Beagles are active, affectionate dogs that make wonderful family pets, but their long ears and genetics predispose them to some health issues.
If the Beagle is topping your list of canine companions, it’s helpful to understand what types of conditions they can develop. By learning about the breed’s common health issues, you’ll be better prepared to manage particular conditions and health challenges. In some cases, early recognition may help to prevent severe disease.
Of course, just because Beagles have tendencies to some conditions, there’s no guarantee your furbaby will develop any health issues. But most dogs will face some kind of health challenge at least once in their lifetimes.
Common health issues in Beagles include ear infections, eye conditions, epilepsy, orthopedic conditions, obesity, and hypothyroidism.
In this article, we’ll go over X common health issues of Beagles, when in the life cycle they usually occur, and how Beagle health compares with other dog breeds. Finally, we’ll give you a list of health signs you need to watch out for and suggest some approaches for general healthcare and prevention.
Common health problems
Beagles are lovable, high-energy dogs that make great family pets. However, they have some genetic predispositions and traits that put them at risk for certain diseases. Knowing about the common conditions in Beagles can help you recognize and deal with any issue your furbaby encounters.
Long, floppy ears in Beagles make them susceptible to ear infections. The flaps block air flow and create an ideal environment for bacterial or yeast growth.
Ear infections commonly occur in Beagles, French Bulldogs, Basset Hounds, Shih Tzus, and other breeds. This condition may appear at any age in your pooch.
Beagle anatomy and lifestyle set them up for ear infections. The long ears trap dirt and moisture which allows microorganisms to grow and multiply. The final result is an infection.
Common signs of an ear infection include:
- Excessive ear scratching
- Reddened ears
- Head shaking
- Dark discharge
- Painful ears
- A foul odor coming from the ear
Catching and treating ear infections early can help prevent more severe conditions, including a ruptured eardrum, deafness, and neurological conditions.
To prevent ear infections in your beagle, practice good hygiene. Clean your furbaby’s ears about once every 2-3 weeks with a vet-approved ear-cleaning solution. You should also schedule annual health check-ups with your veterinarian.
When your beagle has an ear infection, treatment may include:
- Flushing and cleaning the ear
- Topical or oral antimicrobial drugs
- Corticosteroids if necessary
Beagles are predisposed to developing allergies to environmental triggers and certain food proteins. The sensitivities manifest as skin symptoms.
Some dog breeds that struggle with allergies include Beagles, Boxers, French Bulldogs, German Shepherds, and Retrievers. While the condition can occur at any age, it’s more likely to manifest in adults after your furbaby becomes sensitized to the trigger.
When dogs encounter a trigger substance, their bodies release a chemical called histamine to attack the foreign protein. This causes an inflammatory response in the skin that includes redness and itching.
Signs of allergies in Beagles include:
- Dry, flaky skin
- Reddened skin
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Hives or facial swelling
- Bald patches on the skin
- Chronic ear infections
There is no cure for allergies, and the reactions tend to intensify with repeated exposure. If your Beagle develops allergy symptoms, talk to your veterinarian about preventative measures and the best course of treatment. Immediately take your furbaby to the clinic if you observe facial swelling, difficulty breathing, or sudden itching with hives.
The most common preventative measure for allergies is allergen avoidance. However, identifying the trigger substance can be challenging. If food is involved, your veterinarian may recommend trying an elimination diet to isolate problem proteins.
Treatment for allergies may include:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Allergy testing and immunotherapy
- Feeding a hypoallergenic diet
Beagles have a genetic tendency for epileptic seizures. In addition to genes, metabolic issues, toxins, or trauma can trigger the condition.
Congenital epilepsy can occur in Beagles, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Border Collies, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, and other dog breeds. The age of onset is usually around 2-5 years of age.
A burst of abnormal electrical activity in the brain triggers a seizure. When this happens, you may observe involuntary body movements. The type and severity of the motions depend on the location of the electrical activity in the brain.
Signs of a seizure/epilepsy include:
- Whining before and after the seizure
- Involuntary urination/defecation
- Paddling of the limbs or thrashing
- Muscle twitches/tremors
- Chomping or tongue-chewing
- Drooling or foaming at the mouth
- Fainting or collapsing
The first time your Beagle has a seizure, you should contact your veterinarian. The condition may have an underlying cause like a tumor, or there may be no identifiable cause(idiopathic). In either case, consequent seizures can have more severe symptoms and may become life-threatening without appropriate treatment.
Prevention of epilepsy includes selecting a Beagle puppy that has no familial history of seizures or epilepsy. If your dog has a seizure, take action to protect him during the episode by gently sliding him away from furniture or open stairs(avoid the head and mouth). Transport your dog to the ER if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
Treatment of epilepsy in dogs involves treating underlying conditions that trigger the seizures and/or prescribing anti-seizure medications.
Beagles are prone to obesity. Their high energy and strong sense of smell combine to create a voracious appetite. Most Beagles will overeat if given the chance.
Obesity is a common problem among Beagles, French and English Bulldogs, Dachshunds, and Pugs.
Usually, obesity will develop during adulthood as your Beagle’s metabolism levels off. The excess calories convert to added pounds over time.
When dogs consume more calories than they need based on their daily energy output, they will gain weight. Although Beagles are active and have a high metabolism, they tend to eat too much unless you ration their food.
Signs of obesity in dogs include:
- Excess belly fat/sausage-like barrel
- Reduced energy level
- Panting during/after activity
- Difficulty breathing
- Constantly begging for treats/food
- Increased thirst
If your dog is gaining weight, and you don’t take action, he can become excessively obese. Added weight puts stress on the heart, joints, and other body systems. Chronic obesity can lead to more severe health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
To prevent obesity in your Beagle
- Closely monitor his food intake(do not feed free-choice)
- Limit treats
- Provide regular exercise
If your dog starts gaining weight, consult with your veterinarian. Treatment usually involves switching to a limited-calorie diet and gradually increasing activity to encourage a healthy weight.
Beagles are predisposed to developing hypothyroidism as they age. With this condition, the thyroid gland fails to produce enough hormones.
Breeds that are prone to developing hypothyroidism include Beagles, Boxers, Alaskan Malamutes, Great Danes, and Doberman Pinschers. The condition is more common in medium and large breeds.
Although hypothyroidism can occur at any age, it’s more common in middle-aged dogs.
Thyroid hormones help regulate the metabolism. When thyroid glands underproduce hormones, your dog’s body functions slow down.
Signs of hypothyroidism include:
- Weight gain
- Reduced heart rate
- Thin, brittle hair and bald patches
- Skin darkening
- Vulnerability to skin and ear infections
Beagles can develop secondary hypothyroidism from outside causes like medications or radiation, but the most common cause is genetic. Therefore, it’s wise to seek a Beagle puppy from a family line that has no history of hypothyroidism.
Treatment for hypothyroidism includes hormone supplementation with regular monitoring and dietary management to prevent obesity.
Beagles can suffer from eye conditions, including cherry eye, glaucoma, corneal dystrophy, and cataracts.
Dog breeds that are predisposed to various eye conditions include Beagles, Poodles, English Springer Spaniels, and brachycephalic breeds like Pugs and French Bulldogs.
While cherry eye and corneal dystrophy may occur at any age, most eye conditions take time to develop, so they tend to surface during adulthood.
With cherry eye, the ligaments that anchor the tear gland weaken, and the tissue pops out and swells. Glaucoma is a buildup of pressure in the eye when the aqueous liquids can’t drain from the globe. Dogs with corneal dystrophy have clouding of the cornea, while cataracts occur when the lens hardens and becomes cloudy.
Common signs of these eye conditions include:
- Redness in the eyes
- Squinting or blinking(light sensitivity)
- Eye discharge
- Swelling or masses around the eye
Without prompt treatment for eye conditions, your dog may suffer more severe eye diseases, including corneal ulceration and blindness.
Prevention of eye conditions in Beagles includes purchasing puppies from good family lines that don’t have a history of problems. You should also schedule annual checkups to maintain your furbaby’s overall health.
Treatment for eye conditions may include:
- Antibiotic or steroidal eye drops
- Eye ointments
- Oral antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs
- Surgical correction of cataracts
Beagles have genetic predispositions to certain orthopedic conditions. The main concerns for beagles include luxating patellas and hip dysplasia.
Luxating patellas are common in Beagles and many smaller breed dogs like the Shih Tzu and French Bulldog. Hip dysplasia tends to occur more commonly in large and giant breeds but also in Beagles.
The orthopedic conditions listed above are related to genetic and structural abnormalities that exist at birth. However, symptoms of problems usually don’t surface until adulthood or later in life.
Beagles may be born with certain anatomical deformities that cause luxating patellas and hip dysplasia. In either case, bones in the joint have too much mobility and irritate the cartilage. Chronic inflammation leads to joint degeneration and pain.
Signs of orthopedic conditions in Beagles include:
- Holding one hind leg off the ground(luxating patella)
- Intermittent limping or skipping(luxating patella)
- Cracking/popping sound when bending the affected knee(luxating patella)
- Difficulty rising
- Difficulty walking
- Difficulty or reluctance when climbing stairs, getting in the car, or getting on furniture
- Sensitivity to touch around the hip joint
- Chronic pain
- Swaying gait
Without treatment, hip dysplasia and luxating patellas can cause joint trauma and degeneration. Over time, your dog will suffer from arthritis pain and lose mobility.
Preventative measures for luxating patellas and hip dysplasia include buying puppies that come from OFA screened parents with excellent to fair grades. You should also give your pooch joint supplements and help him maintain a healthy weight.
Treatment for orthopedic conditions may include joint supplements, restricted activity, anti-inflammatory medications, joint fluid supplements, and physical therapy. Surgical correction is also an option in some cases.
Anal sac impaction
Beagles are prone to develop anal sac disease. Skin allergies and obesity may interfere with normal gland expression and lead to impacted sacs.
This disease occurs more frequently in small and medium-sized breeds like Beagles than in most large-breed dogs. Smaller anatomy and narrower ducts may contribute to the disease.
Anal sac disease in Beagles usually manifests in adulthood. It usually accompanies a poor diet and obesity.
Normally, dogs naturally express the liquid from their anal sacs during defecation. However, when fat pads the rectum, or there’s inflammation, the liquid won’t evacuate properly. As a result, it thickens or dries out, causing impaction.
Signs of anal gland impaction include:
- Excessive licking or biting at the anus
- Fishy odor
- Straining/pain during defecation
- Brown spotting of bedding
When impacted anal glands aren’t evacuated, they can become infected and abscess or rupture. This may result in damage to the anus and rectum and is extremely painful.
Prevention measures include adding fiber to your dog’s diet, exercising your dog, helping your dog reach and maintain a healthy weight, and increasing your Beagle’s water intake.
Treatments for anal gland impaction include manual expression, applying warm compresses around the anus, and treating underlying conditions like skin infections and allergies.
Beagle Health issues across the lifecycle
Many of the conditions that affect Beagles take time to develop, so you won’t usually see symptoms until adulthood. However, some conditions, like ear infections, can manifest in puppies.
Beagle Puppy Health Issues
Beagle puppies can develop ear infections because of their long, floppy ears. Additionally, younger dogs may manifest signs of cherry eye or corneal dystrophy, but these can occur at any age.
Adult Beagle Health Issues
Many conditions linked to anatomical/genetic conditions take time to manifest. For example, luxating patellas and hip dysplasia may not be noticeable until your pooch is fully grown. With other conditions, like allergies, the symptoms tend to be more pronounced or obvious with repeated allergen exposure.
Most eye conditions that affect Beagle’s surface in adulthood. Other conditions that tend to appear during this stage include epilepsy, hypothyroidism, and anal sac impactions.
Senior Beagle Health Issues
Conditions like obesity, cataracts, and degenerative arthritis pain from hip dysplasia are usually more evident in older dogs.
In the case of obesity, dogs may gain more weight as their metabolism and activity level slow down in their senior years. Cataracts and joint degeneration develop slowly over time and may not be problematic until later in life.
Beagle Health Issues and Average Lifespan
The average lifespan for Beagles is fairly long when compared to many dogs. Most of these lovable pups live about 12-15 years. This length of life is comparable with other robust hunting breeds.
Most Beagles live long, happy lives, but some lives are shortened by uncontrollable seizures/epilepsy or conditions secondary to obesity, like heart disease. The best way to help your pooch enjoy a lengthy and high-quality life is to feed a balanced diet and maintain regular veterinary health care.
Beagle Health Issues VS Other Dog Breeds
The long life span of Beagles testifies to their robust genetics and overall health. While they suffer from some genetic and congenital disorders, they tend to be healthier than many other breeds, including most brachycephalic dogs like the French and English Bulldogs and Boxers.
Health Signs Beagle Parents Should Beware Of
Beagles are active, robust dogs, but they have some potential health problems. Knowing what to watch for can help you catch and treat conditions early to maximize the chance of a favorable outcome.
- Red or inflamed skin can point to ear infections or allergic reactions
- Excess itching or scratching may indicate allergies or ear infections
- Hives or facial swelling points to a severe allergic reaction(emergency!)
- Itchy/watery eyes
- Muscle tremors or paddling indicates a seizure
- Losing fecal and urinary continence points to a seizure
- Exercise intolerance can point to obesity
- Excess weight gain is a sign of obesity but may also signal hypothyroidism
- A small red mass in the corner of the eye could be a cherry eye.
- A white spot or cloudiness in the pupil may point to a cataract.
- LImping, skipping, a stiff or wobbly gait, or unwillingness to move can indicate orthopedic problems
- Lethargy or depression can occur in multiple conditions
- Scooting or a fishy odor usually indicate anal gland impactions
Beagle Health Care Tips and Prevention
Beagles can enjoy long, happy lives despite their potential health conditions. Proper health care and preventative measures may help your furbaby enjoy a full life.
Schedule routine health checks
If you have a healthy Beagle, you should schedule annual health checks and routine vaccinations with your vet. More frequent visits may be needed when your pooch has a health condition.
Maintain a healthy weight
Pay close attention to your dog’s diet. Some conditions like degenerative joint disease and anal sac disease are worse when dogs are overweight. If your pooch has food sensitivities, feed your dog a low-allergen diet.
Feed a balanced diet
In addition to feeding your dog food that helps him reach and maintain a healthy weight, choose a diet that provides the proper balance of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
Talk to your veterinarian about feeding appropriate supplements to encourage healthy joints and skin. You may want to give your dog glucosamine, chondroitin, and vitamin E.
Use an orthopedic bed
If your furbaby suffers from an orthopedic condition, invest in an orthopedic bed with supportive memory foam. These beds can help ease the pain of degenerative arthritis and other orthopedic conditions.
Select a reputable breeder
When you choose a breeder, find one with a reputation for breeding dogs with good genetics. Ask questions about the parents’ health backgrounds.
Practice good hygiene
Use regular grooming practices to encourage a healthy coat, skin, and ears.
- Bathe your Beagle regularly.
- Check and clean your furbaby’s ears every few weeks to remove trapped debris.
- Brush your dog’s coat a few times a week to remove loose hair and dead skin and stimulate circulation to the skin.
The Final Woof
Beagles have some characteristics and genetic tendencies towards certain health conditions. When you’re considering adding a Beagle to your pack, it’s wise to prepare for potential problems. Some of the most common health concerns in this breed include ear infections, allergies, epilepsy, and obesity.
Many Beagles live full, happy lives, but it helps to know the signs and symptoms of common conditions. That way, you’ll be able to recognize issues and take action early. Meanwhile, there are ways you may be able to prevent problems and maximize your Beagle’s quality of life.