What is the Healthiest Doodle? Are Poodle Mixes Healthy?

A sickly dog can be one of the most stressful times as a pup parent. The sleepless nights, the costly vet visits not to mention the emotional rollercoaster that our little furry friends can take us on. It stands to reason then that one of the main areas of research prospective owners undertake is into the common health conditions that may befall their potential pet.

After a trawl of the world wide web, many people will see members of the Doodle family being touted time and time again as an overall healthy dog breed. Statements such as “Hybrid Vigor” can be bandied about but what exactly does it mean?  Read on to discover more about the general health of Poodle mixes and if even amongst the Doodle family if there are variations in common conditions.  Of course, this article can only provide general advice and it would always be recommended that expert advice is sought if you have any concerns about your dog or a prospective puppy.

Can Different Doodles have Different Issues?

Cavapoo, Cockapoo, Labradoodle, Bernedoodle, Aussiedoodle, Goldendoodle…… it can feel that just about every dog breed can come in a Doodle variation. That is even before we start adding in the different size options.

While the Poodle part stays the same and there may be some health issues that could potentially come from this side, the health characteristics of the other half of your Doodle, be it Labrador, Bernese Mountain Dog, or Cocker Spaniel (to name just a few) will bring a different roll of the genetic dice.

Are Poodles Healthy?

While the recipe for a Doodle can vary greatly, one constant is always a varying dash of Poodle parentage. In the first-generation Doodle crosses a pup will inherit at least a 50% portion of Poodle so a good starting point is to look at the overall health of this parent.

A true Poodle is considered purebred in that it is achieved by breeding Poodle parents together without introducing any other breeds into the lineage. A concern with purebred dogs is that the temptation to maintain breeding may result in disreputable breeders matching dogs who in fact are closely related such as brother and sister or mother and son. This increases the likelihood of any problematic genes being expressed and health conditions increasing.

Fortunately, the popularity of the Poodle means there are plenty of purebred Poodle lineages from many different countries and areas to ensure there is a good pool to select pairings from. Advancements in health screening techniques mean parents can be screened to see if they carry any genes likely to contribute to the most common Poodle health problems and a good breeder will avoid using these dogs for future litters.

That being said, just as with any well-established breed, there are some health conditions that are more breed-specific. See our list for some potential conditions. However, this is not exhaustive and just because a condition is not listed it is not to say a Poodle may not develop it, likewise, many Poodles may never have any of the conditions listed.

Potential Poodle Health Conditions

  • Addison’s disease – Affects the production of cortisol and other hormones. Can generally be managed with medication.
  • Cardiomyopathy – Enlarged heart. Particularly in the Standard size.
  • Cushing’s syndrome – Overproduction of cortisol (hormone).
  • Eye issues – Poodles are susceptible to a few different eye conditions including cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), dry eyes, abnormalities of the eyelid (Entropion), and abnormalities of the eyelashes (Diaschisis). They can affect each dog in varying degrees and can be present as a single condition or combination of a few.
  • Epilepsy – Causing seizures
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) – Also known as “bloat”. Affects deep-chested and large Poodles and occurs when the stomach twists trapping food and gases. Requires urgent medical treatment to prevent death.
  • Hip dysplasia – Affects the development of the hip joint, over time degenerates and leads to arthritis.
  • Hypothyroidism – affects the production of the thyroid hormone.
  • Intervertebral disc disease – Occurs following abnormal development of the discs that cushion the bones in the spine.
  • Legg-Perthes Disease – Condition where there is a lack of blood supply within the bone at the top of each leg (femur) which causes the bone to degenerate.
  • Luxating Patella – “Wobbly” kneecaps that can slip out of place affecting walking and can lead to arthritis and pain.
  • Von Willebrand’s Disease -Affects the blood’s ability to clot meaning the dog can bleed profusely following an injury.

What Issues are the Same for all Doodles (From the Poodle Side)?

All Doodle crosses, therefore, have the potential to inherit any one of the above conditions from their Poodle parent.  Selective breeding can help minimize the risk by ensuring that a healthy Poodle parent is identified however some of the above conditions may be more of a risk for Doodles.

Luxating Patellas are very hard to avoid in the smallest of Poodle breeds due to the short legs they have so any Doodle crosses that are Miniature or Toy in variation may be more at risk of presenting with this problem.

Likewise due to the deep chest that is often passed onto any Standard Poodle crosses potential for GDV or “bloat” cannot really be bred out as it is a result of their build. Having an awareness of it though means owners can avoid risks and some may even elect to have surgery to anchor the stomach if their dog proves to be prone to it occurring. Read our full article on what causes bloat in Poodles and how it can be prevented.

Overall though, the Doodle hybrid presents with favorable overall health traits and often the Doodle cross may exhibit a longer average lifespan than its non-Poodle parent breed. This is often attributed to the concept of “Hybrid Vigor”.

What is Hybrid Vigor?

It may sound like some obscure new fragrance for men, but it is in fact a term utilized in the realms of dog breeding. Hybrid Vigor is a name to describe the phenomena that occur when the resultant offspring of crossbreeding to different breeds of dogs yields a puppy that exhibits increased certain characteristics such as growth rate, fertility, disease resistance, and longevity over its parents.

One of the most marked examples is the Bernedoodle. The Bernese Mountain Dog has one of the shortest canine lifespans of between 6 and 8 years however when crossed with a Poodle the resultant Bernedoodle puppies can be reasonably expected to live more than 12 years. But why?

The Bernese Mountain dog has a complex list of serious health conditions that it is susceptible to including cancer and digestive issues. These arose in at least part to a history of in-breeding which saw the faulty genes increase. Introducing a Standard Poodle ensures that only one copy of potentially faulty Bernese Mountain Dog genes is passed on. So, as long as the Poodle doesn’t pass on a matching copy the issue doesn’t present. Poodles for example are not particularly predisposed to cancer meaning they are unlikely to pass on a matching copy of that gene.

How Does Generation Impact Hybrid Vigor?

A first-generation Doodle will have a 50/50 genetic split of half Poodle genes and half the other Purebreed chosen (such as a Labrador, Cocker Spaniel, etc). The first crossing of the breeds is expected to yield the best health outcomes. The difficulty with subsequent generations is that it becomes more challenging to track the genetics and particularly in the case of Double Doodles there is a risk of narrowing the gene pool again with close cross-breeding as there may be only a smaller number of 1st generation Doodles to breed from.

Are Some Doodles Healthier than Others?

Ultimately the health of a Doodle cross comes down to more than just the breed of its parents and needs to include considerations for things such as the individual health of each parent, the generation of the hybrid, and even then, there can still be variation within a litter.

A good indicator however is to look at the breed being considered to cross with the Poodle against the list of common Poodle health conditions. Large breeds such as Newfoundlands and Great Danes also have a pre-disposition to GDV or “bloat” so it is unlikely the Doodle cross will eliminate that risk.

Similarly, some smaller breeds such as Maltese, Chihuahuas, and Bichon Frise may be more susceptible to luxating patella’s meaning the need to look back at the parents’ history to limit the chance of this presenting will be required.

Is Any One Particular Doodle Mix Considered the Healthiest?

Unfortunately, there is no one definitive answer. Often the most popular Doodle breeds such as the Labradoodle and Cockapoo are lauded as some of the healthiest options and there are definite grounds to suggest that their popularity is in part due to their good health making them appealing.

Ultimately though the parent breeds and the care, exercise, and dietary input a dog receives as it grows can be a much better indicator of health across the Doodle clan rather than choosing one breed pairing as superior.

Can you Test for Potential Issues? Should your Puppy or their Parents Come Already Tested?

Advances in science and genetics mean that fortunately now reputable breeders can undertake screening for many common health conditions. Ensuring a parent dog is not a carrier of a faulty gene can drastically reduce the chances of any health problems being passed off to their litter. However, each dog has literally hundreds of genetic pairings. Even two outwardly healthy parents may have one copy of a faulty gene that if matched with a faulty copy from the other parent results in a health issue being passed down.

It is completely appropriate to expect that the breeder of your prospective Doodle pup should be able to produce health screening results for the parents. In respect of the Poodle parent testing for hip dysplasia is fairly common now as well as some eye conditions. They should also be able to evidence a lineage for each of the purebred parents. Testing of the other breed depends on what is being selected to complete your Doodle mix.

It can be easy to be swept away by adorable, apparently healthy-looking puppies however doing your homework prior to purchase can save a lot of heartache in the long run. Ultimately though a Doodle dog from a reputable breeder especially a first-generation cross will give a good chance of a healthy dog that will be enjoyed by your family for many years to come.