Common health problems with Beagles

30 May 2024 - 4 min read
A close-up of a Beagle with a tan, white, and black coat, tilting its head to the side and looking directly at the camera against a light beige background.

Beagles are an active, high-energy breed originally made to hunt hares, rabbits and other small prey. This has led to them having an excellent sense of smell, strong loyalty and a confident temperament.

But like any pedigree, they're prone to certain health issues. Below, we discuss the most common health problems with Beagles, how vets diagnose them and how to care for one.

The most common health conditions in Beagles

Beagle Hero image for breed page

Ear infections

Beagles have long, floppy ears. It makes them look very cute, but unfortunately, they create a warm, moist environment perfect for bacteria and yeast to grow. They often suffer from recurrent ear infections, which can be very itchy and uncomfortable.

Vets prescribe topical treatments to manage them, but persistent infections can take a few weeks to clear. Foreign bodies, like grass seeds, are more likely to get stuck in these long ears, too.

Cherry eye

Cherry eye causes a distinctive red swelling in the corner of one or both eyes and usually starts to appear before a dog reaches one year of age. It's an uncomfortable problem and can lead to other issues, like eye infections and corneal ulcers.

Surgical correction is the most common treatment. But there's a high risk of recurrence even after surgery, with many dogs needing further corrective procedures.

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

A long body and short legs predispose Beagles to IVDD. Degenerative changes in the disc make it more likely to herniate or bulge. Symptoms are painful and can lead to paralysis.

If a disc bulges, it compresses the spine, leading to a loss of limb use. It can also affect bladder and bowel function. Disc disease can be mild or severe and involves one or more discs.

Mild cases are treated medically with anti-inflammatories and rest. A vet may recommend surgical treatment for severe cases to regain limb, bladder and bowel functions.

Epilepsy

Idiopathic epilepsy, or epilepsy of no known cause, commonly occurs in Beagles between the ages of six months and six years. Abnormal brain activity usually causes seizures, and symptoms include:

  • Collapse

  • Tremors

  • Rigid or paddling limbs

  • Excessive salivation

  • Passing urine or faeces

The seizure may last seconds to several minutes. Usually, dogs behave normally between episodes. The diagnosis is made by excluding other causes of seizures, like intracranial disorders, toxicity and metabolic problems.

Treatment is always lifelong and can involve one or more medications depending on the severity of symptoms.

Hypothyroidism

An underactive thyroid causes hypothyroidism, meaning a dog won't have enough thyroid hormone. The hormone has numerous roles in the body but plays an important role in metabolism.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism are often very vague and develop slowly over time. The most common signs are:

  • Weight gain

  • Alopecia

  • Lethargy

  • Skin and ear infections

  • A ‘sad’ expression

  • Heat-seeking behaviours

It’s diagnosed by blood testing and can be well managed with lifelong medication to control the symptoms.

How to care for a Beagle

Beagle

Ear cleaning

You can prevent ear infections by keeping your dog’s ears clean and dry at home. Regular swimming can increase the dog's chance of infection, so you shouldn’t let them get their head wet too often. Try to avoid getting water in the ears when you bathe them.

Ear cleaners can help remove excess wax, but don't use them too often - your vet can guide you on this. Watch out for excessive wax/discharge or foul smells coming from the ear, and get any concerns checked with your vet.

Genetic testing and responsible breeding

Genetic testing and picking a responsible breeder are essential steps for the long-term health of breeds like Beagles. For example, Beagles with a history of hypothyroidism aren't bred to reduce the chances of this condition getting passed on. The same applies to epilepsy and severe cases of cherry eye.

There are no specific health schemes for Beagles that registered breeders must comply with, but any potential breeding dogs should be assessed and examined for any potential health issues. All responsible breeders will want to ensure their puppies are healthy, so always ask if the dogs were health checked before breeding.

Our article on picking a responsible breeder can help.

Careful exercise

Regular exercise is important for all dogs, and we're sure you won't have any trouble getting your Beagle outside to run about. But since IVDD is so prevalent, we recommend protecting your dog’s back by being careful they don’t jump or climb too much and avoiding agility activities.

How dog insurance helps

Beagle insurance can help you prepare for unforeseen health issues.

Dog insurance helps with up to £15,000 vet fee cover, unlimited 24/7 vet calls with FirstVet and a host of other perks.

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Get £15,000 lifetime vet fee cover with our Complete policy.

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Ben Newman
Editorial Content Lead

Ben is a writer and editor with years of experience in insurance. After spending a long time creating content for some of Britain's biggest brands as part of a marketing agency, Ben began to focus on insurance and hasn't looked back since. When he's not consuming copious cups of tea, you can find him reading a book, daydreaming about having an Australian Shepherd and shouting at Liverpool on the TV.