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Health Information

Labradoodle HealthLike any breed of dog, the Labradoodle is susceptible to certain inherited diseases. Listed below are some of the diseases which can affect the Labradoodle. Being a cross breed, the Labradoodle can inherit diseases from both the Labrador and the Poodle. Careful breeding can minimise the risk, it is therefore essential if considering buying a puppy, that both parents are health tested. More information regarding buying a puppy can be found here.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a painful, crippling disease that causes a dog's hip to weaken, deteriorate and become arthritic. It stems from abnormal development of the hip joint, a ball-and-socket type joint, in which the head of the femur does not fit properly into the socket, resulting in inflammation and destruction of the joint capsule. Hip dysplasia can be mild and slightly disabling, or it can be severe and cause crippling arthritis.

Several factors contribute to the development of hip dysplasia, and is most common in large and giant breed dogs. Some breeds are genetically predisposed to the disease, including German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and rottweilers. Environmental factors like type of diet, rapid weight gain and rate of growth also contribute to abnormal hip development.

Both dam and sire should be hip scored, and results available for you to see. The original form is green, and unless the breeder owns the stud dog, a photocopy of his results should also be available. The same applies with elbow tests (outlined below) results are on a gold coloured form.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow Dysplasia refers to the abnormal development of certain parts of the elbow joint during the growing phase of a dog's life. Some areas of the joint may have a disruption of normal cartilage development or failure to fuse during growth resulting in an uneven joint surface, inflammation, joint swelling, lameness and arthritis.

The exact cause of elbow dysplasia is unknown, but it is probably due to a combination of genetic factors, over-nutrition with rapid growth, trauma and hormonal factors. Affected dogs are usually large breeds, including: Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Bernese mountain dogs, Newfoundlands, German shepherds and Chow Chows. Signs usually begin between 5 to 12 months of age.

Elbow dysplasia eventually results in elbow arthritis which may be associated with joint stiffness (reduced range of motion) and lameness.

PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy)

The genetic disorder, prcd-PRA , causes cells in the retina at the back of the eye to degenerate and die, even though the cells seem to  develop normally early in life. The “rod” cells operate in low light levels and are the first to lose normal function. Night blindness results. Then the “cone” cells gradually lose their normal function in full light situations. Most affected dogs will eventually be blind. Typically, the clinical disease is recognized first in early adolescence or early adulthood. Conditions that seem to be prcd-PRA might instead be another disease and might not be inherited. It’s important to remember that not all retinal disease is PRA and not all PRA is the prcd form of PRA. Annual eye exams by a veterinary ophthalmologist will build a history of eye health that will help to diagnose disease.

Although prcd-PRA is inherited, it can be avoided in future generations by testing dogs before breeding. Identification of dogs that do not carry diseased genes is the key.

Hereditary Cataracts

Hereditary Cataracts is a disease found in Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Standard Poodles and other breeds such as the American cocker, the lens of the eye becomes  opaque and vision is impaired. Inheritance of this disease varies between breeds with some showing recessive inheritance and others dominant, it is therefore very important that both parents of the Labradoodle puppy for sale have clear current annual eye certificate.  Research has shown that Labradors and Golden Retrievers can be diagnosed with HC at any time up to old age and clear annual eye tests are essential while the dog is bred. The severity of the cataracts in the Retrievers  varies considerably, in Standard Poodles HC usually only appears in young dogs, it is  equal in both eyes causing blindness.

HC is usually diagnosed in pet dogs because the owners see that their dog is bumping into furniture or the pupils have changed colour. The vet will refer the pet to the specialist who will carry out the same eye exam as is done for breeding stock. The process is painless and simple, drops are put into the eyes and after a few minutes the dog is taken into a dark room  for examination and diagnosis. Corrective surgery is possible but the patient must be suitable for a quiet post operative period.

The annual eye test carried out by eye specialist looks for the early signs of this disease so that affected dogs are not bred to pass on this condition to their puppies. All good Labradoodle breeders eye test and will show you the current certificate for the mother and a copy of the father’s if he is elsewhere.

BVA Eye Test

This is an annual test due to the fact some diseases have a late onset. It is done to ensure there is no evidence of hereditary eye disease in dogs used for breeding. Always ensure the breeder you choose lets you see the original certificate, which is white, and not a photocopy. A photocopy of the stud dog’s certificate (unless he is owned by the breeder as well) should also be available.

von Willebrand's Disease

von Willebrand's Disease (vWD) is a common inherited bleeding disorder.

In von Willebrand's Disease, the dog is missing a substance, which helps the platelets form clots and stabilizes Factor VIII in the clotting process. This substance is called 'von Willebrand's factor.' Because of the deficient clotting of blood, dogs with von Willebrand's disease have excessive bleeding upon injury. This would be similar to haemophilia in humans.

Certain breeds have a higher incidence of vWD than others. German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Shetland Sheepdogs, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, German Shorthaired Pointers, Golden Retrievers, Standard Poodles, and Scottish Terriers all have a higher than normal incidence, showing that it can be inherited.

There is no cure for von Willebrand's disease. Prevention should be made through eliminating affected individuals from any breeding program. DNA tests are available to determine which dogs may have this trait.

Sebaceous Adenitis (SA)

Sebaceous Adenitis is not a common skin disorder, it does however occur more often is certain breeds of dogs.  Most commonly Sebaceous Adenitis is found in Standard Poodles and Akitas. 

Within this condition the body's sebaceous glands become inflamed and are eventually destroyed.  When the sebaceous glands are no longer functioning the dog will exhibit a variety of symptoms.  These symptoms include, loss of hair, thickening of the skin, scaley skin, secondary skin infections, and frequently a musty odour.

Clinically diagnosed dogs with SA should never be used for breeding. 

There is a bi annual test for this condition, and is essential for Labradoodles of F2 generation and higher and also for backcrosses.

Addison's Disease

Addison’s Disease is the failure of the pituitary gland to produce the hormone ACTH which regulates the production of an essential steroid called Cortisol. Without this steroid the body cannot control stress or properly digest food. 

The symptoms are often vague and may include some or all of the following: diarrhoea, weakness in the limbs, excessive drinking and peeing, increased heart rate. It is usually only when the dog collapses in an Addison’s crisis that the fact of the disease is discovered by testing with the ACTH hormone.

It is vital that you know that any Labradoodle who suffers a severe collapse  may be suffering an Addison’s crisis and should be tested for it. Dogs die unnecessarily if undiagnosed because the Good News is that Addison’s is mostly treatable and the dog can lead a good life with the correct treatment. Tell your vet that labradoodles are known to suffer from Addison’s because many vets are not aware of this.

This disease is found in Standard Poodles and many other breeds including Labradors, Labradoodles and Goldendoodles who are known to be at increased risk. It is essential that breeders are aware of the risks in the lines they use and do not breed dogs from high risk lines. No dog that has already produced Addison’s in their progeny should be mated again and the removal of such dogs from the breeding stock is the act of a responsible breeder. It used to be thought that Addison’s Disease is a simple recessive disease requiring both parents to be carriers but more recent research has shown that the picture may be more complicated than that, nevertheless both parents of an Addison’s dog must be considered carriers and bred no more. Siblings of an Addison’s dog should ideally not be bred either as they are likely to be carriers.  Ideally breeding dogs should have a known 3 generation pedigree free of dogs that have produced Addison’s.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is repeated seizures caused by abnormal brain activity. Seizures can also occur because of disease elsewhere, for example heart problems can cause insufficient oxygen to reach the brain which can cause seizures, a onetime seizure caused by infection and high temperature is not epilepsy. Onset of idiopathic (disease from an unknown cause) epilepsy is typically between one and three years old.

Epilepsy can be fairly mild with the odd seizure that will not gravely endanger the dog’s health if proper treatment is given.  Frequent and severe seizures though can be difficult to treat and may cause further damage to the brain and other organs, sometimes resulting in coma. Roughly 2/3rds of epilepsy can be well controlled by medication.  If a seizure lasts more than a couple of minutes or there are several seizures then the vet needs to be called as an emergency, otherwise dogs generally recover better at home as they are usually very disoriented after a seizure and the seizure can be noted on an epilepsy diary for the dog’s next vet visit.

As yet we do not know the inheritance of the more common forms of epilepsy, the genes responsible for some rare forms in some breeds (myoclonic epilepsy and ceroid lipofuscinoisis} have now been discovered and research is on-going. Many of the idiopathic epilepsies result from a genetic cause. 

The message for breeders is clearly that dogs with epilepsy must not be bred. It is advised that dogs that have produced epilepsy on two occasions should also not be bred, the difficulty with dogs that continue to be bred after producing one epileptic puppy is that a second diagnosis of epilepsy in the dog’s progeny may be regarded as something that a conscientious breeder could have avoided. Sharing of pedigrees and diagnosis of epilepsies by breeders and owners will assist in research and reduce the risk of breeding high risk dogs.

Canine Autoimmune Thyroiditis

This is by far the most common cause of Thyroid Disease and appears usually at early sexual maturity resulting from the presence of anti-thyroid antibodies in genetically susceptible dogs which slowly deplete the thyroid gland reserve resulting in hypothyroidism in the older dog. Bitches with these anti-thyroid antibodies can pass them on to their puppies in the colostrum which may then display autoimmune disease or autoimmune thyroiditis as they get older.

Thyroid screening is of greatest value at maturity with dogs over a year old and bitches a few weeks  after their first season (not close to season) and then on an annual basis. Low levels of thyroid function (<1/2 young healthy animals preferably in the top 1/3rd) should be regarded as indicative of potential disease. The Thyroglobulin Autoantibody (TgAA) test can detect autoimmune thyroiditis up to two years before the onset of symptoms. 

Symptoms include weakness, stiffness, seizures, hair-loss, tummy upsets, infertility and cardiac problems. Therefore thyroid testing will be useful where several vague symptoms appear.

Treatment to prevent the progress to full thyroid loss requires giving thyroid hormone twice daily. Thyroiditis is miserable and debilitating and treatment is essential.

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