Before adding a Bernedoodle to your family, it’s a good idea to know what health problems Bernedoodles can have. As a cross between a Bernese Mountain Dog and a Poodle, the genetics and size of a Bernedoodle can also play a role in its health. In this article, I’ll cover some of the most commonly seen health problems Bernedoodles can have, treatment options, and preventative measures.
What Health Problems Do Bernedoodles Have?
Health problems Bernedoodles can have include:
- Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
- Von Willebrand’s Disease
- Addison’s Disease
- Ear Infections
It’s important to note not all Bernedoodles will develop health problems, and many live long and healthy lives! But it’s good for potential Bernedoodle owners to know about these possible health issues. That way, you know what you’re signing up for when deciding on your next family member.
So let’s look at each in more detail, including symptoms to look out for and available treatment options.
1. Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Hip and elbow dysplasia are common genetic conditions in larger breed dogs like Bernedoodles. This condition occurs when the hip or elbow joint doesn’t develop correctly, leading to abnormal wear and tear, pain, and arthritis.
Hip and elbow dysplasia symptoms can include limping, difficulty rising, stiffness, reluctance to exercise, and pain when touched. The affected joint may become swollen and visibly deformed as the condition progresses.
Genetic and environmental factors cause hip and elbow dysplasia. It’s believed that genetics play a significant role in the development of this condition, but rapid growth, over-exercise, and obesity can also contribute to its development.
Treatment can include a combination of medication, exercise modification, and in severe cases, surgery. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce pain and inflammation. In contrast, weight management and low-impact exercise for your Bernedoodle can help strengthen the muscles around the affected joint and reduce pressure. Surgery may sometimes be required to replace the joint or realign the bones.
Prevention includes not over-exercising your Bernedoodle and ensuring your dog maintains a healthy weight.
2. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an inherited eye disorder. This condition causes the gradual degeneration of the retina, the layer of cells at the back of the eye that senses light and sends signals to the brain.
The symptoms of PRA in Bernedoodles usually begin with night blindness, where the dog has difficulty seeing in low-light conditions. The dog’s vision will gradually worsen as the disease progresses, leading to total blindness.
PRA is caused by a genetic mutation that affects the development and function of the retina. Sadly, there is no cure for Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and treatment options are limited. However, there are things that owners can do to manage the condition and improve their Bernedoodle’s quality of life.
Early diagnosis is critical for managing PRA in Bernedoodles. Regular eye exams can help detect the condition early, giving owners more time to prepare and adjust to their dog’s changing vision. Genetic tests can also identify whether a Bernedoodle is a carrier of the PRA mutation.
In some cases, veterinarians may prescribe antioxidants or other supplements that may slow the progression of the disease.
3. Von Willebrand’s Disease
Von Willebrand’s Disease (VWD) is an inherited blood clotting disorder that can affect Bernedoodles, along with some other breeds. This condition is caused by a deficiency or dysfunction in the von Willebrand factor, a protein that helps blood clot and adhere to blood vessel walls.
The symptoms of VWD in Bernedoodles can include excessive bleeding after surgery, trauma, or during heat cycles, nosebleeds, and bleeding gums. In severe cases, VWD can cause life-threatening bleeding episodes.
VWD is caused by a genetic mutation that affects the production or function of the von Willebrand factor. There are three types of VWD, with type 1 being the mildest and type 3 being the most severe.
Treatment options for VWD can include blood transfusions, plasma transfusions, or medications that promote blood clotting. Sometimes, your vet may also recommend surgery to remove an affected spleen or repair a bleeding vessel. Bernedoodles with VWD can lead healthy and happy lives with appropriate management and care.
4. Addison’s Disease
Addison’s Disease, also known as Hypoadrenocorticism, is a hormonal disorder. This condition occurs when the adrenal glands fail to produce enough hormones, including cortisol and aldosterone. It’s caused by an autoimmune reaction or damage to the adrenal glands. Other possible causes include cancer or infection. Unfortunately, it’s not entirely clear why some dogs develop the condition while others don’t.
Symptoms of Addison’s Disease in Bernedoodles can include lethargy, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and loss of appetite. In some cases, dogs may also experience shivering, shaking, abdominal pain, or collapse. Symptoms can be intermittent or develop suddenly, making it difficult to diagnose.
Treatment involves hormone replacement therapy to replace the missing hormones. With appropriate treatment, Bernedoodles with Addison’s Disease can lead healthy lives.
Hypothyroidism is a hormonal disorder that occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone. This plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism and other bodily functions.
Bernedoodles with hypothyroidism can display symptoms of lethargy, weight gain, hair loss or poor coat quality, cold intolerance, muscle weakness or stiffness, and changes in behavior or mood. These symptoms can develop slowly over time, making diagnosing in the early stages challenging.
Various factors, including autoimmune disease, iodine deficiency, or damage to the thyroid gland, cause hypothyroidism. In some cases, a genetic predisposition may also be a contributing factor.
The treatment for hypothyroidism typically involves oral medication to replace the missing thyroid hormone. This therapy is typically lifelong for your Bernedoodle.
As well as medication, dietary changes, supplements, and other supportive therapies may also be recommended to manage the dog’s symptoms and improve its overall health.
Preventing hypothyroidism in Bernedoodles can be challenging, but good nutrition and regular exercise can help reduce the risk of developing this condition.
Bloat, which is also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is a condition that occurs when the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself, causing a blockage that can prevent blood flow to the stomach and other organs.
The symptoms of bloat in Bernedoodles can include restlessness, pacing, drooling, vomiting, abdominal pain or distention, weakness, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, the dog may collapse or go into shock, which can be life-threatening.
Several factors, including genetics, diet, exercise, and other environmental factors, cause bloat. Large and deep-chested breeds like Bernedoodles are at a higher risk for developing bloat, and certain diets or feeding practices can also increase the risk.
Treatment for bloat requires immediate medical attention, as it is a medical emergency. Treatment typically involves stabilizing the dog’s condition with intravenous fluids, oxygen therapy, and pain management. Surgery may sometimes be necessary to remove the blockage and untwist the stomach.
Preventing bloat in Bernedoodles involves several strategies. Feeding multiple small meals throughout the day instead of one large meal — I really like this puzzle feeder for helping my dog to slow down her eating. You should also avoid exercise after meals and be sure to provide a good diet appropriate for your dog’s size, their age, and activity level.
Just as allergies can affect people, allergies can also affect Bernedoodles. Allergies occur when the dog’s immune system overreacts to a substance that is usually harmless, such as pollen, dust, or certain foods.
Allergy symptoms in Bernedoodles can include itching, redness, and skin irritation, particularly around the ears, paws, and belly. The dog may also experience recurrent ear infections, runny eyes or nose, coughing, sneezing, or gastrointestinal upset.
Various factors, including environmental allergens, such as pollen or dust, or food allergens, such as beef, chicken, or wheat, can cause allergies. Flea or tick bites can also cause an allergic reaction in some dogs.
Treatment for allergies in Bernedoodles typically involves identifying and avoiding the allergen as much as possible. In cases where avoidance is not possible or practical, medications, such as antihistamines or corticosteroids, may be prescribed to manage the dog’s symptoms.
Proper nutrition, regular grooming, and preventative measures, such as flea and tick control, can help reduce the risk of developing allergic reactions.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that occurs when the brain has abnormal electrical activity, which can cause seizures.
Symptoms of epilepsy in Bernedoodles vary depending on the type and severity of the seizure. Some dogs may experience mild seizures, while others may have more severe seizures that involve shaking, convulsions, or even loss of consciousness. After a seizure, the dog may appear confused or disoriented.
The causes of epilepsy in Bernedoodles are not fully understood, but genetics is believed to play a role in many cases. Other potential causes include head trauma, infections, brain tumors, and exposure to toxins.
Treatment typically involves using anticonvulsant medications to manage the dog’s seizures. In some cases, dietary changes or supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids or vitamin E, may also be recommended.
It is important to note that epilepsy in Bernedoodles is a chronic condition that cannot be cured but can often be managed successfully with appropriate treatment.
9. Ear Infections
Ear infections are common for Bernedoodles due to their long fluffy ears.
Allergies, parasites, foreign bodies, and bacterial or yeast overgrowth can cause them.
Symptoms to look out for include shaking of the head, scratching or rubbing at the ears, discharge or odor from the ears, redness or swelling of the ear canal, and pain or discomfort when the ears are touched.
Treatment for ear infections typically involves cleaning the ears and administering medication to address the underlying cause of the infection. Typically topical or oral antibiotics, antifungal medication, or anti-inflammatory medication.
Preventing ear infections involves maintaining good ear hygiene and identifying and addressing any underlying health issues contributing to developing infections. This may include regular ear cleaning (I like this ear cleaner), avoiding exposure to allergens, and ensuring a good diet for your Bernedoodle.
There are several types of cancer that more commonly develop in Bernedoodles, including:
1. Lymphoma: This is a cancer of the lymphatic system responsible for filtering and transporting immune cells throughout the body. Symptoms of lymphoma in Bernedoodles may include enlarged lymph nodes, weight loss, decreased appetite, lethargy, and fever. Treatment may involve chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, and in some cases, surgery may be necessary.
2. Mast Cell Tumors: These tumors arise from mast cells, which are immune cells that play a role in inflammation and allergy. Symptoms may include lumps or bumps on the skin, itching or scratching, and redness or irritation. Treatment may involve surgery to remove the tumor; in some cases, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy may be required.
3. Osteosarcoma: This type of bone cancer is common in large-breed dogs like Bernedoodles. Symptoms may include lameness or limping, swelling or pain in the affected limb, and reluctance to bear weight on the affected limb. Treatment may involve amputation of the affected limb, followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
4. Hemangiosarcoma: This is a cancer of the blood vessels, which can occur in the spleen, liver, or heart. Symptoms may include weakness, lethargy, loss of appetite, and abdominal swelling. Treatment may involve surgery to remove the affected organ, followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
Maintaining good overall health, minimizing exposure to known carcinogens, and monitoring your Bernedoodle’s health closely for any changes can all help to reduce the risk of cancer and ensure prompt diagnosis and treatment if it does occur. Regular veterinary check-ups and screenings, including bloodwork and imaging tests, can also help detect cancer early.
How Genetics Affects Bernedoodle Health
Genetics can have a significant impact on the health of your Bernedoodle. They can inherit genetic traits from both their Bernese Mountain Dog and Poodle parents, which can affect their overall health.
For example, hip and elbow dysplasia can affect Bernese Mountain Dogs, and if a Bernedoodle inherits the genetic tendency towards dysplasia, they could develop this condition. While Poodles are prone to progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and again if a Bernedoodle inherits this trait, they could suffer from this condition.
Poor breeding practices can also have an impact on the health of your Bernedoodle. A lack of health screenings on breeding dogs leads to the passing of genetic conditions to puppies. On the other hand, responsible breeders go out of their way to perform health screenings on their breeding dogs and take steps to minimize the risk of passing on genetic health conditions.
So it’s important to do your research and choose a reputable breeder who prioritizes the health and well-being of their dogs. Along with regular veterinary check-ups, a healthy diet, and proper exercise, you can help mitigate the impact of genetic health conditions and keep your Bernedoodle in excellent health for a long and happy life!