Few people can resist the charms of the beagle as they fondly recall Snoopy, the start of the beloved classic comic strip “Peanuts.” Beagles are playful and family friendly, require minimal grooming and are manageable in size. While beagles have average life spans of 12 to 15 years, there are a few health conditions prospective beagle owners need to be aware of.
Some orthopedic conditions can predispose dogs to chronic arthritis sooner than later in their lifetimes. Beagles can be afflicted with hip dysplasia, a genetic condition in which the socket of the hip joint is deformed, and patellar luxation, a condition in which the knee joint pops in and out of place. Beagles are prone to developing intervertebral disc disease, a painful and potentially debilitating condition that affects the spinal discs of the neck or back, compromising mobility and potentially resulting in paralysis. Chondrodystrophy, also called chondrodysplasia or dwarfism, is a genetic mutation that results in abnormal development and growth of vertebral and leg bones in some beagles. This disease can be crippling. Spare your family potential heartache by refusing any small beagle that the breeder attempts to sell as a rare, toy, miniature or pocket beagle.
Eye and Ear Problems
Those lovable, naturally lined brown eyes are at risk for a litany of eye problems. Some of these problems include glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts and dry eye syndrome, which is also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca or keratitis sicca. Cherry eye, a condition in which the third eyelid is not anchored properly and is noticed as a red protrusion in the corner of the affected eye, is also common in beagles. Distichiasis, defined as excessive hair growth from glands in the eyelash line, also has been noted in beagles. Some breeds, including the beagle, carry an elevated risk of inherited deafness.
Hypothyroidism, Epilepsy and Hemophilia
Beagles have an increased risk for developing hypothyroidism, which is defined as an underactive thyroid gland. Epilepsy, a condition of the brain that is characterized by recurring seizure activity, is also common in beagles. Hemophilia A also has been noted in beagles. Hemophilia A is an inherited anticoagulation disease in which the blood is unable to clot properly, resulting in bruising and potential hemorrhaging from trauma or surgery.
Carnitine Deficiency and Cancers
The nutrient L-carnitine moves fatty acids to the body’s cells, where the fatty acids are used to produce energy. Your dog’s heart muscles and skeletal muscles depend on L-carnitine, and if he suffers from a deficiency in this vital nutrient, the heart suffers adverse effects that include heart muscle failure and cardiomyopathy. Beagles have an inherited risk for developing this serious condition. Two cancers to which beagles are especially prone include bladder cancer and hemangiosarcoma. Hemangiosarcoma is a tumor that typically forms in the spleen or liver, but it also can develop in other parts of the body. Hemangiosarcoma and bladder cancer, which is a transitional cell carcinoma, are both malignant cancers with poor prognoses for survival.
Communication with Breeders Is Vital
Increase your chances of welcoming a healthy beagle into your family by speaking to the breeder about the presence of these conditions in the puppy’s lineage. The breeder should be willing and able to furnish professional documentation that certifies that the parents and grandparents of the puppy have been screened for the aforementioned genetic problems. Avoid any breeder who does not share your concerns, is unable to supply documented proof of genetic health screenings or is not open to discussing these issues. Making the effort to find a breeder who is willing to communicate can spare your family a potentially devastating scenario.
- petMD: Breeds: Beagle
- vetSTREET: Beagle: Health
- National Beagle Club: Intervertebral Disc Disease
- Orthopedic Foundation for Animals: Genetics and Inheritance of Canine Deafness
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Animal Health Diagnostic Center: Comparative Coagulation: Hemophilia A
- petMD: Carnitine Deficiency in Dogs
- National Beagle Club: Health and Genetics
- Noel Hendrickson/Photodisc/Getty Images