Are Cockapoos Healthy?
All dogs that come from a larger gene pool are less susceptible to genetic health problems, and cockapoos are no exception. Any cross-bred dog will be less likely to inherit genetic diseases than a purebred dog. However, since Cockapoos come from crossing two purebred dogs, they do have some propensity for developing the most common ailments of each of the parent breeds.
What Diseases is My Cockapoo Prone To?
On the Cocker Spaniel genetic side, your Cockapoo might be prone to:
- Hip Dysplasia
- Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
- Heart Conditions/Cardiomyopathy
On the Poodle genetic side, your Cockapoo might be prone to:
- Eye problems (cataracts, glaucoma, PRA)
- Liver/Kidney Disease
What Are These Diseases?
The following will briefly describe some of these diseases, so that you will know what symptoms to look out for in your Cockapoo.
Lymphoma in people and in dogs is the term doctors use to describe cancer that stems from lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell.
There are many types of lymphoma, but the most commonly diagnosed lymphoma called Multicentric Lymphoma. This lymphoma occurs in the lymph nodes.
Most often, the way to check your dog for lymphoma is to feel the peripheral lymph nodes, which are:
- On the underside of the neck on either side
- On the front of the chest on either side
- Up behind the bottoms of the ears
- Up inside the armpits
- Up inside of the back legs
- On the backs of the knees
When you are petting your dog, push a little deeper and rub in a circular motion with the thumb and forefingers to palpate for the lymph nodes gently in the area where the lymph node is located, and you will then know what a normal lymph node feels like. You can even hold them between two fingers. Normal lymph nodes are circular, slippery, and soft, and will slide back and forth in between your fingers. This way, you will know when your dog’s lymph nodes are enlarged.
Make sure you are very familiar with how your entire dog’s body usually feels, because then you will know immediately if something is wrong.
Note: When a dog gets sick with an infection, her lymph nodes will swell up—moderately–just like ours do when we are sick. This is normal and you should not be alarmed. This is a normal immune response.
Diseases of the Eye
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an eye disease that is known to be seen in poodles and leads to rapid blindness. You will know if your dog has the symptoms of Progressive Retinal Atrophy if she is/has:
- Having trouble seeing in the dark or in dim lighting
- Bumping into things
- Dilated pupils, which make the eyes appear shinier than normal
Glaucoma is a disease in which the pressure inside the eyeball (intraocular pressure), and causes pain and vision impairment. Symptoms that you might notice if your dog is developing glaucoma are:
- Eye pain–squinting, rubbing the eye, turning her head away from you if you go to pet her near her eye
- Watery discharge from the eye
- Swelling/bulging of the eye
- Loss of appetite
- A bluish/white cloudy covering over the eye
Glaucoma is manageable with eye medications
Cataracts develop when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy and white, which can cause blindness. Cataracts can be treated with medication and/or surgery, and are associated with certain diseases, like diabetes. You will know if your dog has cataracts if:
- The part of the eye that used to be black is now white or turning white
- Loss of vision/blindness
Canine Hip Dysplasia is a painful malformation of the hip joint in which the ball-and-socket joint doesn’t fit together quite right. The top of the femur is the ball, and it is supposed to fit snugly into the hip socket, but with hip dysplasia, the socket is much more shallow than it should be. This causes abnormal wear and tear of the ball joint, in which the formerly rounded ball part of the joint gets flattened and squared off, and then it doesn’t fit in the socket at all eventually, which is very painful for the dog. Veterinarians diagnose CHD by looking at an X-ray.
Signs of Canine Hip Dysplasia
- Having a hard time getting up from a laying down position
- Hips sway when walking, or a “bunny hop” gait
- Loss of muscle mass in the thighs from non-use
- When you put one hand on the hip joint and with the other hand, you move the leg back and forth, you feel a grinding or grating feeling of a bone rubbing against another bone
To prevent hip dysplasia, many breeders have the mother and father dog’s hips X-rayed and certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals before breeding. Seek out these breeders to purchase your Cockapoo from.
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a disease of the spine that happens most often in smaller dogs that have a long back and short legs. There is an intervertebral disc that acts as a shock absorber in between each bony vertabrea in the back. In IVDD, the middles of the discs, normally composed of soft, spongy, watery materiel that is like a gel, begins to dehydrate and harden. This is painful for the dog, and may even cause paralysis.
Signs of Intervertebral Disc Disease
- No appetite
- Yelping or whining when picked up or moving
- Doesn’t want to negotiate stairs
- Tense, rigid abdomen
- Not wanting to go for a walk or jump for a treat or toy
- Holding the head down
- Arching the back
- If you turn your dog’s foot over so that the top of the foot is on the floor, and the dog leaves it there (loss of reflexes)
To prevent IVDD or lower the risk substantially, if you have a smaller Cockapoo, don’t encourage vertical jumping, make sure she is at an ideal weight, if you have high furniture, make her some stairs or a ramp so that she doesn’t have to injure her back jumping on and off of it; and use a harness to walk her instead of a collar.
Cardiomyopathy, specifically Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), is fairly common in Cockapoos and many other dog breeds. In this cardiac disease, the walls of the heart wear thin, which decreases the efficiency of the heart’s contracting. This leads to Congestive Heart Failure, which is ultimately fatal.
Signs of DCM are:
- Exercise intolerance
- No appetite
- Laboured breathing
- Cold feet
- Appearing pot-bellied
Diet has a lot to do with the prevention of heart disease in dogs. A low-salt diet is essential, and supplements like taurine, L-carnitine, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B, and Magnesium do the heart good and slow disease progression.
Liver/Kidney Disease affects many older dogs, but Poodles have a genetic predisposition for liver disease and Cocker Spaniels have a genetic predisposition for kidney disease, so your Cockapoo is at a slightly higher risk than a mixed breed dog.
Watch out for the following warning signs of liver/kidney disease:
- Loss of appetite
- Drinking excessively
- Urinating excessively
- Jaundice—a yellow tinge to the skin, gums, conjunctiva surrounding the eyes
- Pot-bellied appearance
- Bad breath that smells like urine
- Lethargy and increased sleeping
There are many foods that are specifically designed to help your dog deal with her liver and/or kidney disease. These diets are low in protein and phosphorus and may include supplements like milk thistle to support liver health.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes seizures and can be inherited by some Cockapoos and Poodles. Epilepsy is estimated to affect about 0.75 per cent of all dogs and is treatable with medication.
Seizures are characterized by:
- Loss of consciousness
- Convulsions—jerking, twitching, stiffening
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Chomping/chewing on tongue
- Foaming at the mouth
- Paddling motions with legs
- Walking in circles
- Excessive drooling
- Attacking an imaginary object
o Before a seizure, your dog might seem confused, stare into space, bump into things, or walk-in circles. After a seizure, dogs are generally disoriented and wobbly, and their vision may be temporarily adversely affected. Also, they may be scared, aggressive, or try to hide. Try to remember that your dog is not fully conscious after a seizure, and that is why she is acting strange or aggressive. Normal behaviour will resume shortly. Do not try to keep your dog still during a seizure, just keep her away from stairs or anything she could fall off of and wait. You may want to record the seizure to show to your veterinarian so that she knows what type of seizure your dog is having, and how better to treat it.
How Can I Reduce the Risk of My Cockapoo Having a Genetic Disorder?
The risk of nearly all disease in dogs has a lot to do with diet. When you feed your dog a diet that is specific for her needs according to her breed predispositions and her existing health problems, you will substantially reduce the risk of your dog having future diseases and slow the progression of any current diseases. Many diets are specifically tailor-made to treat certain diseases now. Also, one study found that young dogs with developing joints that were often running on hard surfaces (frozen ground) had a higher incidence of hip dysplasia, so you may want to purchase your Cockapoo in the springtime when the ground is softer and kinder to developing hips.
To Wrap It Up
Remember that these are only the possible ailments that could affect your cockapoo. It is always better to be informed about what might happen in the future so that you will know what symptoms to look out for in your dog. The basics are still the same for disease prevention—a healthy diet, exercise, fresh water at all times, regular vet appointments, playtime enrichment, and lots of love!