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What is an Australian Labradoodle?
Labradoodle and Australian Labradoodle—what is the difference? Is it just that the Australian Labradoodle is from Australia? Not exactly.
Most people credit an Australian, Wally Conron, with the creation of the first Labradoodles. He was a breeder who worked with associations that trained dogs to be guide dogs for the blind. When he received a request for a guide dog that was also hypoallergenic, he first tried to breed Poodles in the hopes of finding one that could work as a guide dog.
That did not work out because Poodles are by and large, not good guide dogs. Next, Conron bred a Poodle with a Labrador, and one of the dogs in the first litter was hypoallergenic. That puppy would be the perfect guide dog for this person, a woman who lived in Hawaii.
However, there were three dogs in the litter, and only one of them was hypoallergenic. Given that 33% is not a good success rate, breeders began to add Cocker Spaniels into the breeding lines. Their goal was to create dogs that would more consistently share predictable traits, including being hypoallergenic.
An Australian Labradoodle, therefore, is a dog that is a blend of a Labrador, a Poodle, and a Cocker Spaniel. Now, to keep Australian Labradoodles healthy, we must understand what the health concerns are.
Related topic: What is an F1 Labradoodle?
What Are the Health Concerns for Each Breed?
With established dog breeds, health concerns are generally well known. Although not every dog of a particular breed will have these conditions, the likelihood is higher that some dogs tend to have cataracts more than others.
With a mixed-breed dog, you need to examine the health concerns of each breed in the line. Health concerns that the parent breeds share will then be concerns of the mixed dog.
Let’s examine each of the three parent breeds.
Labradors are generally healthy, with an average lifespan of 10-12 years. Major health conditions that are common among Labs include these:
- Canine hip dysplasia. In hip dysplasia, the ball of the leg doesn't fit in the socket of the hip correctly. The constant rubbing impacts the dog's ability to walk, and in the worst case, means the dog will no longer be able to walk correctly. Dysplasia is primarily a hereditary condition, although environmental factors can also play a role.
- Patellar luxation. Also known as kneecap dislocation, this condition will cause problems walking. If you see a dog move its rear legs abnormally or holding one of its rear legs up for a few minutes, your dog might have this. It is typically not painful, except the moment when the kneecap slides out of the ridges that should hold it in place.
- Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD). In this disease, inflammation in leg or shoulder joints causes the infected cartilage to separate from the bones. This condition generally affects younger dogs under a year old. If you see your dog limping or notice swelling around the shoulder or elbows or knees, you need to take your dog to the vet.
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). This is an eye condition that affects the retina in the eye. There is currently no treatment, although a well-balanced, low-fat diet might help.
Less common health concerns for Labs include diabetes, muscular dystrophy, and a heart defect called Tricuspid Valve dysplasia, a condition where the seal between the right and left heart chambers doesn't seal properly.
A poodle’s lifespan varies depending on whether it is a Miniature (13-15 years) or a Standard (10-13 years). The major health concerns of this breed include:
- Epilepsy (Miniature). This condition is similar to what occurs in humans.
- Addison’s Disease (Standard). When a dog’s adrenal glands don’t produce needed hormones, the dog’s organs cannot function properly. This will obviously lead to serious medical issues, including death. If the disease is caught and treated correctly, expect a dog to live a normal lifespan. A vet can test for this after a dog has what is known as an Addisonian Crisis, where life-threatening symptoms occur, such as a dog that collapses and goes into shock.
- Hip Dysplasia (Standard). See Labrador.
- Gastric Torsion (Standard). Also known as bloat, this is an extremely serious condition. There are two parts to this. First, the stomach begins to take in air, making it difficult for blood to return to the heart. And secondly, the dog’s stomach flips, which causes the pancreas to release hormones that cause the heart to stop.
- Patellar Luxation (Miniature). See Labrador.
Both Standard and Miniature Poodles suffer from eye problems, including cataract, distichiasis (an eyelash disorder), and entropion (abnormal eyelids).
A Cocker Spaniel’s typical lifespan is 12-15 years. The major conditions of Cocker Spaniels are also found in Labradors and Poodles. These are:
- Patellar luxation. See Labrador and Poodle.
- Glaucoma. These are the same eye conditions that humans share. Like in humans, it can be treated if caught early.
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). See Labrador.
Other health concerns that occasionally seen in Cocker Spaniels include cataracts, diabetes, and muscular dystrophy.
What They Have in Common
Labs, Poodles, and Cocker Spaniels all share a predisposition to patellar luxation. Hip dysplasia is a common condition in larger dogs, so some Labradoodles will have that. Eye conditions, including cataracts, are also common in all three breeds.
Most of these conditions are passed down genetically. So, you should always get a detailed health history of the parents.
Mixed Breed vs. Purebred
A common debate in the dog world centers around whether mixed breed dogs have fewer health problems than purebred ones. The thinking is that the interbreeding of purebred dogs creates a smaller genetic pool. If a genetic disease is in that pool, it will not be bred out.
If that is true, then Labradoodles, in general, should be healthier because they are not "purebred" dogs yet (at least not in most organizations such as the American Kennel Club). Australian Labradoodles, being even more of a mixed breed, should be even healthier.
Not so fast, though. A study using data of 27,000 dogs at the vet school at the University of California – Davis found that purebred dogs had a higher rate of 10 genetic disorders (out of 24 that they examined). However, for the other disorders, they found no significant difference between purebred and mixed-breed dogs.
Of course, someone might say that it was just one study. Correct. But the study was of 27,000 dogs!
Two conditions commonly shared by Labs, Poodles, and Spaniels--hip dysplasia and patellar luxation--occurred equally in both mixed and purebred dogs. In other words, according to this study, Australian Labradoodles are going to be just as healthy as purebred dogs, and just as healthy as other mixed breed dogs.
In considering if Australian Labradoodles are healthy, realize that they are prone to the same kind of diseases that Poodles, Labradors, and Cocker Spaniels get. However, they are not prone to get any of these diseases any more than another dog. The best insurance is to get your Labradoodle from a reputable breeder who can give detailed information about conditions that are in the bloodline of the dog you have your heart set on.
About THE AUTHOR
Mark is the founder of Everything Labradors and a husband and father of 3. He enjoys spending time with his family, including his dog Molly, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. He’s a big fan of the outdoors and loves to travel to new places.Read more about Mark Brunson