfectly in its cavity, which causes abnormal development of the joint.

Hip dysplasia is a congenital disease, and the affected dogs can suffer from clinical signs of varying degrees of severity from the time that they are puppies. The affected dog’s life is sometimes so severely restricted that they can hardly walk. In any case, hip dysplasia in dogs is associated with considerable pain and is usually lifelong.

The clinical signs in Labradoodles include:
  • Loss of joint firmness
  • Loss of muscle mass in the hind legs
  • Degradation of the joint (in the advanced stage)
  • Joint weakness
  • Low physical activity
  • Difficulty when standing
  • Refusal to run, jump, or climb the stairs/in the car
  • Bunny hopping
  • Deformed position of the rear legs
  • More developed shoulder muscles because the dog uses their front legs to support their weight
labradoodle sitting on soffa with his owner
Image Credit: Olena Yakobchuk, Shutterstock

2. Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a condition that Labradoodles can inherit from Labradors, and it affects the humero-radio-ulnar joint and evolves into early disabling arthrosis.

Labradoodles with elbow dysplasia will show the following clinical signs:
  • Sudden lameness of the affected limb (due to advanced degenerative joint disease)
  • Intermittent or persistent lameness of the forelimbs that is aggravated by exercise
  • Pain when extending or flexing the elbow
  • Holding the affected limb away from the body
  • Fluid accumulation in the joint
  • Reduced range of motion

The clinical signs occur at the age of 4–6 months and are sporadic. Not all dogs will show signs when they are young.

3. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Labradoodles can inherit this condition from both Poodles and Labradors. The condition consists of progressive degeneration/atrophy of the visual receptors (photoreceptors), which are represented by two types of cells:

  • Cones, which are responsible for daytime vision
  • Rods, which are responsible for night and twilight vision

In PRA, the rod cells are mainly affected, so the dog will first lose their night vision. As the disease progresses, the cone cells also become affected, and your dog will gradually lose their sight altogehter. The disease develops simultaneously in both eyes.

PRA is usually only discovered at an advanced stage because it can go unnoticed; it is not painful and does not cause inflammation of the eyes, tearing, or other clinical signs of eye diseases.

Most dogs will get used to their new state of being because the disease sets in gradually, and changes in their behavior may not even be apparent.

In some cases, you may notice your dog:
  • Hitting surrounding objects
  • Staring blankly
  • Avoiding stairs
  • Having uncertainty when going up and down the stairs
  • Avoiding dark places
apricot labradoodle dog sitting on cozy chair
Image Credit: Olena Yakobchuk, Shutterstock

4. Addison’s Disease

Addison’s disease, or hypoadrenocorticism, is a deficiency of the adrenal gland to produce corticosteroid hormones. This condition can be inherited by Labradoodles from their Poodle parents.

The clinical signs mimic several diseases, being extremely vague and non-specific. For this reason, Addison’s disease is quite difficult to diagnose. This condition is often discovered accidentally when blood tests are performed and the veterinarian finds an electrolyte imbalance.

Most dogs suffering from Addison’s disease are diagnosed after going through an Addisonian crisis (adrenal crisis or acute adrenal insufficiency); the dogs are unable to adapt to external or internal stress factors and then collapse in shock. The level of potassium in the blood rises above the normal limit, causing an abnormal heart rhythm and a very slow heart rate. Addison’s disease can also lead to severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Only the ACTH stimulation test can confirm the diagnosis.

All that said, affected dogs can benefit from a normal quality of life if the disease is diagnosed early and treated accordingly.

5. Skin and Ear infections

Skin Infections

Skin infections in Labradoodles can often be triggered by food allergies.

Food allergy can manifest through:
  • Redness of the skin
  • Excessive scratching
  • Secondary skin infections
  • Hair loss
  • Scales and crusts on the skin
  • Wounds

A change in your dog’s diet will often help treat this condition.

Ear Infections

Since they have floppy ears, Labradoodles are prone to developing chronic ear infections. Their ears will trap moisture inside, creating a favorable environment for the development of microorganisms.

Clinical signs of ear infections (otitis) in Labradoodles include:
  • Head shaking
  • Pawing at the affected ear
  • Excessive scratching of the affected ear
  • Yelping (especially when scratching the affected ear)
  • Colored and smelly discharge coming from the affected ear
  • Scabs and crusts in the ear canal

Regular cleaning of your Labradoodle’s ears (at least once a week) can prevent ear infections.

red labradoodle dog lying on marble tiles with head on the ground
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

6. Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that is usually inherited from the parents (for Labradoodles, typically the Labrador parent). This chronic disease causes seizures, many of which are manifested through convulsions. Unfortunately, it’s challenging to distinguish epileptic seizures from other convulsive seizures caused by other health problems.

This condition can be classified as:
  • Structural disease (when an underlying cause can be identified in the brain)
  • Idiopathic disease (i.e., without a specific cause; in this case, genetic predisposition is taken into account)

In most cases, epilepsy must be managed throughout your dog’s life.

The clinical signs may include:
  • Shaking
  • Hiding
  • Collapsing
  • Loss of consciousness (in generalized epileptic seizures; in partial epileptic seizures, dogs do not lose consciousness)
  • Rigid limbs

7. Von Willebrand Disease

Von Willebrand disease is the most common hereditary coagulopathy found in dogs. Labradoodles inherit this condition from their Poodle parents.

This condition is characterized by recurrent bleeding and prolonged clotting times. In affected dogs, the von Willebrand coagulation factors (hence the condition’s name) are found in reduced numbers compared to normal or may be completely absent in severe cases.

There are three types of von Willebrand disease: type I, type II, and type III (the most severe). Poodles are often affected by type I, so their Labradoodle offspring can inherit type I von Willebrand disease.

In type I, the concentration of circulating von Willebrand factors is detectable in the blood, but the values are lower than normal. It is a mild form of the disease that is often discovered accidentally during routine surgery. Wounds will bleed more than usual, but otherwise, affected dogs can lead normal lives.

Australian Labradoodle Sleeping
Image Credit: Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz, Shutterstock

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Labradoodles are intelligent, loyal, and loving dogs that can inherit certain diseases from their parents. The most common diseases that these hybrids can inherit are von Willebrand disease, Addison’s disease, progressive retinal atrophy, epilepsy, and hip and elbow dysplasia. Also, Labradoodles are more prone to ear infections because they have floppy ears, which creates a favorable environment for bacteria to grow. They can suffer from food allergies, which in turn can lead to skin infections due to excessive scratching. It is recommended to have regular routine check-ups to ensure that your Labradoodle is healthy or to catch certain conditions in time.

Featured Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

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