I wrote this as a blog early in the beginning of doodle kisses. But with so many new members looking for labradoodle and goldendoodle puppies and trying to choose a breeder... I thought it was good information to bring up again. While there are many factors to consider when choosing a breeder, health is a pretty big deal when it comes to the dog that we love.
Hybrid Vigor? Some of you may have read claims that mixed breed dogs are "healthier" than pure breeds because of "hybrid vigor" that results when two different breeds (and their greater genetic variance) are combined. However, I've seen this "hybrid vigor" idea abused by those who want freedom to throw any breeds together and call it "healthier." The truth is that any potential "hybrid vigor" is merely a potential benefit, not a guaranteed benefit of buying/adopting a mixed breed dog. As many of you know, many diseases and health problems are hereditary. That means it doesn't matter WHAT the breed or mix is...if one or both parents carries a genetic problem that can be passed down, the offspring may also end up either carrying that disease in their genes or actually developing that disease. Because of this possibility it is vitally important to do your homework before choosing a breeder. If you are in the market for a labradoodle or goldendoodle (or any other breed or mix) study the individual breeds in the mix and find out what their health weaknesses are. Then...make certain that the breeder you choose tests for the testable diseases common in those breeds and ask to see copies of those test results. Don't take anyone's word for it. It's not enough that two breeding dogs seem to be healthy and so far have been the picture of health. It's not enough that a breeding dog goes to the vet every year and gets a stamp of "health" from the vet. Many diseases and genetic predispositions are not visible to the naked eye and without specific health testing there's no way to know if there is a problem. I will also grant that health testing on its own will not guarantee that a puppy will have excellent health all of its life, but it sure increases the chances!
So what are common hereditary diseases in labs, goldens and poodles & the tests needed to screen for those problems?
- Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) is either a malformation of the hip joint or looseness of the hip joint. Either way it can be a pretty debilitating issue causing pain and difficulty walking/playing/etc and it is common in all three breeds. However, this is a multi-factorial disease--meaning it's not caused just by one thing or one genetic defect and the result isn't just one problem. Right now there are two main tests a good breeder may use to determine their dogs' hip quality: The most common test is an x-ray done through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals so the test is often referred to as OFA. It's not the OFA that does the actual test, they just read the results and issue a rating/clearance. The test rates the formation of the hips. Hips that are rated Fair, Good, or Excellent are considered "passing." The other test for hips was created by University of Pennsylvania and is called the PennHIP -- PennHip does not give a "clearance" but grades the dog's likelihood of developing CHD using a distraction index (DI) that measures hip tightness or looseness. Scores received from PennHip are numbers under 1 such as 0.55 or 0.70, etc. This grading shows how a dog's hips compare with others in their breed. A score like 0.50 shows that a dog's hips are at the 50% percentile or equal to about the "average" hips for that breed. The higher numbers mean a lower percentile and worse hips. The lower the number, the higher the percentile which means tighter hips (good). It is very important that you choose a breeder that does either or both of these hip tests (especially for medium and standard size doodles) to minimize the chances that your pup will develop CHD. But do keep in mind that although starting with healthy hips will reduce your risk of problems, it won't guarantee it.
- Elbow Dysplasia, Patellar Luxation, and Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease are also conditions that OFA deals with and many breeders test for. However, I'll leave the reading on this up to you--info available on the OFA site.
- Eye disorders Each breed has the potential to carry/have various eye disorders. I won't go into each one, but to minimize your risk look for a breeder that does CERF testing and/or PRA testing. CERF stands for Canine Eye Registration Foundation. A certified ophthalmologist must examine a dog's eyes for this test (not just any vet). PRA stands for Progressive Retinal Atrophy and is a genetic disease of the retina which eventually causes blindness. A CERF exam can see evidence of PRA, as well as other eye problems and must be completed annually. But the PRA test is a DNA test to ensure that a dog is free of the gene so that it does not get passed on. PRA carriers can be bred with non-carriers because no puppies will get the disease, but some will be carriers so all puppies from such a litter should be spayed/neutered before they go to new homes so they are never bred.
- Canine Von Willebrands disease also known as vWD is a bleeding disorder similar to hemophilia in humans and is more common in poodles than in labs or goldens...but since a doodle is part poodle it's an important test to ask about when choosing a breeder. The tests most breeders use is a DNA test that shows if a dog is either affected or a carrier or clear of the disease. A carrier should ONLY be bred to a non-carrier and the puppies of this litter would be best spayed/neutered before being sent to new homes to prevent the gene from being passed on if the new owners decide to breed without testing. An affected dog would/should never be bred. The list of testing above is not exhaustive nor does it prove a breeder's quality. However, it's a place to start and from there your screening of a breeder should include telephone and email conversations as well as a visit to the premises when possible (breeders also need to be able to keep their breeding grounds safe and sanitary for their puppies and allowing daily visitors is not always safe).
- Always do your own homework/research before settling on a breeder.
2020 UPDATE: Because knowledge changes over time, I implore you to keep up to date on health issues and available testing for doodles by checking on what is recommended for the breeds that make up your preferred type of doodle.
OFA Testing Recommendations for Standard Poodles: https://www.ofa.org/recommended-tests?breed=PO&var=STD
Health Concerns in Poodles (all sizes) from The Poodle Club of America: https://poodleclubofamerica.org/health-concerns/
OFA Testing Recommendations for Golden Retrievers: https://www.ofa.org/recommended-tests?breed=GR
Health Concerns in Golden Retrievers from the GRCA: https://www.grca.org/about-the-breed/health-research/
OFA Testing Recommendations for Bernese Mountain Dogs: https://www.ofa.org/recommended-tests?breed=BMD
Health Concerns in BMDs from the BMDCA: https://www.bmdca.org/health/diseases.php
For other breeds in doodle mixes, simply do a search for the breed on the OFA site: https://www.ofa.org/browse-by-breed and google " _______ breed club of America" to find the breed club's information on health of the specific breed.