Goldendoodles are a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Poodle, their intelligence, friendly nature, and affection makes them a favorite among dog owners. Given the breed is a crossbreed (hybrid), their traits echo both breeds, combining the best of two or more breeds, however, with genetics it can also create the potential for developing hereditary genetic health problems. Goldendoodles have the proclivity to develop health conditions common to both Golden Retrievers and Poodles. In this article, I will discuss the 5 most common diseases Goldendoodles are prone to and how to prevent them, if possible.
Initially, one of the best steps you can take when looking for a Goldendoodle is to be sure you locate a good and reputable breeder. A good breeder will be able to provide you with all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems (as much as possible). Having appropriate genetic health testing is key to decreasing your chances of bringing home a puppy that could pose a risk for future health issues.
Regarding orthopedic diseases, Hip Dysplasia is more common in large dogs. This is a genetic disease causing mild to severe changes to the inner workings of the hip joint. In more technical terms, it is when the femoral head (the ball portion of the femur) and the acetabulum (the pelvis’s hip socket) align poorly resulting in the inability to provide the smooth movement a pet requires for a lifetime of weight-bearing and normal wear and tear.
When an animal suffers from hip dysplasia the “ball” portion does not sit within the hip socket but rather rests on the edge of the hip socket. Or, the socket itself is too shallow to hold the hip in place resulting in bone-on-bone contact producing inflammation (heat). The body, adapting to the situation, produces extra little bits of bone around the joint (attempting to stabilize it), producing what is commonly referred to as arthritis. Over time, this condition continues to become more painful and severe for your dog.
This condition can be a very expensive course of treatment (it can range from the low side of $1,500 to over $12,000), affecting one or both hips simultaneously. Surprisingly, many Goldendoodles who suffer from this disease do not exhibit any symptoms or appear to be in pain, resulting in crippling arthritis as they age. Since it is not always obvious to the pet owner their pet is suffering from hip dysplasia, it is important to ensure your dog receives regular checkups with their veterinarian. If your dog is displaying any symptoms of the disease you may notice some of the following conditions.
- bunny hopping
- running with both hind legs together
- short strides of the hind legs
- having trouble jumping up
- muscle atrophy on the hind legs
- sore and slow getting up (especially after exercise)
- very sensitive and protective of the rear end
But how can we prevent this from happening to our dog, or ensure we catch this disease in its early stages? Practicing due diligence when searching for a Goldendoodle puppy can play a large part in the health of your new family member. Be sure to do your research on the breeder and the puppies’ parents, make sure the correct genetic testing is done, as well as, requesting evidence from the breeder the parents have hip certifications from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
Due diligence when looking to purchase a puppy is key but there are other actions you, as an owner, can take to help lessen the occurrence of hip dysplasia in your pet. Supply your pet with a balanced diet, one that is not high in carbohydrates, fat and excessive dietary calcium. Additionally, studies suggest overfeeding your Goldendoodle as a puppy can be harmful, when feeding your puppy look for puppy foods with comparatively lower calcium content and feed according to your pup’s activity level. Further, it is important to be aware of over-exercising your Goldendoodle (and other larger breed of dogs) can lead to injury contributing to hip incongruence.
Taking your dog to the vet for a comprehensive evaluation allows for a better diagnosis with a simple X-ray (revealing the conformation of the hips and identify arthritis if present), and if required, radiographs, which are essential in determining the presence of dysplasia or any other problems with your pets hips. It is important to note the earlier this condition is detected the better for treatment and possibility of slowing the progression of the condition.
2. Sebaceous Adenitis -SA (Skin Disease)
The sebaceous glands can become inflamed often leading to progressive loss of hair. Though the cause for this disease is unknown, it is considered a hereditary condition, most likely an autosomal recessive inherited disease, likely in predisposed breeds such as the standard poodle. Though mostly a cosmetic skin disorder, the problem will start at the head, neck, and back causing scaly skin and matted, thinning hair, as the glands malfunction.
The sebaceous glands of the skin produce a fatty substance (sebum) that provides the skin with needed moisture and aids in basic immune functions. For dogs with this condition, the disease causes the glands to become inflamed resulting in the gland eventually being destroyed. There are two forms of this disease; (1) granulomatous form (tends to occur in long-coated breeds) and (2) short-coated breed form. If your dog suffers from this disease you may notice the following:
- whitish scaling of the skin
- musty odor, especially along hairline
- clusters of lesions that form on the head or body
- scabs, sores and hot spots
- waxy, matted hair (due to the scaling)
- fur may have a moth-eaten appearance, be sparse or dull
- fur can be completely absent (hair loss – alopecia)
- though itching is not a primary component of the disease, it will become more apparent as the abnormal skin becomes secondarily infected, with bacteria and/or yeast
If you notice your dog exhibiting any of these symptoms it is a good idea to have your veterinarian conduct an examination. The vet will base their diagnosis on skin biopsy samples obtained through scraping, as well as, a fungal and bacterial culture of the skin and hair, if deemed necessary.
The care required will vary per dog, but common treatments include keratolytic shampoos and emollient rinses or humectants every 3-5 days. Oil baths or oil sprays are popular offering the best chance of improvement in the coat, skin, and overall comfort. Vitamins A, E, and C, Oral omega-3 and/or omega-6 supplement may be given daily, or as prescribed per your veterinarians’ instructions. In cases where the area develops a bacterial or yeast infection, particularly when lesions become itchy and dogs scratch the area, antibiotics and corticosteroids will be required as part of your dog’s treatment protocol.
At present, there is not a cure for sebaceous adenitis, but secondary symptoms must be managed on an ongoing basis, as your dog’s health and quality of life will depend upon the quality and endurance of care you provide. Food does not appear to influence the outcome of a dog with SA. The emphasis is centered on the long-term car with daily therapy through bathing, oil treatments, and supplements as the primary approach to the disease’s management.
3. Sub valvular Aortic Stenosis (Heart Condition)
An inherited cardiovascular condition, aortic stenosis, is commonly found in a variety of large breed dogs. Dogs affected with this disease are born with a heart or aorta too narrow at the site via which the newly oxygenated blood exits as it is pumped to the whole body (from the left ventricle into the aorta). Due to the narrow constriction, the heart must work harder to pump past this area for the entire body to receive all the oxygen-rich blood required for normal function.
The severity of the narrowing impacts the symptoms experienced by your dog. Some dogs will inherit a mild, barely undetectable narrowing while others can suffer serious impediment to the outflow of blood from the heart. Signs that are often consistent with an inability to feed the body the correct amount of blood includes the following:
- fainting (due to brain not receiving the right amount of oxygen)
- poor growth
- exercise intolerance
Like other diseases common to the Goldendoodle, your dog may not display the above symptoms, however, the secondary effects of a chronically overworked heart will cause the heart to increase in size, causing your dog to develop other symptoms. The large heart will cause coughing (heart takes up too much room in the chest), difficulty breathing, and dangerous heart rhythm abnormalities. In extreme cases, sadly, sudden death is another possible outcome for these patients suffering from an enlarged heart.
The best detection for your dog is a comprehensive veterinarian exam. Identifying this disease is usually accomplished by a heart exam as the vet will be able to detect a heart murmur, a characteristic of this disease. Once a murmur is detected most veterinarians will recommend a complete cardiac examination, including a chest X-ray, an electrocardiogram (EKG), and most importantly, an ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram). It should be noted a definitive diagnosis always requires an echocardiogram to evaluate the narrowed structures that define the disease.
Unfortunately, the treatment for aortic stenosis in dogs is not up to par as their human counterpart. A few strides have been made in the ability to devise surgical modes of altering the configuration of this delicate area, there is still a long way to go. Currently, surgeries are not yet considered to be worth their extreme risk, therefore, veterinarians are concentrating their efforts on medical solutions to reducing the impact of the heart’s inevitable work overload. The main treatments currently center around exercise restrictions and beta-blockers to reduce the blood pressure as the blood exits the heart.
The cost of treatment can vary, treating with beta-blocking drugs is a low cost, however, follow-up echocardiograms ranging in price from $500-$600 each, can add up over time as you properly treat your dog for this condition.
The only way to achieve a lower incidence of this disease is through careful and responsible breeding programs. With the ability to easily screen the parents with an echocardiogram before breeding, this will help ensure the trait has been identified in a future breeding dog’s line. Experts highly recommend all siblings and parents of affected dogs be spayed and neutered to decrease the incidence of this disease.
4. Addison’s Disease
Hypoadrenocorticism (known as Addison’s Disease) is not a common disease in dogs, the adrenal glands’ outer layer (the cortex) is destroyed. Often the cause of the destruction is the body’s own immune system causing the destruction of the sensitive endocrine tissue. When this happens the production of two classes of hormones: glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, are decreased. Additionally, cancer and certain drugs can be a catalyst for this disease as they can breakdown the adrenal glands’ cortex, ultimately affecting the adrenal glands.
Studies have shown the need for genetic testing is suggested as young, female dogs of certain breeds are predisposed, though the mode of inheritance has not yet been established. Both affected hormones are instrumental in proper function of a wide variety of the body’s basic functions; therefore, symptoms are typically non-specific. Some symptoms to be aware of includes (which can be accelerated during extreme times of stress):
- Increased thirst and urination
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
- Shaking or shivering (even collapse can result)
The above symptoms can be constant, episodic, mild or severe, all or none may be evident. Due to the nature of the symptoms few cases are identified routinely. Some screening tests (bloodwork) can sometimes help identify the disease if the dog is displaying obvious or severe symptoms. When bloodwork is run the patients will usually reveal low sodium and chloride levels, high potassium and calcium levels, anemia, and dehydration. For a definitive diagnosis an ACTH stimulation test (designed to challenge the adrenal gland into producing cortisol) is used. Additionally, an EKG may reveal changes associated with high potassium levels denoting the possibility of Addison’s disease.
Sadly, the treatment for this disease is usually difficult
as most animals are seriously ill by the time the disease is diagnosed, often
after suffering Addisonian crisis (acute adrenocortical insufficiency). Due to
the dehydration and electrolyte imbalances that accompany this disease the
severity of the dog’s condition will likely require intensive care, involving
fluid therapy and corticosteroids, among other stabilizing drugs, to correct
the irregularities and reverse the dog’s symptoms. The long-term treatment
involves drug therapy designed to replace the hormones
The severity of your dogs’ condition is a key factor in the cost of veterinary treatment, a typical complete diagnosis can cost between $500 and $1,500 (though the low range does not include an ultrasound). Dogs requiring intensive care treatment during the diagnostic phase will amass higher costs at a veterinary clinic or emergency care. For these types of care, the costs of treatment can easily total thousands of dollars, for diagnosis and intensive care.
The best preventive measure for this disease is genetic testing and removing affected dogs and their first-degree relatives from the breeding pool.
Cataracts in dogs cause an opacity of the ocular lens affecting the focusing mechanism for proper vision. The cataract will be found at the front of the retina and behind the pupil, bounded by the colored iris. A dog who suffers from cataracts is not able to see through the opacity of the lens, if it does not involve the entire lens, partial vision is retained. Sadly, for dogs, cataracts tend to appear in both eyes, often to varying degrees.
The most obvious symptom will involve clouding of the eye, though it should be noted, without the benefit of a trained veterinarian and the proper equipment to evaluate the eye properly a definitive prognosis should not be made.
The treatment for cataracts involves a surgical approach to remove or dissolve the lens. Currently the preferred choice of treatment is “phacoemulsification”, a technique that utilizes sound waves to dissolve the structure of the lens while a small suction device removes the broken-down bits. Once this is successfully accomplished, it is highly advised to place an artificial lens in place, or the pet will be unable to focus and may have difficulty accommodating to a reversal of image projection on the retina.
Costs of Dog Cataract Surgery
The costs of cataract surgery are high, especially if the recommended lens prosthesis is applied, running $1,500 to $5,000 per eye. Most veterinarians will typically treat one eye, allowing the pet to experience functional vision after surgery.
The best prevention is restricting breeding in affected pets and in first-degree relatives of those pets affected when possible.
To help make life easier for your new puppy it is important to stress the below 5 tips recommended for new owners when choosing a healthy Goldendoodle puppy.
- Finding a good breeder who can supply health certifications necessary to screen out health problems is more important than finding the right puppy. A good start for your search is the Goldendoodle Association of North America.
- Consider adopting an adult dog from a rescue or shelter. Since many of the diseases can start when they are a puppy, if you adopt an adult dog, you can rule out health problems.
- Whether you obtain a puppy or adult dog, be sure to take them to your veterinarian for a complete examination.
- It is recommended you never buy a puppy from a pet store as your chances of getting an unhealthy, unsocialized, and difficult to housetrain puppy is likely.
- Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group detailing responsibilities on both sides. Understand your rights and recourses.
Ensure your Goldendoodle has a better chance at a healthy life by knowing the breeder you are choosing, and the health history of the parents. It is highly recommended you should never purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation ensuring the parents were cleared of health problems common to their specific breed. Although it is a great idea to have your dog checked by your veterinarian, this does not replace the need for genetic health testing.
Most importantly enjoy and take good care of your new family member. A whole new journey awaits with your new best friend.