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Beagles 101: 6 Common Health Issues & How to Prevent Them

Diana Bocco - Writer for DailyTails
By Diana Bocco
Davor Štefanović - Editor for DailyTails
Edited by Davor Štefanović

Updated May 12, 2023.

Family playing with a healthy beagle

If you're considering bringing home a beagle, it's essential to understand what Beagles were bred for and how that affects their behavior. Beagles are a hunting breed, developed to help hunt rabbits and hares due to their great sense of smell and amazing tracking ability.

If you’re wondering how long Beagles live, the answer is "not long enough." These dogs have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years—slightly shorter than other medium-sized dogs.

Another common question from potential dog owners is about allergies. Are beagles hypoallergenic? Unfortunately, no. In fact, beagles shed more than many other short-hair breeds, so allergy sufferers might have trouble sharing a home with one.

As with other breeds, beagles are more prone to certain health problems. Being aware of these potential health issues and keeping an eye out for early symptoms can help you support your dog's health and guide you on when to call the vet.

You can keep your dog healthy and reduce trips to the vet by providing them with a nutritious, well-balanced diet, ensuring they stay active, well-groomed, and mentally stimulated.

Here are the 6 most common health issues in Beagles and what you can do to prevent these issues.

6 Common Health Issues in Beagles

  • Ear infections
  • Obesity
  • Allergies
  • Cherry eye
  • Epilepsy
  • Hypothyroidism

1. Ear Infections

Closeup using a cotton ball to wipe the beagle's dirty ears clean

Beagles, with their floppy ears, are prone to ear infections. These infections can result from a variety of causes such as excessive wax buildup or allergies that trigger inflammation. Foreign material like grass, seeds, or dirt getting caught inside the ear can also cause infections, as can ear mites or other parasites. Ear canal masses and polyps may be another contributing factor.

Common symptoms of ear infections include:

  • Scratching or pawing at the ear or area around it
  • Head shaking or tilting
  • Dark or bloody discharge
  • Hair loss around the ear
  • Redness and swelling inside the ear canal

How to Prevent Ear Infections

To keep your beagle's ears healthy, it's essential to clean them regularly. If your dog is prone to chronic ear infections, clean their ears at least once a week or even daily in severe cases. Regular vet checkups will help ensure that the inner ear is healthy and free from new infections. Additionally, consider adding an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement to your beagle's diet, as these decrease inflammation associated with skin allergies and can benefit dogs with chronic ear problems.

2. Obesity

Obese Beagle

Beagles are prone to obesity due to their love for food and tendency to eat quickly. You can tell if your beagle is overweight by looking at their chest and ribcage. If the area lacks definition, or you cannot discern where the ribcage ends and the hips begin, your dog is likely overweight. Obese Beagles struggle to scratch and groom themselves, and they may experience fatigue even after mild exercise.

How to Prevent Obesity

A healthy diet and exercise are essential to maintaining your Beagle's optimal weight. If your beagle is already overweight, you can help them slim down by reducing their portion size or switching to low-calorie dog food that's high in fiber or specifically designed for weight loss.

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3. Allergies

Beagle Allergies

Beagles are genetically predisposed to various allergies, including inhalant (environmental and seasonal), contact, skin, and food allergies. Environmental factors such as grasses, tree pollens, molds, and dust mites can trigger allergies in beagles. These allergies can cause hair loss, flaky skin, dandruff, hot spots (open wounds created from constant scratching), and chronic itchiness. Atopic dermatitis, a skin disease caused by allergic reactions to contact allergens or food ingredients, is also common in beagles and leads to itchy skin and inflammation.

How to Prevent Allergies

You can't prevent allergies from developing in your Beagle, but you can manage flare-ups. Allergy testing in dogs is complex and expensive, but you can help your Beagle deal with food allergies by introducing a limited-ingredient fresh food diet. For skin allergies, vets usually recommend using hypoallergenic shampoos that contain oatmeal (to soothe itchiness) and are free of sulfates and chemicals.

» Learn why the Beagle is on the Top 10 Healthiest Dog Breeds list

4. Cherry Eye

Vet administers eye drops to prevent cherry eye in beagle

Cherry eye occurs when the small ligament that holds the third eyelid gland in place, located in the inside corner of the eyes, either stretches or breaks. This causes the gland to become inflamed and swollen, popping out and stretching. While cherry eye is more common in younger dogs under the age of two, it can happen at any age and affect one or both eyes. If left untreated, it can lead to additional problems, including dry eyes and conjunctivitis.

How to Prevent Cherry Eye

Although the exact cause of cherry eye in dogs is unknown, making it difficult to prevent, it is treatable. Mild cases can sometimes be managed using anti-inflammatory eye drops to reduce swelling. However, most dogs will eventually require surgery. The surgery typically resolves the issue by repositioning the gland into its proper, original place.

5. Epilepsy

Beagle Epilepsy

Beagles are prone to genetic or inherited epilepsy, which typically first appears between the ages of 18 months and 5 years. Epilepsy in Beagles can also be caused by a number of underlying health issues, including liver disease, untreated hypothyroidism, brain tumors or trauma, and the ingestion of poisonous substances like coffee and chocolate.

Symptoms of epilepsy include:

  • Collapsing
  • Convulsions, which include jerking and muscle twitching
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Drooling or tongue chewing

How to Prevent Epilepsy

While you can't prevent seizures, they can often be managed effectively. Dogs experiencing seizures should be examined by a vet right away to determine the underlying cause. Once the cause is identified, proper treatment can be provided. Maintaining a stable environment and limiting upsetting changes for your Beagle can help reduce stress and, in turn, the frequency of seizures.

6. Hypothyroidism

Epileptic Beagle being examined by a vet

Beagles have a genetic predisposition to developing hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid glands (located near the larynx) cannot produce enough thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism causes a slowdown of your dog’s metabolism.

Dogs with hypothyroidism are likely to experience:

  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain even though they’re not eating more than usual
  • A reluctance to exercise
  • Loss or thinning of their fur
  • Sensitivity to cold weather

How to Prevent Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism can’t be prevented, but once diagnosed, it can be easily treated using thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Always talk to your vet right away if you notice potential symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Keeping Your Beagle Happy and Healthy

While not every beagle develops the conditions listed here, being aware of the risk is an important step to keep your dog as healthy as possible.

Whether you've just adopted a new pup or have been sharing your home with a Beagle for many years, it pays to be prepared for potential health issues. Investing in pet insurance can provide peace of mind, knowing that both your dog's health and your wallet are protected.

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