The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Goldendoodles" by Erin Hotovy. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.
Author Credit: Erin HotovyThere is nothing more important than the good health of your Goldendoodle. Our pets instantly become valued members of our families, and good owners will do whatever it takes for their dogs to stay happy and healthy. Exercise, good hygiene, and proper training go a long way toward keeping your dog in good shape, but proper nutrition and the right healthcare really round out your dog’s overall good health. You may feel as though there’s a lot of pressure on you to keep your best friend healthy, but it’s simpler than you may think. If you know the basics of good nutrition and healthcare, then you can rely on the professionals for situations that need more expertise.
The Importance of a Good Diet
Your Goldendoodle is basically a ball of energy. An active mind controls an energetic body that will go for hours. Your dog’s motor needs the right kind of fuel to keep them moving, while replenishing their bodies. A lack of nutrition will leave you with a dog that is dull and fatigued. Proper nutrition will help keep your dog’s brain in top condition, their coat soft and glossy, and their muscles strong. A diet full of the right balance of nutrients rather than a diet full of junk may even make a difference in your dog’s longevity.
Just because it appears as though dogs can eat anything, it doesn’t mean that they should. Dogs need a certain mix of nutrients that comes from a good dog food. The bulk of these foods is usually carbohydrates. These give your dog the fuel they need to run and play. Simple carbohydrates, like sugar, are burned quickly for fast energy. Complex carbs, like whole grains, take longer to break down. This gives your dog longer-lasting energy to keep them energized between meals. When looking for dog foods, search for ingredients like brown rice, oatmeal, or sweet potatoes. These are all nutrient-dense carbs.
When it comes to your dog’s protein intake, look for a food that has around 30% protein. Canines are meat eaters, so a food that skimps on the meat will deprive your dog of the amino acids they need to maintain healthy muscles and blood. Foods that have a variety of meats allow your dog to have a good mix of beneficial nutrients. For example, red meats like beef are packed with iron. Chicken is a lean source of protein, and its cartilage is great for your dog’s joints. Fish is another lean source of protein and contains omega fatty acids that do wonders for your dog’s skin, coat, and brain. Though all of these meat sources are good, the meat your dog eats will probably come down to their personal preference. Some Goldendoodles will eat anything in their dish, while others demand a certain flavor of food.
Fats are a vital part of a dog’s diet that should not be omitted. Fats keep your dog’s coat smooth, provide lots of energy, and help your dog absorb vitamins. Fats in dog food come from meat sources, vegetable oils, and fish oil. It may make you feel squeamish to see ingredients like chicken meal, beef fat, or cartilage in your dog’s food, but these are all nutritious parts of the animal that your dog needs in their diet.
Many well-meaning dog owners feed their dogs diets that don’t fit the nutritional needs of canines. Occasionally, a dog owner will feed their dog according to trends in human diets, a completely different species with different needs. For example, carbs are the most recent nutrient to become vilified. In the past, fats were seen as a nutrient to avoid. However, both are vital to a dog’s longevity. Or, a vegan human might decide that their dog should live on fruits and leafy greens alone. If you have concerns about your dog’s nutrition, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian before putting your dog on a fad diet.
How to Choose a Dog Food
Even when you know what nutrients your dog needs, it’s still overwhelming to choose a food when there are so many brands and flavors to pick from. If you bought your puppy from a breeder, they probably have a preferred food they use for their dogs. Your pup will probably be used to this food, too, so you may not want to change brands. Once your puppy is an adult, you can switch from the puppy formula to the corresponding adult formula.
If you adopted a Goldendoodle, or if your pup’s current food isn’t working for you two, you’ll have to choose from the giant wall of dog food at the pet store. First, you’ll need to choose between a dry food and a wet food. If your Goldendoodle has an eating issue, then you might need a wet food. Otherwise, dry food is best for most dogs. When your dog chews dry food, the crunchy surface scrapes away at plaque on their teeth. When your dog eats a wet food, not only do they miss out on this scraping, but the wet food sticks on the teeth. So, unless your dog has an issue with chewing, or is especially picky, a dry food is typically better than a moist food.
For the most part, all commercial dog foods will contain the essential nutrients your dog needs to thrive. These foods will contain carbs, protein, fats, and a mix of vitamins and minerals, in varying amounts. Some dog foods are cheap because the ingredients they use are inexpensive. On the other hand, some dog foods are practically unaffordable because they use pricier ingredients. For this reason, it may be best to choose a dog food that’s somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. That way, you’ll get quality ingredients without overpaying for a brand name. From there, you’ll want to choose a flavor that your dog will enjoy. Some dog food companies and pet stores will even give out samples if you’re really unsure. If you try one food and your dog doesn’t touch it, maybe he’ll wolf down another flavor. Once you find a food that works, stick with it. While people like variety in flavors, a dog does better with consistency in their diet. Otherwise, they may develop digestive issues.
Some dog owners would prefer to feed their Goldendoodles a diet of human-grade, fresh foods, as opposed to commercial dog food. While this is fine, it’s best to do so under the supervision of a veterinarian. It’s more expensive and takes a lot more planning to feed your dog fresh foods, but as long as your dog gets the right nutrition, it’s perfectly acceptable. Many homemade dog food recipes include proteins like chicken breast and beef organs, fats like fish oil, and carbs like rice and potatoes. Plenty of fruits and vegetables in this kind of diet will provide the vitamins and minerals your dog needs to be healthy. It takes a lot of knowledge and planning to feed your dog homemade food, but with proper supervision, it’s a valid form of pet nutrition.
Apart from homemade diets, dog owners have a hard time resisting giving their dog human foods. Whether you’re trying to eliminate food waste in your home, or you just want to make your little buddy very happy, it’s hard not to let your dog clean your plate. People food can provide excellent nutrition and superior motivation for your dog, but they can also bring on annoying behaviors and health issues. When feeding your dog from your fridge, it’s important to be mindful of what exactly you’re giving your pooch.
For starters, giving your dog treats from your table or plate will enforce the idea that your dog should beg. It may be cute the first few times, but it won’t be when your family or guests can’t sit down for a meal without your dog pawing at their leg or jumping up at the table to steal a bite. Once you teach a dog that they can have food from your plate, it’s difficult to break that bad habit.
Secondly, table scraps are not always best for your dog. A lot of times, people will feed gristle from their steak or leftovers that have been prepared with dog-unfriendly ingredients like onions, chocolate, and avocados. This extra food can add to their daily calorie count and will pack on pounds over time. Even foods that aren’t downright dangerous could give your dog tummy troubles. For example, some dogs may have a hard time digesting dairy, and could end up leaving a mess on your carpet if they have too much cheese.
There are some acceptable reasons for feeding your dog people food. The foods we eat may be very appetizing to your dog, making them excellent training treats. And many fruits and vegetables are low in calories and provide excellent nutrition. So, if you give your dog a little morsel of fish as a high-stakes training treat, or plop a few blueberries into their bowl, you probably won’t cause any annoying behaviors or make your dog ill.
Because Goldendoodles are so active, their daily exercise will probably be enough to keep them from getting chunky. But it is possible for any dog to become overweight if they don’t have the right balance of calories and exercise. When a dog is at their ideal weight, there should be a clear tuck in their waist around their hips, but no ribs should be visible. You want to be able to feel your dog’s bones, but not see them.
As long as you follow the feeding directions on your dog food packaging, ensure your dog has a few hours of exercise a day, and you don’t overdo it on the treats, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about weight gain. However, if your Goldendoodle has sudden, unexplained weight changes, see a vet immediately. If your dog is gaining weight and there’s no underlying medical reason, there are some things you can do to get your dog back in shape. First, be mindful of the extras your dog gets to eat throughout the day. Do you give your dog table scraps or lots of high-calorie treats? Also, look at your dog’s eating habits. If they eat most of their food at meal times, but not all of it, don’t let them graze throughout the day. Instead, remove the extra food and give your dog an equal portion at their next meal. Then, work on increasing the amount of exercise your dog gets. Start slowly and work your way up until you’re able to go on a few long walks a day without your pooch getting winded. If that doesn’t work, cut back on their daily food allotment just a little at a time until you find the right calorie count for their activity level. Once you make the necessary adjustments to your dog’s diet and exercise, they should gradually return to a healthier weight. Pudgy dogs can be cute, but the excess fat that puts strain on their body is not.
For your Goldendoodle’s health, it’s best to prevent any issues before they cause serious issues for your dog. One way to do this is to take your dog to the vet for a yearly checkup. During these regular checkups, your vet will ask you if you’ve noticed any changes in your dog’s health or ask if you have any concerns about your Goldendoodle. Even if your concerns turn out to be nothing, it’s still a good time to ask any questions you might have.
Your vet will do a quick, but thorough examination of your dog. They’ll check the eyes, ears, and mouth for any abnormalities. They’ll listen to your dog’s heart, lungs, and belly to make sure everything sounds normal. Your dog will have their temperature taken to check for any infection. Finally, the vet will run their hands along your dog to make sure everything is fine with their legs, back, and belly.
The reason it’s so important to go every year is that a vet can quickly diagnose an issue you might not even notice. And, if you go regularly, they can track changes from year to year, pinpointing issues to keep an eye on. If you only go to the vet when your dog is sick, there’s no benchmark to compare to your dog’s current state.
If your dog gets nervous at the vet, it might help to prepare them for what’s to come. Practice looking in your dog’s ears, pulling back their lips to expose their teeth, and sitting still while feeling a heartbeat. It’s also helpful if a friend does these things so your dog gets used to strangers touching them. Treats will also show your dog that the vet isn’t so bad. You can bring your dog’s favorites to go along with the ones the vet provides.
Fleas, Ticks, and Worms
Part of preventative care is taking precautions to keep parasites off of your dog. Dogs are like magnets for these pests because they eat things they shouldn’t and wander around areas with lots of vegetation. And, once the parasites latch on, it may be hard to tell that your dog has an infestation.
Intestinal worms are fairly common in puppies. If you notice your dog’s eating habits have changed, their bowel movements are irregular, or if they’re lethargic or vomiting, it’s a good idea to have a vet check them out. A stool sample can quickly reveal if there are any worms in their gut and medicine can be prescribed to take care of the issue. Heartworms are another parasite that travels through the bloodstream. Infected mosquitoes bite your dog, which releases the heartworm into the bloodstream, eventually making its way to the heart. This parasite can be deadly if not treated immediately. Luckily, there’s a monthly preventative medicine that can keep your dog protected against heartworms. After a quick blood test, your vet will prescribe a medication to give to your dog at the same time every month. As long as you give this medicine to your dog on a regular basis, you won’t have to worry about heartworm.
Fleas and ticks are another parasite that can easily latch onto your dog. These creatures suck the blood from your dog and can possibly pass on dangerous diseases. Plus, fleas cause extreme itchiness and are hard to kill once an infestation starts. Some dogs are even allergic to flea bites, compounding on that itchiness. To prevent your dog from bringing these pests home, choose a preventative that works best for your pup. Topical preventatives can be applied to your dog’s coat once a month. Or there are oral preventatives that cause fleas and ticks to die when they bite your dog. If fleas and ticks cannot survive on your Goldendoodle, then there’s less of a chance of these pests reproducing and causing your dog harm.
Vaccinations are another big part of preventative care and some are even required by law. There are a handful of contagious diseases that veterinarians can vaccinate against, starting when your dog is a puppy. In many places, your dog must be up to date on their recommended vaccinations in order to take training classes or go to dog parks. In fact, it’s best to wait to visit dog parks until your puppy has received all of their shots. The rabies vaccine is required to license your dog because an unvaccinated dog can become a public health risk.
While vaccinations have become a hot topic in recent years, there is no reason not to vaccinate your dog. By keeping your dog free of contagious disease, you’re doing your part in eliminating terrible viruses that kill lots of dogs. You’re not only protecting your dog but other dogs who might not be up to date on their vaccines. When your puppy gets their first shots, your vet will put your dog on a vaccination schedule. The clinic will then notify you every time your dog needs to get booster shots to maintain their immunity. That way, you don’t have to worry about your dog getting the right shots at the right time.
Because the Goldendoodle is half Golden Retriever and half Poodle, common genetic ailments come from both breeds. The good thing about crossbreeds is that they’re less likely to suffer from deadly genetic diseases because there’s less in-breeding between dogs. Also, if you’re buying from a reputable breeder, their practices limit the number of genetic ailments by choosing only healthy dogs to breed with. However, there are some ailments that are more common in certain breeds, so it’s a good idea to know what to look for.
There are a few conditions of the skeletal system that you’ll want to look out for if your dog suddenly begins limping. Luxating patella is a condition where the kneecap slides around and “catches” in certain circumstances. The simple act of running and jumping can cause the knee to slide out of place, which can be extremely painful. Hip dysplasia is another condition that’s generally found in larger breeds where the hip joint doesn’t fit in the socket very well, causing pain and issues with mobility. Both conditions need to be treated with surgery if serious enough. This is common in Golden Retrievers because they grow so quickly, so it may be an issue in Goldendoodles as well.
This breed is also more likely to suffer from retinal atrophy and other eye issues. This is an eye condition that can lead to blindness over time. Of course, this is one of those conditions that should be eliminated in the breeding process. However, if you adopt a dog from an unknown origin, you may want to have your dog’s eyes tested if they have trouble seeing in the dark. This is a sign that their overall eyesight is deteriorating. Poodle crossbreeds are also at a higher risk for thyroid issues. Talk to your vet if your dog is suddenly lethargic or has patchy fur. They can prescribe medications that can return their hormone levels to normal in no time.
Poodles also tend to have allergies and intolerances, both skin and gastrointestinal. Foods, plants, or other environmental factors can cause your Goldendoodle to have itchy skin. When itchy skin is left unchecked, sores and hot spots can develop on the skin. When the skin is broken, it makes it easy for bacteria to enter and cause infection. If your dog is excessively itchy, try an anti-itch spray or cream from your vet or pet store. This may provide enough relief to keep your dog from scratching. If this doesn’t work, a veterinarian may prescribe medication to help stop the allergic reaction.
Poodle crossbreeds also tend to have sensitive stomachs. According to Dede Hard of Red Cedar Farms, Goldendoodles often have tender tummies and suffer from stress-related diarrhea, especially as puppies. If you think your dog is having a reaction to their food, try a different kind and see if the gastrointestinal symptoms subside. For some dogs, it may be the chicken that doesn’t agree with them. For others, it could be an issue with the grains. However, seriously consider not putting your dog on a “grain-free” food if they haven’t had prior issues with certain ingredients. Recent studies have shown a link between grain-free dog foods and heart disease. Grain-free might be a current fad in dog food, but check with a vet before switching to a new formula.
Senior Dog Care
Goldendoodles have a fairly long lifespan of ten to fourteen years, but before you know it, your dog will be considered a senior dog. Senior dogs still love to play and explore, but they will slow down a little, especially compared to the energy levels they showed as a pup.
You may find that your senior dog has joint pain when they try to walk or play. This is often noticeable when they get up first thing in the morning or try to walk around after a nap. There are a few things you can do to ease this stiffness and pain. For starters, make sure that your dog has a soft and supportive bed to rest on. If they’re used to hopping up on the couch, they may have a harder time doing that as they age. There are joint supplements you can give your dog that will help repair some of the damage that occurs to leg joints over time. If your dog seems to be in a considerable amount of pain, talk to your vet about anti-inflammatory medication. This may be a good remedy for joint pain.
Your older Goldendoodle may also gain weight if they’re not exercising as much as they used to. Older dogs require fewer calories than their younger counterparts. If your senior dog is gaining weight, consider reducing their daily food intake. If they have trouble eating crunchy kibble due to reduced smell or painful teeth, try mixing dry and wet food together to make it easier to chew. Or, pour a little water or broth on top of the crunchy food.
You may also have to change your exercise routine. While you may have been able to go on runs before, you will reach a time where that’s just too much exertion for your old dog. Exercise is still important, but you may decide that an easy walk will lead to less pain and stiffness in your dog’s legs. Continuing to test your dog’s mental fitness with puzzles and other games is still important as they get older. It can keep their mind sharp, which will lead to less confusion and agitation.
Most of all, it’s important to spend quality time with your Goldendoodle. These dogs are companion animals and want to snuggle up to you. You may find that as your Goldendoodle ages, he’s less interested in playing fetch and more interested in nestling up to you while you read a book. Cherish these moments with your dog because they won’t last forever. Also, remember that dogs are considered “senior” around age eight. With proper care, it’s entirely possible for your dog to live another decade as a senior dog.
Eventually, there will come a time when you have to say goodbye. If your dog is in a lot of pain, can no longer use the bathroom on their own, or is suffering from a lot of different age-related ailments, you may decide that euthanasia is the best option. This can be extremely difficult to decide for your pet, but you’ll know when your dog’s condition will only get worse and their quality of life is suffering. When you’re reaching this conclusion, talk to a vet for guidance. An examination can tell you if there’s anything they can do for your dog. If not, they will take you through the euthanasia process.
With a good diet and preventative care, your Goldendoodle will live a long and healthy life. When it comes to their diet, don’t overthink it—dogs need a balanced diet with carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. They also need to burn as many calories as they eat so they can stay in a healthy size range. For veterinary care, prevention is key. Keep up on shots, use parasite preventatives, and see your vet annually to give your dog the best chance at staying healthy. And, if you’re ever concerned about your Goldendoodle’s health, you can always call your veterinarian.
Having a Goldendoodle is such a joy. These sweet, bubbly dogs will make sure you never have a dull day in your life. They are bright and eager to learn, but also sensitive and relaxed. Once you bring your new Goldendoodle home, you’ll understand why these adorable dogs are all the rage. It takes a lot of time, energy, patience, and money to raise a dog from puppy to senior, but it’s absolutely worth it. Remember, there are tons of resources available to help you understand your Goldendoodle, and they’re all happy to help an owner and their dog build a solid relationship. Before you know it, you’ll wonder how you ever managed to live without your furry family member!
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