As a Bernedoodle owner, nothing is as important as taking care of your dog’s health. Making sure you are doing right by your beloved pet requires a comprehensive understanding of the unique health issues of Bernedoodles. Following, you will find the basics of caring for your genetic concerns for both Poodles and Bernese Mountain Dogs and the basics of taking care of your dog’s eyes, ears, and nails.
Bernedoodle Puppy Health Care
A Bernedoodle puppy’s health care needs are similar to any other puppy. They will need regular visits to the vet, vaccinations, spaying or neutering (unless you plan to breed your puppy when they’re grown), and regular at-home health care, including eye and ear cleaning.
Essential Vaccinations for Bernedoodle Puppies
Puppies of all breeds follow the same vaccination schedule. The standard vaccinations include:
- DA2PP (DHPP). This is a combo vaccination that protects your puppy from canine distemper, canine parvovirus, adenovirus-2 (aka kennel cough), and parainfluenza.
- Rabies Vaccine. There is no cure or treatment for rabies. If your Bernedoodle contracts rabies, it will be fatal. This is why it’s so important to keep up on their rabies vaccinations. Most states (except for Minnesota, Kansas, and Ohio) require that you vaccinate your dog.
These vaccinations can have side effects such as rashes, lethargy, and facial swelling, though side effects are rare. If you note that your dog is experiencing them, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Other Bernedoodle Puppy Vaccinations
There are additional vaccines that might be wise for your puppy to get. It all depends on where in the world you live, your puppy’s lifestyle, and what other animals it might come into contact with. Some of the optional puppy vaccinations include:
- Bordetella vaccine. This is another kennel cough vaccine that is a good idea if your puppy will be a regular at a dog park, training school, or other large, enclosed space with other dogs.
- Leptospirosis vaccine. This disease is carried by rodents, livestock, and other animals that live in dampness, still water, or mud. It can be carried in the urine of skunks, raccoons, cats, and other animals. When a dog gets it, it is usually a result of swimming in contaminated water. If your dog is swimming in natural bodies of water, then this might be a worthwhile vaccine to get.
- Lyme disease vaccine. If Bernedoodle puppy is likely to be running through tall grass or bushes in certain parts of the United States. Your vet can advise you if your dog should get this vaccine.
- This has nothing to do with human-coronavirus (COVID-19). This is a different virus that is very contagious and which dogs can carry for six months.
- Giardia vaccine. This vaccine is used to prevent a specific type of intestinal parasite.
- Canine influenza vaccine H3N8. Also known as the dog flu, canine influenza can cause a respiratory infection capable of jumping to other species.
Talk to your vet about the vaccines available and recommended in your area. If you find a good Bernedoodle vet, they should be able to go over the pros and cons and give you the information you need to make an informed decision.
Bernedoodle Puppy Vaccination Schedule
Ideally, your Bernedoodle would get its first round of DA2PP vaccinations at 6 to 8 weeks old, the second round at 10 to 12 weeks old, and the third round at 14 to 16 weeks. Rabies vaccinations are generally started at about 16 weeks. The rabies vaccinations will then need to be done each year, and the DA2PP boosters are done every three years.
Worm and Parasite Treatment for Bernedoodle Puppies
Your puppy will need at least two treatments of de-worker at their first two visits to the vet. They will then need ongoing treatment to prevent parasites and heartworms. If your vet checks for worms and parasites and discovers that your puppy has them, do not be concerned – this is relatively common in puppies.
They can become infected while in utero or even through the milk of their mother. Your vet might ask for a fecal sample at your first or second visit, as this is the easiest way for them to test for worms and other gastrointestinal parasites.
Preventing heartworms is extremely important. In addition to our Bernedoodle puppy, we also have a lovely mutt we adopted from a shelter when he was five years old. He was heartworm positive, and his disease was very advanced. Treatment was successful, but it almost killed him in the process. For the sake of your pup, please choose prevention instead so that you never have to deal with the terrible treatment process.
No one wants to think about being separated from their puppy, but it does happen. If it happens to you, microchipping is the best way to increase your chances that you will be reunited. This is a simple process in which your vet inserts a small chip using a non-surgical procedure.
You then register the number on the chip, and if your Bernedoodle is ever found without you, their chip can be scanned, and you can be found.
Spaying or Neutering
You should generally have your Bernedoodle puppy spayed or natured at around four to six months old, depending on your lifestyle and your vet’s recommendation. There are several important reasons to spay or neuter, including, of course, to help control the overpopulation of pets. Even if your puppy will be an indoor puppy, it only takes one outing for them to contribute to this issue.
Secondly, there are health and behavioral issues that can be reduced by spaying or neutering. If you have a female puppy and do not have her spayed before her first heat, she will feel a strong biological need to wander during that heat. This can begin a pattern of behavior that turns your pooch into an escape artist.
Female dogs that are spayed have a lower chance of experiencing uterine infections and breast tumors. Male dogs that are neutered have a lower chance of developing testicular cancer and some prostate issues. Bernedoodle puppies of both sexes are more likely to mark their territory if they are not fixed.
Flea and Tick Prevention
Once you get fleas in your home, they are tough to get rid of. As is true of other potential Bernedoodle health issues, the best option is prevention. Your vet might suggest an over-the-counter preventative or a prescription-strength one. The right option for your pooch depends mainly on where you live and how significant the flea and tick situation is.
Health Issues and Concerns
The good news is that Bernedoodles are generally healthier than Poodles or Bernese Mountain Dogs. Why? Because inbreeding leaves many purebred dogs at higher risk for genetic diseases and conditions. By cross-breeding two breeds, those risks are reduced. That said, there are certain health risks associated with Bernedoodles. They can be predisposed to:
- Hip dysplasia
- Skin issues
- Elbow dysplasia
- Eye issues
- Hot spots
This might sound like a concerning list, but all breeds are susceptible to health issues. Overall, Bernedoodles as a breed are healthier than average.
Bernese Mountain Dog Health Issues
Because a Bernedoodle is part Bernese Mountain dog and part Poodle, it makes sense to look at each of these breeds’ health issues. For Bernese Mountain dogs, they include the following health issues.
Canine Hip Dysplasia
This is a common health issue of larger breeds and results in the head of the femur bone incorrectly meeting with the hip socket. Eventually, a dog with canine hip dysplasia will develop canine arthritis in the affected joint. However, symptoms are not always present for several years after the condition develops.
Common signs of hip dysplasia include:
- Stiffness when the dog gets up or runs
- Pain or discomfort when running or exercising
- A hop that is similar to a bunny hop
- Difficulty getting up
- Not enjoying physical activities they used to enjoy
- A loss of muscle tone in the rear legs
If your vet suspects that your dog has developed this condition, they will take x-rays of the hip sockets and determine the right treatment plan based on what they find. This often includes surgery.
Just like hip dysplasia, this is common in large dogs. It is an inherited health issue that results in abnormalities that lead to issues with the dog’s elbow joints. Generally, you will see symptoms of this condition within four to ten months of the puppy’s birth. Symptoms include:
- Chronic or acute forelimb lameness that gets worse with exercise
- Reduced range of motion
- Pain for the pup when they extend their elbow
- Fluid build-up at the joint
Additionally, a dog with elbow dysplasia often holds their affected elbow away from the body. Your vet will take x-rays of the elbow to diagnose this condition and get a fluid sample from the joints. They might also do an arthroscopic exam with an instrument that can see inside the joint. While a treatment plan will be created based on the specific dog, surgery is the most common treatment.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Another inherited health condition, this is an eye disease that results in degeneration of the retina, which eventually leads to impaired vision and even blindness. There are two forms, one of which is early-onset that can be seen as early as three months, and the other is lane-onset, which generally starts to cause issues when the dog is three to five years old.
Symptoms of this condition include:
- Night blindness
- Reluctance to try new things or explore new places
- Dilated pupils
- Disorientation or discomfort in new environments
There is, unfortunately, no cure for this condition. Generally, a dog will be completely blind with a year of being diagnosed. However, it is an entirely painless condition.
von Willebrand’s Disease
This is the most common of all hereditary blood clotting disorders in dogs. A dog with this disorder can bleed excessively from even the smallest of cuts. There is no cure for this, and it is vital to know if your dog has it if it requires surgery of any kind. Common symptoms include any abnormal bleeding such as blood coming from the nose or mouth, dark tarry stools (these indicate blood in the gastrointestinal tract), blood in the urine, and excessive bleeding.
A type of cancer, histiocytosis involves white blood cells reproducing unnaturally quickly and invading various tissues. This is a hereditary cancer that is very rare in other breeds but makes up 25% of all cancers in Bernese Mountain dogs. There are two types. The malignant form is very aggressive and generally causes death in a few weeks. The systemic form involves episodes that come and go, but it is eventually deadly.
Also known as bloat, this is a severe condition that involves a dog’s stomach filling with food, fluid, or gas, which can expand the stomach to the point that no blood gets to the heart or stomach. Eventually, this causes the death of stomach tissue, puts pressure on the lungs, and makes it hard for the dog to breathe. If caught early, this can be treated. If not, it can lead to death with a few hours. The common symptoms of gastric torsion include:
- Pale gums
- Inability to poop
- Enlarged abdomen
- Excessive drooling
Again, this requires an immediate, emergency trip to the vet.
Bernese Mountain dogs were bred to withstand extreme temperatures – but only cold ones. They are very prone to heatstroke, so care should be taken when it gets hot. Make sure they have shade, plenty of freshwater, and access to a cooler place.
Poodle Genetic Health Issues
Poodles have their own list of genetic health issues. When you add these to the list of Bernese Mountain dogs’ genetic health issues, it can seem daunting. Remember that many of these genetic issues are essentially erased when the breed is bred with another breed. However, it is wise to be aware of some of the genetic issues that Poodles can be prone to.
Hip Dysplasia and Bloat
Two genetic health issues are common to both Poodles and Bernese Mountain dogs: hip dysplasia and bloat. These are explained in greater detail above under Bernese Mountain dog genetic health issues.
Epilepsy causes seizures and is common in Poodles. Symptoms can include a combination of drooling, walking in place, stiff limbs, sudden loss of consciousness, difficulty breathing, confusion, unresponsiveness, and others. If you see your dog having a seizure, note all the symptoms they are showing so that you can give this information to your vet.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
This severe eye disease can result in blindness. It happens to the retina of both eyes simultaneously and can show in symptoms like dilated pupils, glassy eyes, issues seeing at night, sudden clumsiness and bumping into furniture, and other symptoms you would naturally associate with blindness. There is no cure, but there are treatments that can slow the progression.
This condition results in a dog’s adrenal glands not producing enough cortisol. As a result, the Poodle can become anxious, lethargic, or depressed, or experience digestive issues. In some cases, an acute Addison’s Disease crisis could require hospitalization.
Poodles can experience a number of thyroid issues, such as canine hypothyroidism, in which not enough thyroid hormones are present in the dog. Common symptoms of thyroid issues include unexplained weight gain, excessive hunger, a weak immune system, hair loss, and looking for warm spaces.
Caring for Your Bernedoodle’s Eyes
Weepy eyes, eye boogers, and dark stains under the eye are all common for Poodles. Though they can look less than appealing, the only real issue is cosmetic – they will not hurt your dog. That said, we recommend taking a few steps to keep your Bernedoodle’s eyes clean.
Wipe under the eyes every day. We use a warm cloth, but there are doggy eye wipes you can purchase. In a pinch, baby wipes will work too. You can also trim the area around the eyes to prevent much of this goop from sticking around. Use small scissors, such as those you would use to trim your cuticles, to assure you do not hurt your pooch.
As you check the eyes, look out for redness or swelling, as these are abnormal issues that you should inform your vet of. Do not use soap or shampoo around the eyes because they can cause discomfort.
If your dog is uncomfortable with you touching its eyes, do not give up but do not force it either. Touch the area regularly and pull away as soon as your Bernedoodle is uncomfortable. Feed it treats every time you touch the eye area. Eventually, it will let you touch it for more extended periods. The key is to never force it to allow you to touch it for more time than it is comfortable with.
Caring for Your Bernedoodle’s Ears
The length of your Bernedoodle’s exterior ears can make them more susceptible to ear infections. The good news is that it is pretty simple to keep your dog’s ears clean and healthy.
There are two steps you can take to check the health of your puppy. First, just touch their ears and rub them all around. If they pull away and wince, then that is a good sign that something is wrong. Second, smell their ears. This might sound strange, but a healthy ear will have no smell at all. If your dog gets an ear infection, you will be able to smell the difference.
You can also look inside the ears. You are hoping for skin that is pink and has a light coating of pale wax. This wax is part of the self-cleaning system that all dogs have. If you notice red, inflamed ears or the wax is dark or black, then you should talk to your vet. Likewise, if you notice your Bernedoodle start to shake its head frequently or paw at its ears constantly, this signifies that they are having an issue with their ears.
If you smell your dog’s ears and they seem clean, they look clean, and you have had no reason to believe that they are infected or otherwise in poor health, then you can leave them alone. The ears really are self-cleaning, and many methods of cleaning their ears can cause more harm than good.
To prevent ear infections, do your best to keep your dog’s ears clean and dry. Warm, moist environments are comfortable homes to bacteria and yeast, which can cause issues. Whenever you bathe your dog, or it takes a swim, be sure you dry its ears thoroughly.
Caring for Your Bernedoodle’s Nails
It seems like every day, my husband or I will comment on the massiveness of our Bernedoodle’s paws. They are big! And with those big paws come big, scratchy, painful nails. Our groomer takes care of nail clipping every few months, but we’d be covered in claw marks if we didn’t do it ourselves between visits.
We find that cutting and/or filing her nails every three to four weeks is good. It’s not exactly something we look forward to, but if too much time elapses and the nails become overgrown, it’s much more unpleasant. The general rule of thumb we use is that if we can hear her nails clicking on our hardwood when she walks, she needs a trim or grind.
Our life-saver has been a nail Dremel, which is just a fancy way of saying nail grinder. Ours is very quiet, but our puppy did not like the sound at first. We started out just turning it on when she was in the room with us, so she got used to the noise.
Once she no longer reacted to it, we were able to start softly touching it to her nails. The second she pulls away, we stop. It takes patience to get through the first few trimmings/grindings, but it is well worth it because seven months in, she doesn’t mind getting her nails done at all. If we had forced her to let us do it all along, we’d still be fighting with her. Of course, the copious treats she gets during and after the grinding don’t hurt!
You can also use nail clippers if you prefer. You will need to get clippers made specifically for dogs because their nails are much thicker than human nails. The key when cutting the nails is to avoid cutting into the quick. This is a very nerve-rich area within the nail that is very painful if it is damaged.
When you hold up your puppy’s paw to the light, you should be able to see that their nails have a semi-clear area around the periphery, with the inside a darker color. That darker color is the quick, and you should do everything necessary to make sure you are trimming well below the quick so that you do not nick it.