Breed-related disease: Beagle

John K. Rosembert

The beagle is a breed of small hound that is similar in appearance to the much larger foxhound. The beagle is a scent hound, developed primarily for hunting hare (beagling). Possessing a great sense of smell and superior tracking instincts, the beagle is the primary breed used as detection dogs for prohibited agricultural imports and foodstuffs in quarantine around the world.


Overall, Beagles are small, hardy hounds. They have a short coat, a deep chest, stocky legs, and a medium-length tail. Their heads are long compared to their bodies, with low-set drooping ears. Big brown or hazel eyes are set well apart and gaze with the typical, soft hound expression. Their standard coat is tricolored with white, black, and brown. It is a loving, sweet, and gentle, happy to see everyone by greeting them with a wagging tail. It is sociable, brave, and intelligent. The Beagle is excellent with children and generally good with other dogs, but because of its hunting instincts, it should not be trusted with non-canine pets, unless socialized with cats and other household animals when young. Beagles have minds of their own. They are determined and watchful and require patient, firm training.

If you’re wondering about what common health problems affect this breed, below we put some of the most common health conditions that may affect this breed.

  1. Back Problems: Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a common condition in Beagles. The disease is caused when the jelly-like cushion between one or more vertebrae slips or ruptures, causing the disc to press on the spinal cord. If your dog is suddenly unable or unwilling to jump up, go upstairs, is reluctant to move around, has a hunched back, cries out, or refuses to eat or go potty, he is likely in severe pain. He may even drag his back feet or be suddenly paralyzed and unable to get up or use his back legs. If you see symptoms, don’t wait. Call an emergency clinic immediately!
  2. Eye problem: Beagles are prone to numerous eye conditions. These can range from small eyes (microphthalmia) to cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal problems called progressive retinal atrophy. They also get a prolapse of the third eyelid gland (cherry eye), which appears as a red membrane over the eye. Any time your pet has eye discharge, redness, or is pawing at one of its eyes, and examination should be performed.
  3. Bleeding disorder: On occasion, some Beagles can get a bleeding disorder. If your pet easily bruises or seems to take a long time to clot blood, it should have an examination. Beagles are susceptible to herniated discs. Any time it shows signs of pain or inability to walk properly, this disease might be a cause.
  4. Epilepsy: is another relatively common problem in Beagles, this disease manifests itself as a seizure. Any time your pet has a seizure it should be brought to our attention.
  5. Heart disease: Beagles are prone to multiple types of heart disease. Symptoms, if they occur, include distended abdomen, difficulty breathing, exercise intolerance, and unfortunately, even sudden death.
  6. Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s): Cushing’s disease is a malfunction of the adrenal glands causing them to produce too much steroid hormone. This is a common problem in dogs, and Beagles are more likely than other dogs to be affected. The condition usually develops slowly, and the early signs are easily missed. Symptoms include drinking and urinating more than normal, increased appetite, and reduced activity level. Later, a potbelly, thin skin, and hair loss are characteristic. Treatment usually includes oral medications and requires close coordination to ensure correct dosing.

Photo credit: