How to Care for a Sheepadoodle with Elbow Dysplasia

sheepadoodle dog laying in front of white background


Sheepadoodles are a mixed dog breed between the Poodle and the Old English Sheepdog. These two large breed dogs are popular with families for their outstanding personality traits. Poodles are known to be proud, playful, and intelligent dogs. Old English Sheepdogs share similar qualities while also being excellent watchdogs, hard workers, and affectionate animals. Sheepadoodle puppies can result from a standard Poodle, miniature Poodle, or toy-sized Poodle. Mixing smaller sizes of Poodle can create mini Sheepadoodle puppies.

Standard Sheepadoodle puppies are a great mashup of these personalities and become this lovable, huggable, intelligent dog breed. These desirable qualities are a large part of why Sheepadoodle dogs are so adored. This doodle breed is very attentive to its family and incredibly loyal.

Sheepadoodles, like their relatives, often have tons of energy. Large dogs typically need more daily activity than smaller dogs, and Sheepadoodle dogs are no different. These dogs stand anywhere from 16 to 22 inches in height and weigh between 60 to 80 pounds. The standard Sheepadoodle mix is a very large dog. However, Sheepadoodle dog owners should keep in mind that Sheepadoodles bred from a miniature or toy poodle will be smaller in size. Because these large dogs have tons of energy, owners need to take their Sheepadoodle on daily walks, giving them at least an hour of activity daily. Many large dogs need a lot of exercise to stay healthy and out of trouble.

Poodles are one dog breed that have an increased risk of developing obesity simply because of how high energy they are and how often owners don’t meet their dog‘s exercise needs. Old English Sheepdogs are just as energetic when it comes to exercise needs. When Sheepadoodles don’t get enough exercise, they can become obese, just like their Poodle relatives. However, this obesity can magnify an already predisposed risk of experiencing elbow dysplasia for dogs with joint issues. To properly take care of Sheepadoodle puppies, potential owners need to be aware of these dogs’ activity needs. Ideally, Sheepadoodle owners would love to run around and go for long walks just as much as their pets do.

Sheepdog and Poodle mix puppies are ideal for many families because of their great personalities. In addition to their lovable qualities, these dogs are also very light shedders, thanks to their relation to the Poodle. Although no dog is truly hypoallergenic, Sheepadoodles may inherit their Poodle relative’s fur and be a great fit for people with animal allergies. This is just another reason these dogs are so popular.

Sheepadoodle pups love kids, and as long as they’re properly socialized, they’ll love meeting new people as well. In fact, in history, these dogs have been used as therapy and service dogs. Sheepadoodles can make for a great therapy dog because they are attentive and trainable. These pups come from two intelligent breeds known for their loyalty to their people. Standard Sheepadoodles have a lot of upsides to their mixed breed, but one of the few downsides that Sheepadoodle dogs have is their health risks.

sheepadoodle walking through yard

Sheepadoodle Health Issues

Sheepadoodle puppies inherit genetic health risks from both parent breeds. This means that any genetic condition that the average Poodle or Old English Sheepdog is at risk of contracting, a Sheepadoodle is at risk of contracting that disease as well. Another important thing to note is that if both the Poodle and Old English Sheepdog are at risk of developing the same health condition, this hybrid breed at an even higher risk because of the potential health conditions it inherits from both of its parents.

That means this doodle mix can inherit bloat, hip dysplasia, and skin diseases from its Poodle parent breed. However, the average Old English Sheepdog experiences fewer skin diseases than a Poodle, so a standard Sheepadoodle will have less of a risk inheriting skin diseases. Sheepadoodles are likely to suffer from separation anxiety and other health conditions shared by both of their parent breeds. Sheepadoodles inherit the risk of elbow dysplasia from both of their parent breeds. It is important to note that hybrid dogs always lean more heavily to one of the mixed breeds rather than the other, and the characteristics of each parent breed are never equally present in mixed breeds. However, no matter which parent breed the Sheepadoodles lean towards, they will have a higher risk of getting elbow dysplasia than the average Poodle or Old English Sheepdog does.

Some of the conditions Sheepadoodles can experience can be life-threatening, such as bloat, and other conditions can be life-altering, like elbow dysplasia. Elbow dysplasia is a condition where the elbow joint is misaligned and can cause arthritis and limit a dog‘s movement. This health condition is not lethal to an animal, but it can change how energetic and active a dog is and, sadly, decrease its quality of life. However, some cases of this condition can be treated before any permanent damage is done.

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Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a health condition when the elbow joint doesn’t align correctly. The elbow comprises three bones, the radius, ulna, and humorous. When these bones connect correctly in the joint, they can support and withstand a lifetime of use, but when they aren’t, they grind together and eventually lead to elbow dysplasia.

Elbow dysplasia is an umbrella term for a group of more specific diseases that lead to the same prognosis. Elbow incongruity, ununited medial epicondyle, osteochondritis dessicans of the medial humeral condyle, fragmented medial coronoid process, and ununited anconeal process are a few names of the specific diseases that encompass elbow dysplasia. A Sheepadoodle with any of these diseases will ultimately deal with arthritis in their elbow, which is why they all fit in the ‘elbow dysplasia‘ category.

sheepadoodle laying in grass

Sheepadoodle Elbow Dysplasia Explained

When a Sheepadoodle experiences elbow dysplasia, they will feel discomfort, usually in one of their front two legs. This discomfort might present itself in the form of lameness in your dog‘s arms. Affected Sheepadoodle dogs might also show reluctance in any activities, and could stop climbing or descending stairs. In most cases, the elbow joint becomes stiff, which shows as signs of pain and swelling in the joints. Many cases of elbow dysplasia present themselves when the dog is between six and ten months old. Still, it is also common for dogs with elbow dysplasia to go undiagnosed for years. Some dogs that get diagnosed later in life experience severe forms of joint arthritis because of this condition.

Many dogs with this condition lose their range of motion and experience increased pain over time. As the elbow dysplasia develops, the joint becomes more damaged. When a dog owner sees these signs in their dog, they should talk to their vet about the next steps. If your vet agrees that elbow dysplasia may be at play with your Sheepadoodle puppy, then you should follow their advice on how to treat this condition.

How Vets Diagnose Elbow Dysplasia

Often, vets will need a detailed list of symptoms the owners have noticed to help diagnose a Sheepadoodle with elbow dysplasia. Vets will then review a complete history of the dog‘s physical health and continue to take X-rays of the affected limb. The X-rays should be able to provide a clear picture of how the elbow joint bones align. Sometimes, vets will need more than an X-ray to definitively determine whether a dog has elbow dysplasia or not. If it’s difficult to tell, vets may take radiographs or MRIs and send them to a veterinary radiologist.

A veterinary radiologist studies how to determine the signs of elbow dysplasia in these pictures, and they can help a vet determine whether a dog suffers from elbow dysplasia or not. Sometimes, vets will use a needle to remove some of the fluid from the joint and examine the fluid to see if the joint is inflamed. Elbow arthroscopy is the next step for dogs with elbow dysplasia, as this allows vets to determine the extent of their condition and develop a treatment fit for the situation.

sheepadoodle dog laying down

Treatment Options for Elbow Dysplasia

Vets estimate that 80-85% of patients with elbow dysplasia will respond favorably with physical rehabilitation and pain management medication. The other 15-20% of patients will require more advanced procedures for successful treatment. These advanced procedures usually come in the form of corrective elbow surgeries or joint replacements. An entire elbow joint replacement is not as successful as a whole hip replacement, but vets might advise this type of procedure depending on the severity of the condition.

Preventative Measures

Sadly there aren’t many ways to prevent elbow dysplasia. Scientifically, the only way to avoid elbow dysplasia is to prevent dogs with elbow dysplasia from reproducing. However, since adopting dogs is the best way to get a new puppy, there isn’t much people can do to prevent these dogs from getting elbow dysplasia.

Sometimes, owners try to decrease their pups’ chances of getting elbow dysplasia by providing particular vitamins and nutrients through specialized food or encouraging rest. Keep in mind, obesity is a huge contributing factor to all joint issues in dogs. Ensuring your Sheepadoodle receives the proper amount of exercise is a key factor in maintaining a healthy weight and subsequently, healthy joints. Large dogs are more prone to joint dysplasia because of how much pressure their joints take from their physical weight. When large dog breeds, like the Sheepadoodle, are overweight, it magnifies the risk of developing elbow dysplasia.

Giving your Sheepadoodle the proper amount of exercise is a great way to keep their joints oiled up and prevent them from being overworked. When animals don’t get enough activity, their joints stiffen, gradually losing range of motion. For a standard Sheepadoodle dog, a small loss of range of motion is not the end of the world. However, less exercise leads to stiffer, more arthritic joints over time. On the other hand, dogs that get too much activity can wear and tear their cartilage away over time. Too much activity on an improper elbow joint can cause swelling and pain in the vulnerable area.

After long walks, hikes, or periods of high activity, a Sheepadoodle owner should have places their dog can comfortably rest. Soft dog beds that lift a dog‘s joints off of the ground or any couch or bed would be an excellent place for a Sheepadoodle to rest their tired bones. However, other than providing an adequate amount of exercise and providing soft resting places for your dog, there isn’t much that owners can do to stop their Sheepadoodle dogs from developing elbow dysplasia

sheepadoodle sitting in grass

Life Expectancy

Sheepadoodles come from the Old English Sheepdog and the Poodle, and even though this hybrid inherits many risks of health conditions, most Sheepadoodles live a long, healthy life. Sheepadoodles average a lifespan of 12 to 14 years. Even Sheepadoodles with elbow dysplasia will have this same estimated lifespan.

However, if a Sheepadoodle is experiencing elbow dysplasia as a side effect of a different health condition, such as obesity, then that original condition can shorten a dog‘s lifespan. Dog obesity, on average, shortens the average lifespan up to two years. So, elbow dysplasia alone will not shorten your Sheepadoodle puppies’ lifespan, but it can greatly affect how your dog interacts with you and the world around them.

Sheepadoodle with Elbow Dysplasia

Sheepadoodle puppies with elbow dysplasia may behave differently when suffering the symptoms of this disease than they would on an average day. Elbow dysplasia can be painful for dogs, making them more reluctant to climb stairs or jump onto beds or couches. Some dogs with elbow dysplasia may become irritable when anyone touches their affected joint. Sometimes dogs with such painful symptoms will isolate themselves and become aggressive when others come near. These dogs are clearly not happy, which is why they need attentive owners who can help them. That’s why it’s so important to seek treatment for dogs with elbow dysplasia. This joint condition can severely alter a dog‘s attitude and overall personality if they are left miserable and uncomfortable.

If you’re looking into getting a Sheepadoodle, or you already have one and want to provide the best care, you should be sure to get your dog to the vet at least once a year. Extra careful pet parents can take their pups to get twice-yearly physicals if it makes them feel safer. These regular check-ups can help vets stay up to date on their dog‘s current health and allow owners to ask any questions that may come to mind. Although many dogs do, not all Sheepadoodles will have or ever will experience elbow dysplasia. Even dogs that do can receive successful treatment to aid their healing process and regain lost function.

If a Sheepadoodle has elbow dysplasia for years before it goes noticed, it may cause permanent damage to the elbow joint. This damage, in turn, limits a Sheepadoodle’s degrees of motion and can cause lameness. When dogs get treatment in the form of physical rehabilitation or pain medication, this lameness lessens, but the joint damage does not go away. Without surgery, a dog‘s elbow joint will not heal from the damage and arthritis it has already experienced, but thankfully, Sheepadoodles can be treated for this health condition in many different ways.

Sheepadoodle dogs are lovable, sweet pups that need just as much attention as they need activity. Daily walks and healthy diets are key to ensuring your dog‘s best health. Too much exercise can wear healthy cartilage down, and too little can make bones brittle and stiff. Sheepadoodle dog owners need to be prepared to provide all their pup needs to be at their happiest, healthiest self.

If you’re anxious about having a dog with elbow dysplasia, don’t be! There are plenty of treatment and diagnosis methods, but if you aren’t sure if a Sheepadoodle is the right dog for you, then maybe consider getting a smaller dog that is less at risk of developing joint issues. Potential owners should keep in mind that elbow dysplasia at its worst causes pain for your dog and at its best is a health condition that your dog takes medicine to treat. This health condition can change their life, but careful vets and owners can make sure no dog goes untreated for elbow dysplasia.

If after learning a little about Sheepadoodle puppies, you are more excited, that’s an amazing sign. Sheepadoodle puppies need owners that are excited to take care of them because those dogs are going to be excited to be around you. Remember, these dogs are in shelters all over the country, and there is a Sheepadoodle out there waiting to find its next best home. Sheepadoodle puppies are amazing companions and with plenty of attention, even a dog with severe elbow dysplasia can find a home where they’re happy.

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