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A Comprehensive Guide To The Shepadoodle Dog Breed

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Introduction

The Shepadoodle is a mix between the German Shepard and the Poodle. Besides Shepadoodles, this breed is also called the Shep-a-Poo, the German Doodle, the Sherdoodle, and the Shepdoodle. Though the Poodle varies in size, the Standard Poodle is usually the size used for breeding. As a result, the Shepadoodle is large, weighing between 50-80 pounds and reaching a height between 18-24 inches. Shepadoodle Puppies are deceptively tiny but grow quickly and can become quite large while still behaving very much like a small puppy.

The Shepadoodle appearance can vary. You may have a Shepadoodle that looks like a shaggy-haired German Shepard or a Shepadoodle that looks exactly like a Poodle. The Shepadoodle’s fur can come in a range of lengths and textures. However, only the Poodle-type fur can be classified as hypo-allergenic. The Shepadoodle is one of the rarer poodle mixed breeds. Therefore, it is a bit of a toss-up to know which characteristics your Shepadoodle Puppies may inherit from its parent breeds. Whatever genes your Shepadoodle Puppies inherit, it’s virtually a guarantee that they will be energetic and have a prime need for mental and physical stimulation. Shepadoodle Puppies do best in a household or with an owner who enjoys physical activity. Shepadoodles are sociable, protective, loving, and well-mannered. The Shepadoodle can make splendid companions for children and do well in homes with other pets. The Shepadoodle also does well with first-time dog owners. Because of their high energy levels and need for regular activity, it’s not recommended for apartment-dwellers to keep Shepadoodle Puppies. A home with a large yard and access to a large play space is best for the Shepadoodle. The Shepadoodle is not a breed that does well being alone; they need a great deal of activity and attention. Shepadoodle puppies are loyal, adaptable, and easy to train.

Bred for service, the Shepadoodle responds well to training. It’s recommended that training and socialization of Shepadoodle Puppies begin early. If you are not used to training large dogs, a professional trainer is recommended. The Shepadoodle does well with obedience and agility training and has a reputation for being aloof with strangers or people who are not part of their household. Shepadoodle Puppies are not inherently noisy dogs and bark little even when playing with other dogs. But don’t let the affable, quiet nature of the Shepadoodle fool you. They are highly protective and can make good watchdogs. Shepadoodle Puppies will alert you of any suspicious activity. An untrained or unsocialized Shepadoodle may also exhibit territorial behavior. The Shepadoodle’s inherent aloofness to strangers can sometimes turn into suspicion. If you live in a loud or busy area or have lots of visitors to your home, you will want to condition your Shepadoodle Puppies to be undisturbed by the noises and activity.

The life expectancy of the Shepadoodle is between 12-14 years. Though the Shepadoodle is a healthy dog, it is still at risk for some of the health conditions associated with its parent breeds, the German Shepard and the Poodle. The Shepadoodle Puppies have a propensity for obesity if not given regular exercise and a healthy diet.

The Shepadoodle is a hybrid breed and therefore not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The American Canines Hybrid Club (ACHC) recognizes the Shepadoodle.

History of the Shepadoodle

The Shepadoodle is a relatively young breed from the 1960s, specifically for being a military police dog for the United States Army. As is typical of most hybrid dogs, the history of the Shepadoodle is somewhat limited. However, we do have its parent breeds’ origins to look at and give us clues about the Shepadoodle. Shepadoodles come from two working dog breeds of German origin; the German Shepard and the Poodle. They originally bred the Poodle to be water dogs, who hunted waterfowl, while they bred the German Shepard to herd sheep.

The Poodle has a rich history. Although it is the national dog of France, the Poodle is of German origin. There is no French Poodle breed and the French often refer to the Poodle as the duck dog or Caniche. We can trace this nickname back to the Poodle’s German origins. The Poodle was originally bred to hunt waterfowl (hence the nickname “duck dog”). The Poodle’s originals date back 400 years. Its crisp curly coat served as protection in chilly waters. Hunters wanted their dogs to have a good range of motion while swimming, and so they began shaving the legs, neck, and tails of their Poodles. These rounded puffs of fur are called pompoms.

The German Shepard is the other parent’s breed of the Shepadoodle. And its history is as rich as that of the Poodle. The German Shepard originates from a family of German herding dogs that date back to 700 AD. These dogs varied in type. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that a German Calvary Officer, Captain Max von Stephanitz, developed the perfect German herding dog. Von Stephanitz partnered with other breeders to cross various strains. Resulting in the ancestors of today’s German Shepard. They exhibited the first German Shepard in America in 1907. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1908.

Breed Intelligence

Shepadoodles have an embarrassment of riches for their intelligence gene pool. The Poodle ranks at number two in intelligence, while the German Shepard ranks at number three. The Poodle and the German Shepard can understand new commands after only five repetitions and can obey first commands 95% of the time. Your Shepadoodle Puppies can’t get much better than that! This winning combo makes the Shepadoodle a highly intelligent, curious, and easy-to-train dog who is eager to please. Shepadoodle Puppies  pick up commands quickly. This is the reason the Shepadoodle was bred as a military dog. The Shepadoodle can be a watchdog, service dog, police dog, and even a herding dog. The Shepadoodle responds better to positive reinforcement as well as reward incentives during training than it does to punishment. Because of their high intelligence level, Shepadoodle Puppies need consistent mental stimulation and activity. Socialization, along with walks, training, and other activities, can all help to keep your Shepadoodle stimulated and engaged. Early and consistent socialization can also help guard against the destructive behaviors that are often associated with boredom in dogs. Shepadoodle Puppies need at least an hour of activity each day. Also, be sure to have lots of chew toys around to keep your Shepadoodle entertained while indoors. Puzzle toys, Kong balls, treat balls, snuffle mats, and interactive fetch toys are all great options for keeping Shepadoodle Puppies stimulated. Try out different toys with your Shepadoodle Puppies to find out which ones work best for them.

black shepadoodle laying in the grass

Psychological Health

Psychological health in dogs encompasses everything from memory, anxiety, and stress. The subject of mental health in dogs is a topic that is growing in recognition as the link between physical health and mental health in dogs is explored.

Cognitive Health

In a recent study, both the Poodle and the German Shepard showed that they have extra cognitive abilities. The small study centered on dogs who would often watch TV with their owners. A vet at a small animal practice found that some dogs who he examined could often pick out dogs and even other animals like cats on the posters in the exam room. The vet began asking the owners if their dogs watch TV. They all said yes. In the small-batch study, they found that a portion of the dog population had developed the ability to translate images into 3-dimensional reality and the ability to understand that small moving images were a representation of a real object.

The point of this anecdote is to highlight that the cognitive health of your Shepadoodle Puppies is a complex topic. Your Shepadoodle’s cognitive skills include the way they communicate, the way they process memory, what they deduce, and how they respond to emotions. The Shepadoodle’s cognitive skills can vary depending on their genetics and their environment. Often behavioral issues can go hand in hand with cognitive issues. One of the best ways to prevent behavioral issues is to engage your Shepadoodle’s mind. Mental stimulation is a large part of not only what keeps Shepadoodle Puppies healthy but also what keeps them happy. Paying close attention to nurturing your Shepadoodle’s cognitive health can help decrease the risk of their developing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction CCD in their senior years.

Brain Games and Play

Playing with your Shepadoodle is just as important as training them. Think of play as a workout for your Shepadoodle’s brain. Teaching your senior Shepadoodle new tricks is just as important as teaching a Shepadoodle Puppies. Old dogs can learn tricks—they even thrive on it. Play can be a bonding experience for you and your Shepadoodle. Play does not have to just mean playing fetch in the backyard for an hour. You can play brain games with your Shepadoodle Puppies. Play can center on memory or communication. Knowing your Shepadoodle’s strengths can help inform what type of play would be best for them.

Teach your Shepadoodle the names of its toys

A lot of dogs love to play “go find it.” A twist on the game is to teach your Shepadoodle the names of their toys. Start with a certain toy and sit down with your Shepadoodle and the toy. Place the toy in front of you and say the toy’s name. When your Shepadoodle grabs the toy, praise them. Do this a few times and once your Shepadoodle can associate the name with the toy, repeat the process with another toy. Once your Shepadoodle Puppies have memorized the toy names, you can play go find it by hiding the toy and saying the toy’s name.

Make an obstacle course for your Shepadoodle

Obstacle courses can be great not only for training but for cognitive stimulation as well. Obstacle courses can incorporate agility training, memory games, and communication exercises. You don’t need a ton of stuff to create an obstacle course for your Shepadoodle Puppies by setting up a “cone course” using plastic cups and having your Shepadoodle “weave” through them.

Engage in interactive play with your Shepadoodle

Interactive games are games that you and your Shepadoodle play together. Recent studies have shown that dogs who engage in interactive play with their owner have fewer behavioral issues. Games like tug of war and fetch are interactive games, and can be a great physical exercise for your Shepadoodle and a fun way for you to bond. A fun game to play with Shepadoodle Puppies is to play wild and sit. While your Shepadoodle is on a leash, rile them up as much as possible. You can jump, run around and cheer. Anything to get your Shepadoodle Puppies excited. Mid-romp, instruct your dog to sit. This takes some practice, but after a few tries, your Shepadoodle Puppies will relax on command.

Teach your Shepadoodle to dance

It may sound silly, but dancing is a significant activity for Shepadoodle Puppies. It incorporates two principles: obedience and attention to commands and physical activity. Freestyle dancing or heelwork is an intensive form of obedience training. Freestyle allows your Shepadoodle freedom of movement while also encouraging coordination. You can incorporate clicker training into freestyle dance. Turn on a tune you enjoy dancing to and dance with your Shepadoodle.

Cognitive Support

Along with mental stimulation, you can support your Shepadoodle’s cognitive health holistically through diet and supplements. Antioxidants such as Vitamin e, Vitamin C, selenium, and L-Carnitine decrease the number of free radicals and slow the progression of cognitive decline. Senior dogs on antioxidant-rich diets showed significant improvement in cognitive health.

Stress

Stress can be just as much of an issue for your Shepadoodle as it is for you. Unlike us humans, our dogs can’t verbalize their feelings and, as a result, their behavior is often the only sign we have of their distress. Stress in your Shepadoodle Puppies can manifest in various ways, from phobias and compulsive behaviors to aggression.

Symptoms

It is important to recognize what is in the normal range of behaviors for your Shepadoodle Puppies and stress. If your Shepadoodle is normally social and friendly and suddenly becomes withdrawn, this may be a sign of stress. Other signs of stress in Shepadoodle puppies include pacing and shaking, changes in posture, shedding, panting, and hiding. Other signs of stress are a decrease in appetite, digestive issues, aggression towards people and other animals.

shepadoodle laying on the couch

Causes

Many behavioral problems in Shepadoodle Puppies trace back to stress. Stress factors can include vet visits, recent additions to the home (a new baby or new pet), moving, or loss of a family member (through death or a family member moving away). Additionally, if your Shepadoodle has an emotional disorder such as anxiety, stress is usually a by-product. Dogs can also suffer from PTSD and your Shepadoodle may have reactionary stress caused by past trauma. This trauma does not have to be a major life event. Your Shepadoodle may remember a loud noise that scared them when they were young and associated all loud noises with that experience.

Fear-based Aggression

Aggression is often a sign of stress in Shepadoodle Puppies. It can be a major problem for a dog owner and approximately 5 million people a year in the United States make hospital visits due to dog bites. We associate most bites with dogs attempting to create distance between them and the perceived threat. Shepadoodle Puppies that are stressed have a high risk of fear-based aggression because of the fight-or-flight response stressful encounters can create in dogs. Treatment for fear-based aggression begins with understanding what is triggering your Shepadoodle and differentiating between normal and abnormal behavior. If your Shepadoodle Puppies exhibit signs of being overstimulated, remove them from the environment immediately. This may not always be possible, and that is where training becomes important. Basic commands can help your Shepadoodle focus and can reassure them. Exposing your Shepadoodle Puppies to stimuli early can also aid in preventing fear-based aggression in the future. Enroll your Shepadoodle Puppies in classes and visit dog parks. If your Shepadoodle is used to being around loud noises, crowds, other dogs, etc. they are less likely to have fear-based responses to them.

Resource Guarding

Another sign of stress in the Shepadoodle can exhibit is resource guarding. Resource guarding occurs when a person or another animal approaches your Shepadoodle while they have something they want to keep. Resource guarding is most commonly seen with food, toys, treats, and even sleeping areas. In certain cases, this possessiveness can extend to their owners and family members. Preventing resource guarding begins with early training. Resource guarding is a behavior that typically develops over time. Condition your Shepadoodle Puppies by handling their toys, dishes, and bedding throughout the day. If your Shepadoodle growls, do not give in. By doing so, you are signaling to your Shepadoodle Puppies that this is acceptable behavior. During playtime, ask your Shepadoodle for its toy by saying “give.” Keep the toy for a few seconds and then give it back. Do this with different toys during your play sessions. Basic commands during puppy training like “stay” and “sit” can also discourage resource guarding. Work with a trainer to help your Shepadoodle move past their need to resource guard. If your Shepdoodle shows signs of resource guarding when fully grown, work with a behaviorist to find out what prompts the behavior to change. Don’t punish your Shepadoodle by yelling or screaming at them.

Anxiety

Like stress, anxiety in Shepadoodles can be common. We can relate anxiety in Shepadoodles to several things, including phobias, separation, and aging. Symptoms of anxiety include excessive barking, destructive behavior, compulsive behaviors, and nervous urination or defecating.

Phobias

Phobia is an exaggerated fear response. We can associate phobic responses with thunder, fireworks, and loud noises. Stimuli associated with these sounds can also create a phobic response, such as rain, lightning, and changes in air pressure associated with thunderstorms. Phobias result from previous experiences. They are usually the result of repeated exposure, which solidifies into a phobic response. Like fireworks or thunderstorms. Herding dogs like the Shepadoodle’s parent breed, the German Shepard are particularly prone to phobias of loud noises. Other things your Shepadoodle can also show a phobic response to are vet visits, car rides, and even certain types of flooring.

Separation Anxiety

14% of all dogs experience separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is the inability of dogs to find comfort when separated from family. You can associate separation anxiety with a change in your Shepadoodle’s household or routine. Some Shepadoodle Puppies can develop separation anxiety because of hyper attachment. The Shepadoodle’s predisposition to separation anxiety is due to its Poodle genes. Breeds like the Shepadoodle that are highly intelligent and social are more predisposed to separation anxiety. Destructive behaviors (such as chewing furniture, ripping up pillows, etc.) are a common symptom of separation anxiety, along with increased vocalization. These behaviors usually begin 15-30 minutes after departure. Your Shepadoodle may even exhibit these behaviors when they realize you are leaving (getting dressed, grabbing keys, etc). A Shepadoodle with separation anxiety may show signs of hyper attachment or be overly enthusiastic when you return home.

Age-related Anxiety

Older Shepadoodles who suddenly begin showing signs of anxiety may suffer from Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. Dogs with CDS can experience memory loss, a decline in perception and awareness, and disorientation. This, naturally, can lead to anxiety. These symptoms can mimic the symptoms of humans with Alzheimer’s experience. Along with anxiety, a Shepadoodle with CDS can show physical signs of the diseases such as changes in sleep/wake patterns, changes in activity levels, and changes in how they interact with you and other household members. 68% of senior dogs between the ages of 15-16 years of age showed one or more signs of CDS.

shepadoodle laying on wood deck

Counterconditioning and Training

Like with stress, prevention of anxiety should begin early with Shepadoodle Puppies. There are several ways to treat Shepadoodles with anxiety. Counterconditioning is one of them. Counterconditioning involves changing the way your Shepadoodle Puppies respond to stimuli that makes them anxious. Desensitization is a form of counterconditioning and involves introducing your Shepadoodle Puppies to the source of anxiety in small doses repeatedly over time. We couple this with positive reinforcement and praise of your Shepadoodle when they do not react. There are multiple training strategies to help your Shepadoodle Puppies with anxiety. For Shepadoodles with separation anxiety, crate training can be a great option and can also help mitigate the damage of the destructive behaviors associated with it.

Crate training revolves around the idea of creating a safe space within your home that your Shepadoodle can go to when they are alone. This can involve crate training specifically or simply a bed or an area in a quiet room. Give your Shepadoodle Puppies a toy filled with treats like peanut butter. You can also place their favorite blanket or toy in the crate. Crate training is best started with Shepadoodle Puppies, but you can crate train adult Shepadoodles as well. Another training technique goes hand-in-hand with counterconditioning: you slowly condition your Shepadoodle to not see you leaving and returning as a big deal by doing brief intervals of your departing and returning. You do not say hello or goodbye to your Shepadoodle. Do this in short spurts (5-10 minutes), and gradually increase the amount of time you leave your Shepadoodle Puppies alone.

Treatment and Prevention

Prevention of anxiety begins with both training and activity. Often, anxiety in Shepadoodles can be managed by increasing their level of activity. Take your Shepadoodle for a nice long walk before you leave. Or take them out with you when you go running. A well-exercised Shepadoodle is calmer. You may not prevent the anxiety that is related to age and CDS, but it can be managed. The most important thing for Shepadoodle’s suffering CDS is routine. Have a schedule for your Shepadoodle and stick to it. Make sure that their food bowl, toy, and bed are in the same spot. Activity can help ease CDS-related anxiety as well. Your senior Shepadoodle may not be as spry as they once were but still require a daily walk—albeit slower.

CBD oil-infused treats, calming coats, and supplements like Valerian root have proven to help Shepadoodles with anxiety. Other alternative options include pheromone diffusers and pheromone collars.

Physical Health

Allergies

Allergies are the immune system’s misguided way of responding to foreign substances. Like humans, dogs can have allergies to various substances, such as food or plants. These substances are called allergens. There are three major types of allergies in dogs: food allergies, environmental allergies, and flea allergy dermatitis or FAD. Symptoms associated with allergies in the Shepadoodle include itchy skin, sneezing, runny eyes, chronic ear infections, and compulsive licking. The system of allergies can often mimic or run concurrently with other disorders. Proper diagnosis of your Shepadoodle’s condition is vital.

Environmental Allergies

Environmental allergies are also are the most common form of allergy in dogs. They can be indoor or outdoor irritants like dust, ragweed, pollen, mold, cigarette smoke, fragrance, and cleaning products. Environmental allergies in the Shepadoodle are typically seasonal. Though for indoor allergens like dust, smoke, and fragrance symptoms will persist year-round or for as long as your Shepadoodle gets exposed to them. These allergens can cause atopic dermatitis (also known as inhalant allergic dermatitis) in Shepadoodle Puppies. Because of excessive scratching and licking, secondary infections can occur. Most Shepadoodle Puppies will show signs of environmental allergies between the ages of 1-3 years old. Diagnosis of environmental allergies is typically done with blood tests, such as an intradermal skin test or RAST test.

Food Allergies

True food allergies are not that common in dogs. Most experience food sensitivity. Which is a reaction to specific ingredients in dog food, such as wheat, eggs, chicken, lamb, and beef. Most Shepadoodles with a food sensitivity will exhibit itchiness, gas, diarrhea or vomiting, and chronic ear infections. If your Shepadoodle has a true food allergy, this can cause an immune response accompanied by hives and swelling of the face. In severe cases, anaphylactic shock can occur. Anaphylactic shock can be fatal and requires that your Shepadoodle visit a vet immediately.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)

Flea allergy dermatitis is an allergic reaction to flea bites. Some Shepadoodles are allergic to flea saliva. When a flea bites a dog, they inject a small amount of its saliva under the dog’s skin. This can cause an allergic reaction. If your Shepadoodle gets infested with fleas, you may notice red, irritated skin with scabs around the base of the tail. You may even notice the fleas themselves. A dog doesn’t have to be battling a flea infestation to have a flea bite or a reaction to one. A single flea bite can cause a reaction long after it is no longer on your Shepadoodle. It is also important to note that your Shepadoodle may not have fleas at all and could have a reaction to a bite from a spider, wasp, tick, or mosquito. If you suspect your Shepadoodle Puppies have an insect bite of any kind, take them to your vet for proper diagnosis. Other signs, such as flea dirt (flea excrement) that are left behind on your Shepadoodle Puppies’ skin, usually accompany flea allergies. Your vet will run tests to confirm that the bite and irritation are indeed FAD.

shepadoodle adult and puppy on the couch

Treatment and Prevention

Treatment of allergies depends on the cause of the allergy. If your Shepadoodle Puppies are experiencing food allergies, your vet may suggest an elimination diet to confirm which ingredient(s) your Shepadoodle Puppies are allergic to. Your vet will place your Shepadoodle on a hypoallergenic diet. A hypoallergenic diet usually involves feeding your Shepadoodle complex carbohydrates and novel proteins such as rabbit, duck, or venison. Novel proteins are protein sources that your Shepadoodle’s immune system has never encountered and where no tolerance is developed.

For flea allergy dermatitis, your vet will do a physical exam to confirm whether your Shepadoodle has fleas. Your vet will create a care plan and give you tips for protecting your Shepadoodle from fleas.

Diagnosing environmental allergies in your Shepadoodle will involve either an intradermal skin test or a RAST test. A veterinary dermatologist can perform an intradermal skin test to diagnose allergies. It also requires anesthetizing your Shepadoodle. Your vet can also do a RAST, which is a simple blood test. However, RAST has a higher rate of false positives and is not as accurate as intradermal testing. Based on the season, shampoo therapy using a hypoallergenic shampoo is used to soothe the skin from environmental allergies, once diagnosed.

Allergy Management

Environment and diet will help manage your Shepadoodle’s allergies. If your Shepadoodle suffers from environmental allergies, investing in an air purifier can help tremendously. Keeping your home free of dust and avoiding smoking around your Shepadoodle Puppies can also help. During the spring and summer, keep your windows closed when the mold and ragweed counts are high. For flea allergies, flea infestation prevention is key.

You can help your Shepadoodle’s overall health and their allergies with additions to their diet. Omega-3 fatty acids (like in fish oil), have proven to lessen the severity of dermatitis and help reduce inflammation. Additionally, supplements such as Quercetin, known as “Nature’s Benadryl,” is a supplement prescribed by vets that functions as a natural antihistamine. It can help with environmental allergies.

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Gut Health

Bloat or Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus or bloat, as it’s most commonly known, is a potentially fatal disease in dogs. Large breed dogs like the Shepadoodle are, particularly at risk. Gastric dilatation-volvulus occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with gas, fluid, or food and twists. If your Shepadoodle develops GDV, it is always an emergency. Stomach distention, on its own, is simply called bloat. When the stomach twists and flips, this is gastric dilatation-volvulus. Bloat can resolve on its own; it’s when the stomach twists that the condition can prove fatal. Twisting of the stomach can cut off blood supply to the other organs. Toxins build up in the bloodstream, resulting in your Shepadoodle going into shock.

Causes

The ultimate cause of GDV is unknown, but it’s known that large dogs with deep chests like the Poodle and the German Shepard are at a higher risk of developing GDV. It’s important to know that any dog can develop the condition. Additional risk factors can include feeding your Shepadoodle only one meal a day, a family history of bloat, rapid eating, rapid drinking of water, eating moistened dry food, and having an anxious temperament. Stress is also a risk factor. Male dogs and older dogs are more likely to develop GDV than female dogs and young dogs. They discovered that dogs weighing over 100 pounds have a 20% increase in risk for developing bloat.

Symptoms

You may notice physical symptoms of bloat in your Shepadoodle, such as a distended stomach that makes them appear “bloated”. A gentle tapping around the swelling (behind the last rib) will produce a hollow sound. Your Shepadoodle’s breathing may become labored when the diaphragm is pressed. Once the condition advances, your Shepadoodle may collapse or be unable to move. Additional complications in Shepadoodle Puppies for GDV are heart arrhythmias and damage to the spleen.

Prognosis

The prognosis for Shepadoodles that develop GDV will depend on the severity of their condition. Complications like cardiac issues, stomach wall necrosis, and length of surgery can all be factors. Even with no complications, the mortality rate for dogs with GDV is 15-20%. The mortality rate increases to 38% when heart arrhythmia is present. If the damage was severe enough to require removal of part of the stomach or the spleen, the mortality rate is between 28-38%.

Prevention

Some large breed dog owners opt to have a prophylactic gastropexy performed on their dogs as a preventative measure against GDV. They perform the surgery when Shepadoodle Puppies are young. It’s frequently done at the same time as spaying or neutering Shepadoodle Puppies. Though this may seem like an extreme measure, we reduce the risk of GDV occurrence in Shepadoodle Puppies who had prophylactic gastropexy. We can also see it as cost-effective, as treating GDV can cost thousands of dollars. Prophylactic gastropexy is not a guarantee that your Shepadoodle Puppies will not develop GDV later in life, but the reduced risk can offer some peace of mind.

If prophylactic gastropexy is not right for you and your Shepadoodle Puppies, there are things you can do yourself to lessen the risk of their developing GDV: feed your Shepadoodle a few small meals a day as opposed to one large meal once a day. Wait 1-2 hours after a feed to walk or exercise your Shepadoodle Puppies. Don’t use elevated food bowls to feed your Shepadoodle Puppies and don’t mix dry food with water. Discourage your Shepadoodle Puppies from drinking too much water all at once. Making these changes won’t eliminate the possibility of your Shepadoodle developing GDV. But they can reduce the risk.

shepadoodle puppy laying in the grass

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Eye Health

A dog’s eyes convert reflected light into nerve impulses that the brain uses to form images of the world. Several eye conditions can disrupt this process. Poodles are prone to a specific eye condition known as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). The German Shepard is prone to pannus (Chronic Superficial Keratitis). This gives the Shepadoodle a unique set of eye conditions it’s predisposed to.

Retinal Atrophy

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a group of degenerative diseases that affect the photoreceptor cells. Atrophy means the partial or total “wasting” of a body part. With PRA, the photoreceptor cells degenerate over time, eventually leading to blindness. The two main forms of PRA in dogs are early-onset or inherited. Diagnosis of the early-onset form called retinal dysplasia in Shepadoodle Puppies is around 2-3 months old. Diagnosis of late-onset in Shepadoodles is between the ages of 3-9 years. Early-onset is typically called retinal dysplasia, while late-onset is referred to as simply PRA.

Causes

Retinal dysplasia occurs when the photoreceptors cells develop abnormally. This leads to early-onset blindness in Shepadoodle Puppies. With late-onset PRA, cells develop normally but degenerate over time. This also leads to blindness. PRA is an inherited disease.

Symptoms

PRA is not painful and is hard to notice in the early stages. The first symptom of PRA in the Shepadoodle is night blindness. Affected Shepadoodle Puppies may suddenly become nervous about going out at night or being in dark rooms. Your Shepadoodle may bump into things in rooms with dim lighting. Your Shepadoodle’s eye may also become more reflective and its pupils more dilated. You may notice that your Shepadoodle is a bit wobbly or clumsy. Typically, PRA affects both eyes. For Shepadoodle Puppies with the inherited form (retinal dysplasia), the only sign may be loss of day vision or complete blindness. As PRA progresses, your Shepadoodle’s vision will continue to deteriorate. In later stages, cataracts may develop.

Diagnosis and Treatment of PRA

Your vet may recommend that your Shepadoodle Puppies see a veterinary ophthalmologist for diagnosis. The ophthalmologist will perform an electroretinogram (ERG) to confirm PRA and rule out other conditions. An ERG can also detect retinal dysplasia in the early stages, even before your Shepadoodle has visible symptoms.

There are currently no effective treatments for PRA. Using antioxidants has shown no measurable success in treating or preventing PRA. Though they may still be useful in delaying cataract formation.

Pannus

Pannus, also known as chronic superficial keratitis, is a condition of rapid swelling and inflammation that spreads quickly over the cornea in both eyes. The disease begins on the edge of the cornea near the whites of the eyes. It eventually spreads to cover the cornea completely. Pannus, if not treated, can lead to blindness.

Causes

Pannus is a hereditary disease that Shepadoodle Puppies can develop at any age. Other predetermining factors can be over-exposure to ultraviolet light, exposure to smoke, and high altitudes.

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Symptoms

An early sign of pannus in your Shepadoodle is a raised pink mass that appears on the cornea. As the condition progresses, the mass flattens out. It will become darker and spread over the cornea. Imagine the eye as the face of a clock: you will find the pink mass at the eight to eleven o’clock positions on the right and one to four o’clock on the left. A mucous-like discharge may be present. Your Shepadoodle’s third eyelid may appear swollen. In advanced cases, your Shepadoodle’s vision will become impaired. Both eyes are usually affected, but one eye can be worse than the other.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Pannus

Your vet will run tests on your Shepadoodle’s eyes. Diagnostic tests include corneal staining, intraocular pressure testing (IOP), and corneal scrapings. Once the diagnosis is determined, your vet will sit down with you to go over your treatment options for your Shepadoodle Puppies. Treatment will depend on the severity of your Shepadoodle’s condition. In severe cases, surgery is required to remove scar tissue to improve your Shepadoodle’s vision. Treatment won’t cure your Shepadoodle but can stop the progression.

shepadoodle puppy sitting on a wood deck

Prognosis

Most Shepadoodle Puppies respond well to treatment. It is important to follow your vet’s instructions carefully and be vigilant with regular checkups for your Shepadoodle Puppies.

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Ear Health

The health of your Shepadoodle’s ear plays an important role in their overall wellbeing. Most Shepadoodle Puppies have floppy ears. Dogs with floppy ears can be at a higher risk for issues such as ear infections. Untreated ear disease can lead to hearing loss in later years.

Ear Infection

20% of dogs have some form of ear disease (or ear infection). Dogs are more prone to ear infections because of the L-shape of their ear canals. There are three types of ear infections; otitis external (infection of the external canal), otitis media (infection of the middle canal), and otitis internal (infection of the inner canal). The most common form of infection is otitis externa. The other form of infection is usually a result of otitis externa spreading. Otitis media and otitis interna can be very serious and, if left untreated, can lead to hearing loss in Shepadoodle Puppies.

Causes

Your Shepadoodle can have a predisposition to ear infections if they also suffer from allergies. A Shepadoodle with an autoimmune disorder or thyroid disease can also have a vulnerability to ear infections. If your Shepadoodle swims a lot, the moisture can be a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast.

Symptoms

If your Shepadoodle is shaking its head or pawing its ears, it may have an ear infection. Additional signs of an ear infection in Shepadoodle Puppies include swelling of the ear canal, dark discharge in the ears, pain, and odor. Ear infections can be painful. If you suspect your Shepadoodle has an ear infection, a vet visit is necessary.

Treatment and Diagnosis

Diagnosis of ear infection in your Shepadoodle usually involves a physical exam. Your vet will take a culture swab of any debris in your Shepadoodle’s ear and check it under a microscope. Once the diagnosis is determined, your vet will want to treat the infection quickly to avoid the infection spreading to other parts of the ears. Ear infections can’t be treated at home. It’s recommended that you practice frequent handwashing when handling your Shepadoodle as ear infections are contagious. In cases of extreme infection, your vet may have to perform a TECA or Total Ear Ablation, which involves removal of the ear canal.

Prevention

Keeping your Shepadoodle Puppies’ ears cleaned is the first line of defense in preventing ear infections. Use an ear wash that is specially formulated for dogs. Don’t use cotton buds, hydrogen peroxide, or alcohol to clean your Shepadoodle’s ears. There is conflicting information on whether it is okay to use cotton balls to clean your Shepadoodle’s ear. Some vets say it is fine, while others state to avoid it since fibers can stay in the ear canal and cause further irritation. The decision is yours to make on this front.

Hearing Loss

As they enter their senior years, many Shepadoodles can suffer from hearing loss. As your Shepadoodle loses hearing, you may notice them ignoring cues or commands. He may become unresponsive to sounds that excited him or even frightened him. You may also find that your Shepadoodle is sleeping more deeply.

Causes

Along with age, deafness can also be inherited or present at birth in Shepadoodle Puppies . Chronic or untreated ear infections can also cause hearing loss. With a senior Shepadoodle, hearing loss is typically due to degeneration of the nerves inside the ears (known as natural geriatric nerve degeneration). Repeated exposure to loud noises, such as gunfire or explosives, can also lead to degeneration of the hearing with age.

Symptoms

As stated above, the most obvious symptoms are changes in the way your Shepadoodle responds to you and its environment. The primary sign of hearing loss is failure to respond to sound.

Diagnosis

Deafness can be difficult to diagnose or detect, except by careful observation. Your vet will do X-rays or perform a CT scan. An exam of your Shepadoodle’s ear canals will also be done.

shepadoodle dog laying on a couch

Management

There is no cure for hearing loss in dogs. The most important thing you can do for your Shepadoodle is to implement a plan to make their daily lives easier. The good news is that dogs adapt well to lack of sound. If your Shepadoodle Puppies have been deaf since birth, this, of course, isn’t an issue. If your Shepadoodle has gained hearing loss, the adjustment may take some time. It can confuse your Shepadoodle to suddenly no longer be able to hear. Your Shepadoodle may have increased anxiety during this transition period. Teaching your Shepadoodle non-verbal signals can help them adapt and create a sense of normalcy. Use light flashes or vibration cues to get your Shepadoodle’s attention. Additionally, give your Shepadoodle extra affection to get them used to touch without hearing you.

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Immune Health

A strong immune system is important in protecting your Shepadoodle Puppies from disease and infections. In a healthy Shepadoodle, the immune system recognizes foreign cells like bacteria and destroys and removes them. In an immune system that is misfiring, it can attack healthy cells. This group of conditions is called immune-mediated disease. Immune-mediated diseases include lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, and anemia.

Lupus

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE) is the most common type of lupus in dogs. Shepadoodle Puppies with lupus can develop crusting and scabbing of the skin, usually around the nose. Loss of skin pigmentation in the affected area is also common. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is when the immune system attacks its own tissues. Certain breeds, like the Poodle and in turn, Shepadoodle Puppies, are predisposed to SLE. The average age for onset for SLE is 5 years, though some Shepadoodle Puppies can develop the disorder as early as the age of 6 months.

Causes

As mentioned above, DLE and SLE are autoimmune disorders. The underlying cause of DLE and SLE is unknown. However, exposure to ultraviolet light appears to worsen DLE and is more common in a Shepadoodle that lives in a warm climate. SLE in Shepadoodle Puppies is also believed to be triggered by environmental factors.

Symptoms

Symptoms of DLE include erosions, loss of pigmentation, and ulcers around the nose. The skin of the nose can become smooth and be prone to bleeding and lesions. In some Shepadoodle Puppies, the lesions can spread over the body. The areas most commonly affected are the skin around the eyes, the earflaps, and the genitals. The symptoms of SLE in Shepadoodle Puppies include lethargy, enlarged lymph nodes, muscle pain, and lameness in the limbs.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of DLE will require a biopsy. Your vet will take a small, circular skin sample. This procedure will require sedation of your Shepadoodle. Then they send the skin sample away for analysis. Diagnosis for SLE involves a blood test. Not all Shepadoodle Puppies will have the same signs of SLE but most will test positive for anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA)

Hemolytic Anemia

Hemolytic anemia occurs when red blood cells get destroyed. Hemolytic anemia is a “regenerative” condition. In regenerative anemia, the bone marrow responds to the decreased number of red blood cells and creates more. Hemolytic anemia is a serious condition. It causes death in 20-75% of affected animals. Blood clots are a risk for your Shepadoodle with hemolytic anemia.

Causes

The most common cause of hemolytic anemia is immune-mediated. The body no longer recognizes red blood cells and develops antibodies to destroy the red blood cells.

Symptoms

A Shepadoodle with hemolytic anemia appears jaundiced, has a fever, and has an enlarged spleen. Your Shepadoodle can show mild signs and not be in any pain. Or they can suddenly need immediate care.

Treatment

The vet will tailor your Shepadoodle’s treatment based on its symptoms. Your vet may give your Shepadoodle IV fluids or a blood transfusion. Your vet may have to refer your Shepadoodle to an internal medicine specialist.

Polyarthritis

Polyarthritis is inflammation of the joints and is characterized as either infectious or immune-mediated. Immune-mediated polyarthritis refers to an abnormal immune response by your Shepadoodle’s body directed at their joints. Immune-mediated polyarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the Shepadoodle. It can affect multiple joints.

Symptoms

Symptoms of polyarthritis in the Shepadoodle include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. Your Shepadoodle Puppies may have a reluctance to walk or walk with a limp. Your Shepadoodle may also be lethargic, have a fever, and have a loss of appetite.

shepadoodle stading in the road

Treatment and Diagnosis

Radiography and joint fluid analysis for multiple joints determine the diagnosis of polyarthritis. Treatment of polyarthritis involves both medical and holistic approaches. Your vet may prescribe supplements such as chondroitin and glucosamine. They use these two natural supplements in tandem to ease inflammation, reduce pain, stimulate cartilage repair and improve joint function in your Shepadoodle Puppies.

Immune Support

There are ways to support your Shepadoodle’s immune health. Supplements such as Milk Thistle protect the liver, while supplements such as Cat’s Claw can help with inflammation. Astragalus boosts weakened immune systems. Foods such as carrots, yogurt, and high-fiber foods can improve the digestive system and help maintain immune health in Shepadoodle Puppies. A consistent exercise routine can also help reduce inflammation. Overweight Shepadoodle Puppies are more susceptible to chronic disease. Feed your Shepadoodle Puppies a diet rich in protein, fiber, and essential fatty acids. Eliminating stress factors is also vital to supporting your Shepadoodle’s immune health.

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Joint Health

Joint problems can be a common issue for large dog breeds. Shepadoodle Puppies are especially prone to certain joint issues, such as hip dysplasia and panosteitis.

Hip Dysplasia

Abnormal development of the hip joint characterizes hip dysplasia. It is common in large breed dogs like the Shepadoodle, Standard Poodle, and German Shepard but can occur in any size dog or breed. Hip dysplasia can be painful and can affect your Shepadoodle’s quality of life.

Causes

Genetics play a large role in whether your Shepadoodle will develop hip dysplasia. Due to both its parent breeds and its size, the likelihood of your Shepadoodle Puppies developing hip dysplasia is high. Other factors, such as excessive growth, obesity, and injury, can also play a role. Hip dysplasia generally affects older Shepadoodle dogs, though the degeneration of the hip joint can begin in Shepadoodle Puppies.

Symptoms

Signs of hip dysplasia in your Shepadoodle include joint pain, stiffness, decreased activity, loss of thigh muscle mass, difficulty walking and running.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Sometimes a physical exam can be enough to diagnose hip dysplasia in your Shepadoodle. Your vet will test the joint and perform x-rays and a radiograph to assess the progress of the degree of the dysplasia. They may also do blood tests to rule out other conditions. If your Shepadoodle is a suitable candidate for surgery, your vet may perform surgery. There are three types of surgeries to treat hip dysplasia:

DPO/TPO

DPO/TPO surgery is performed on Shepadoodle Puppies less than a year old. The reason for this procedure is to improve the function of the ball and socket joint by cutting segments of bone.

FHO

FHO is performed on Shepadoodles young and old. The procedure involves cutting off the ball of the hip joint. The result is that a “false joint” gets created, which reduces pain. FHO cannot restore normal hip function but can be a successful way to manage pain.

THR

THR stands for Total Hip Replacement. THR is the most effective way to treat your Shepadoodle’s hip dysplasia. Your veterinary surgeon will replace the entire joint with metal and plastic implants. They then restored the hip function of Shepadoodle Puppies to the normal range.

Prevention

You can’t always prevent hip dysplasia. There are steps you can take to reduce your Shepadoodle’s chances of developing the condition. Weight management is vitally important not only in your Shepadoodle’s overall health but specifically in managing hip dysplasia. Make sure not to over-exercise your Shepadoodle Puppies. An early injury to the hip joint can lead to hip dysplasia later in life.

Panosteitis

Commonly referred to as “growing pains,” panosteitis is an orthopedic condition in Shepadoodle Puppies that occurs in the leg bones. Panosteitis is associated with rapid growth in large dog breeds. German Shepards are the breed most affected by the condition. The condition can occur in Shepadoodle Puppies between 5-14 months. The first symptoms can occur in Shepadoodle Puppies as young as 2 months. Male Shepadoodles are more likely to be affected than female Shepadoodles.

Causes

Panosteitis is painful, and increased pressure causes pain within the bone. The underlying cause of panosteitis is unknown. Since German Shepards are particularly predisposed, it’s believed that a genetic component to the disease in present the breed. As a result, the Shepadoodle has a higher risk of developing the condition as well.

Symptoms

Typical symptoms of panosteitis are sudden lameness in the leg or legs, which can be mild or severe. The humerus (upper arm) is the most commonly affected bone. The bone (s) is usually painful to the touch. Bouts of panosteitis in Shepadoodle Puppies can be cyclical with painful periods, followed by improvement. Episodes can last for a few days to a few weeks.

Treatment and Diagnosis

Your vet will perform a physical exam and will watch your Shepadoodle walk to determine which joints are affected. Your Shepadoodle. During the physical exam, your vet will press on your Shepadoodle’s legs, back, and neck to check for pain responses. Treatment will focus on reducing inflammation in the joints. X-rays may also help rule out the possibility of other conditions.

Prognosis

Panosteitis usually will resolve itself once your Shepadoodle Puppies are past the age of 2 with no lasting pain.

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Skin and Coat

Grooming

The grooming needs of the Shepadoodle are considerable. Your Shepadoodle Puppies’ coat may not be an accurate representation of what it will look like in maturity. Regardless of whether your Shepadoodle has straight hair or curly hair, they will need to be brushed every other day. If your Shepadoodle has curly hair, this will prevent mats and tangles. Brushing your Shepadoodle Puppies regularly can also prevent skin issues by spreading the natural oils through the fur. Shepadoodle Puppies with longer coats will need to be brushed even more. The Shepadoodle’s fur doesn’t get dirty often but can hold odor. If your Shepadoodle is smelly, bathe them. Otherwise, bathe your Shepadoodle once every two months. Routine grooming will allow you to examine your Shepadoodle’s eyes, teeth, ears, and nails for any potential problems. Also, check your Shepadoodle Puppies’ fur for ticks and fleas.

Nail Trimming

Grooming sessions with your Shepadoodle Puppies should include nail trimming. Nail trimming can be difficult with a Shepadoodle who is uncooperative. Use nail trimmers designed specifically for dogs to prevent cutting the nails too short and hurting your Shepadoodle. If you continue to find it difficult to trim your Shepadoodle’s nails, have them trimmed by your vet or a professional groomer.

Ear Cleaning

You should clean your Shepadoodle’s ears once a month. More, if they are prone to ear infections. Clean the outer part of the ear only with a cloth using ear wash or mineral oil. Force nothing into your Shepadoodle’s ear canal.

Tooth Brushing

Clean your Shepadoodle’s teeth regularly with a toothbrush and toothpaste formulated for dogs. You can add a bit of the toothpaste onto your finger and allow your Shepadoodle to get used to the scent. Chew toys can help keep your Shepadoodle’s teeth clean. As your Shepadoodle Puppies get older, they should have regular cleaning by your vet to remove plaque buildup.

Anal Sac

Anal sacs are located on each side of your Shepadoodle’s anus. These glands excrete scent when your Shepadoodle has a bowel movement. If you notice your Shepadoodle Puppies are licking their rear or scooting along the floor, take them to your vet. The anal sacs may be impacted and need to be drained.

Tear-Staining

Tear-staining can be a common issue for Shepadoodle Puppies with light or white-colored coats. Tear stains are reddish-brown stains under the eyes and around the muzzle. They can also occur between the toes.

Causes and Symptoms

The cause of tear-staining can be related to health issues, the shape of the eye, blocked tear ducts, allergies, or ear infections. If your Shepadoodle suddenly started having teary or watery eyes, followed by tear-staining, consult your vet. Tear-stains are usually just a nuisance, as the staining can be hard to remove.

Treatment

Flush your Shepadoodle Puppies’ eyes with a canine eyewash. Wash your Shepadoodle Puppies’ muzzle and nose with waterless shampoo. Keep the hair around your Shepadoodle’s eyes bright by using a hydrogen peroxide cleaning solution. Be sure not to get the solution in your Shepadoodle Puppies’ s eyes. Doing this once a week, over time, can lighten the fur around the Shepadoodle’s eyes. You may need to send your Shepadoodle Puppies to a groomer to help with the removal of tear stains.

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Prevention

The quality of food and water can play a role in tear-staining. Give your Shepadoodle Puppies purified, distilled water for drinking. Avoid giving your Shepadoodle Puppies bottled water as they can create excess minerals that contribute to staining around the eyes and muzzle. Feed your Shepadoodle a high-quality grain-free diet. Inferior ingredients like cornmeal and wheat can increase tear staining.

With proper care, diet, and a holistic lifestyle, your Shepadoodle can live a long and happy life.