Common health problems with Labradoodles

3 May 2024 - 4 min read
Labradoodle

Labradoodles are an incredibly popular breed. They're a cross between two already-popular dogs in a Labrador Retriever and a standard (or miniature) poodle. 

They’re lively, personable and easygoing. Popular with first-time owners and families, it’s easy to see why you’d want one. 

But despite them being a crossbreed, the Labradoodle is still prone to common health issues. We cover each one below, how to care for one and how insurance helps. 

The most common Labradoodle health issues

Brown Labradoodle

Addison’s disease

When the immune system of affected dogs targets the adrenal glands, it stops producing two vital hormones involved in many bodily functions. 

The symptoms are commonly vague and non-specific but include lethargy and intermittent GI signs. 

But some dogs suffer an ‘Addisonian crisis’, which can cause sudden and pronounced weakness or collapse. The condition is a medical emergency that requires prompt medical intervention from a veterinary surgeon. 

Diagnosing Addison’s can be difficult and requires a specific blood test from your vet. Treatment usually involves monthly injections and oral medication, and most dogs go on to lead healthy lives.

Skin allergies

Allergies occur when an overactive immune system produces too much histamine in response to allergic substances. Common allergens include: 

  • Pollen 

  • Dust mites 

  • Fleas 

  • Certain foods

Symptoms usually begin at one to three years old when the skin (typically on the belly, armpits, paws and ears) becomes red and itchy. The scratching can lead to secondary infections; allergies are another reason Labradoodles are prone to ear infections, which we discuss later. 

The most effective treatment involves avoiding the triggering allergens. This often requires some trial and error, although blood tests can help. Other treatments include anti-inflammatory and anti-itch medication, shampoos and supplements.

Ear infections

With long and pendulous ear flaps, and often hairy ear canals to match, Labradoodles have ears that are more likely to harbour bacteria and yeast. In sufficient quantities, these microorganisms will trigger inflammation and pain. 

Affected dogs will often shake their heads or actively scratch at their ear(s). You may also notice a potent smell or discharge. 

Infections usually resolve with appropriate treatment, which most commonly involves applying a topical antimicrobial solution to the ear canal. Your vet should prescribe this. Prompt treatment is important to prevent long-term damage to the ear canal.

Elbow dysplasia

This is an inherited condition in which the bones of the elbow joint don't align properly as they grow. It causes joint inflammation due to the abnormal pressures on the bones. 

Symptoms usually start before a year of age but may develop later in life due to secondary arthritis. The affected joints will be painful, and dogs usually present with lameness in one or both front legs. This is often worse after exercise. 

Treatment usually consists of rest and anti-inflammatory drugs followed by exercise restriction, weight management and physiotherapy. Your vet may also recommend surgery. 

Hip dysplasia

An inherited condition in which dogs are born with laxity in one or both hip joints, leading to arthritis and pain. Overweight dogs are more likely to develop symptoms, which include stiffness, lameness and exercise intolerance. Vets usually diagnose dogs before their second birthday. 

The affected joints are usually painful and less flexible when examined by a vet. Vets may recommend corrective surgery in some young dogs. However, most dogs will drastically improve after medication and rest. 

The condition can often be managed longer term with a controlled exercise regime, maintaining a healthy weight and joint supplements

How to care for your Labradoodle

labradoodle

Genetic testing for inheritable disease

Some conditions that Labradoodles struggle with are inherited. For some conditions, you can use screening to prevent these issues from getting passed on.

For example, due to being inheritable, dogs diagnosed with severe elbow or hip dysplasia should not be used for breeding.

Supplementation

Joint supplements and complementary practices such as physiotherapy/hydrotherapy can also prove very beneficial.

Exercise and weight management 

If your puppy is diagnosed with either of these conditions, you can take several steps to reduce how they impact your dog later in life. 

These include feeding a calorie-restricted diet (especially during early growth) and maintaining a healthy weight throughout life. This reduces the impact on the joints. 

Exercise sustains healthy muscle mass around the joints. But it’s better to avoid very strenuous exercise. It could place unnecessary forces on the elbows and hips, increasing the risk of arthritis later in life. 

A proper exercise regime can reduce the chance of obesity, which is a major risk factor in all dog breeds.

Grooming and ear cleaning

Regular grooming can help prevent skin and ear problems. It often relies on removing the underlying cause or allergen. This might involve: 

  • Changing the diet

  • Avoiding walking in areas with lots of grass or plants

  • Maintaining a home free of dust

  • Keeping up to date with parasite control 

But things like keeping their coat well-groomed and their ears cleaned will reduce the chance of flare-ups. Cleaning the ear with a non-irritant solution, to remove excessive wax, will help to reduce the growth of infectious organisms. 

Prompt treatment of any skin and ear infections, as well as using anti-allergy medication when recommended by a vet, is essential in preventing long-term damage to the skin and ears.

Certain allergies are considered to be inherited, and dogs with significant skin or ear problems do risk passing it on to their offspring.

Communicating with your vet

Opening a dialogue with your vet is essential, whatever breed you own. For example, the majority of cases of Addison’s disease are immune-mediated, to which the cause is largely unknown. This means owners will need to work closely with their vet once treatment has started, to ensure their dog’s drug dosages are correct and that side effects are minimised. 

In the case of Addison’s disease, it consists of three to six monthly health checks during the first year of treatment, but it’s an example of how consistent communication is the cornerstone of good Labradoodle health. 

Preventative care is the cornerstone of good health.

How dog insurance can help

Labradoodle insurance can help you prepare for unforeseen health issues.

Dog insurance helps with up to £15,000 vet fee cover, unlimited 24/7 vet calls with FirstVet and a host of other perks.

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Get £15,000 lifetime vet fee cover with our Complete policy.

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Ben Newman
Editorial Content Lead

Ben is a writer and editor with years of experience in insurance. After spending a long time creating content for some of Britain's biggest brands as part of a marketing agency, Ben began to focus on insurance and hasn't looked back since. When he's not consuming copious cups of tea, you can find him reading a book, daydreaming about having an Australian Shepherd and shouting at Liverpool on the TV.