Common Basset Hound Health Problems

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Basset Hound

The gregarious and affable Basset Hound is a popular breed. Bred to hunt small game on foot, Bassets (as they're affectionately known), are versatile hounds capable of hunting in the field or hunting for their soft cushion beside their owners while watching TV. Smart and independent, Bassets have done well in obedience, tracking, agility, and hunting trials. They can be gentle and empathic enough to be outstanding therapy dogs.

Basset Hounds are easy to recognize given their short legs, long bodies, and soft, velvety, pendulous ears, even among people who do not own dogs. Their wrinkled folds and plaintive dark eyes give them plaintive expressions that they use to their utmost advantage when begging for treats. It's hard not to fall in love with the winsome Basset Hound.

History and Background

According to the Basset Hound Club of America, the Basset Hound comes from a very old line of hunting dogs known as St. Hubert Hounds from St. Hubert of Belgium who lived in the 6th Century. St. Hubert, the patron saint of hunters, bred dogs that looked much like today's Bloodhound. Some of St. Hubert Hounds were brought to France and bred with Norman Staghounds. During this time, the short-legged mutation appeared, making these dogs popular to hunt badger, fox, rabbits, and other den-making animals. The first time the word "Basset" was used to describe these hounds was a hunting text written in 1585. "Basset" means "low" or "rather low" in French, attesting to the Basset Hound's short stature. Built for endurance and tenaciousness, the Basset Hound is slow enough for hunters to keep up with them while on foot.

Basset Hounds grew in popularity after the French Revolution as a dog a hunter on foot (rather than on horseback) could keep up with. They became extremely popular during the reign of Emperor Napoleon III, and gained international attention in 1863 when the first dog show featuring Basset Hounds was held in Paris. Basset Hounds were imported to England, where the first breed standard was developed. The Basset Hound as we know it came from those dogs that were bred to that standard.

  • Lifespan: 10 to 12 years
  • Weight: 45 pounds (ca. 20 kg) to 75 pounds (ca. 34 kg)
  • Height: less than 15 inches (ca. 38 cm) at the shoulder
  • Breed type: Hound Group
  • Personality and temperament: Friendly, outgoing, independent

Basset Hound

Common Health Issues

Basset Hounds are popular dogs which are prone to certain diseases that come with their genetics and their body types. When looking to purchase a Basset Hound, be sure to choose a reputable breeder who screens for hereditary diseases such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, eye conditions, and Von Willebrand's disease (a form of hemophilia). The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Basset Hound Club of America offers recommendations as to basic genetic screenings and tests. Here are some of the most common health problems Basset Hounds experience.


Those soulful eyes can convince owners they haven't been feeding their Basset Hound enough. Consequently, obesity is a big problem with Basset Hounds which puts a lot of stress on the dog's muscles and joints. Keeping a Basset Hound lean is especially important since these dogs can inherit hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD), and extra weight can further complicate the conditions. Maintaining a healthy weight is a vital part of keeping a Basset Hound living longer and more active in his old age.

  • Treatment includes a sensible exercise program and limiting the Basset Hound's calories according to veterinarian recommendations. Many veterinarians can prescribe specific reduced calorie diets that will safely reduce a dog's caloric intake and cause gradual weigh reduction.

Ear and Skin Infections

The Basset Hound's glorious ears and facial folds makes him a prime target for ear and skin infections. Saliva can dry in the facial folds and fuel yeast infections on his face and neck. The Basset's low, drop ears provides the perfect environment for moisture, which means fungal and bacterial infections, otitis externa, and ear mites. Basset owners need to clean their dog's ears and skin folds regularly to help prevent infections.

  • Common signs of infections include scratching, shaking, and cocking his head to one side. Scratching often aggravates the infection and may require veterinary intervention.
  • Treatment for ear and skin infections often require prescription medication from a veterinarian. These include antibiotic, fungicide, and medication used to eliminate ear mites. Treatment often lasts several days after the problem clears up.

Hip Dysplasia

According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), 39.3 percent of 234 Basset Hounds tested showed abnormal hips, which makes hip dysplasia an issue with Bassets. Hip dysplasia is a hereditary disease where the hip joint is malformed, causing the bones to rub together, often painfully. The ball and socket eventually deteriorate over time and may actually lose its function.

  • Symptoms: Dogs that suffer from hip dysplasia may limp or have occasional pain, if it is mild and can be treated with prescription NSAIDS.
  • Treatment: When serious, it can be so debilitating and painful that the dog may require surgery to correct the joint or may need to be euthanized. Prescription NSAIDs generally costs about $50 to $100 a month; surgery to correct hip dysplasia may run into the thousands of dollars.

Elbow Dysplasia

According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), 15 percent of 40 Basset Hounds tested showed abnormal elbows. Although this is a small sampling, it shows that Bassets do indeed get elbow dysplasia and potential owners need to be aware of whether the parents of the Basset litter were screened for this disease. Elbow dysplasia is a description of malformation of the elbow joint and encompasses different types of malformations, all hereditary.

  • Symptoms: Basset Hound who have elbow dysplasia are prone to limping, pain, and arthritis as the bones in the joint rub against each other. Usually elbow dysplasia occurs in both elbows, thus making it difficult for the dog to walk.
  • Treatment can be anywhere from prescription NSAIDs that will help the pain and limping for mild cases to surgery for serious cases. NSAIDs cost around $50 to $100 a month and surgery will cost in the thousands of dollars.

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) is a condition where the bone and cartilages' normal growth process becomes disturbed due to loss of blood supply. The cartilage becomes abnormally thick and separates from the bone. This causes inflammation and pain in young, growing dogs. Basset Hounds are particularly susceptible to this condition, which is considered hereditary.

  • Symptoms: The Basset will show chronic pain and lameness that becomes worse after exercise.
  • Prognosis is usually good if the Osteochondritis Dissecans is successfully managed and kept under control.
  • Treatment for Osteochondritis Dissecans consists of pain medication (around $50 to $100 a month), a prescription diet ($50+ a month), and crate rest.
  • Once diagnosed, veterinarians will put the Basset Hound on a strict diet to prevent gaining weight too fast and stressing the joint, as well as a long period of rest, usually in a crate.

Gastric Torsion

Deep chested breeds such as the Basset Hound are prone to developing gastric torsion -- a serious and deadly condition that can kill a dog. This condition is known by many names including bloat, gastric dilation, and gastric dilation and volvulus syndrome (GDV), among others. Gastric torsion occurs when the stomach fills with gas and then twists on its short axis, causing severe pain, the cutting off of blood flow to the stomach, and organ death. Gastric torsion is a life threatening emergency. 

  • Cause: The cause of gastric torsion is unclear but experts suspect the body structure combined with possible hereditary factors may cause it.
  • Symptoms: If a Basset's owner sees their dog with a distended abdomen, excessive drooling and dry heaving, they should rush their Basset to an emergency vet immediately.
  • Treatment: The only cure for gastric torsion is surgery. The veterinarian will have to go in and untwist the stomach. The vet will most likely staple the stomach to the interior lining of the dog's body to help prevent it from twisting again. Once a dog torsions, there's a higher chance of it occurring again, even with stapling the stomach. Surgery is very expensive, costing thousands of dollars.

von Willebrand's Disease (vWD)

von Willebrand's Disease (vWD) is a type of hemophilia that can affect Basset Hounds. It has been caused by a lack of a protein known as the von Willebrand's factor protein (vWF). This is an inherited disease that causes the blood to not clot properly. Injuries often do not heal easily and continue to bleed. If left unchecked, this disease can be life threatening for the dog. Injures often bleed profusely and this disease can cause the Basset Hound to go into shock if left untreated. This makes surgery difficult and often requires transfusions. von Willebrand's Disease is hereditary, which means that Basset Hound breeders should test for von Willebrand's Disease before breeding their dog. Basset Hounds who have von Willebrand's Disease should not have anti-clotting and blood thinning medications such as aspirin and sulfa-type antibiotics.

  • Treatment for von Willebrand's Disease consists of blood transfusions from healthy dogs. With minor cuts, bleeding can be controlled with sutures, bandages, and surgical glue.
  • Cost: Blood transfusions may cost as much as several hundred dollars to a thousand dollars, depending on the region of the country and how much blood is required.

Basset Hound Hereditary Thrombopathy (BHT)

Basset Hound Hereditary Thrombopathy (BHT) is another type of hemophilia which happens when the platelets fail to clot. This causes excessive bleeding which can cause the dog to go into shock and kill the dog if the Basset does not receive proper veterinary intervention. This disease is hereditary, which means a dog that has it has parents that either had the disease or are carriers. The mutated gene involved is RASGRP1. There is no cure for Basset Hound Hereditary Thrombopathy and it's important to keep the dog quiet and avoid situations that could cause him to bruise or bleed because his platelets won't clot. Any injury to a Basset with this disease is an emergency and requires immediate veterinary care.

  • Treatment for Basset Hound Hereditary Thrombopathy consists of blood transfusions from healthy dogs. Blood transfusions may cost as much as several hundred dollars to a thousand dollars, depending on the region of the country and how much blood is required.


Glaucoma is a hereditary disease of the eye which can cause pain and blindness. With glaucoma, the fluid inside the eyeball presses against the optic nerve. This causes the following symptoms:

  • Excessive blinking
  • Eyeball enlargement
  • Cloudy eye
  • Eye redness that can't be attributed to allergies
  • Eyeball looks like it is receding into the head
  • Excessive discharge
  • Pawing at the eye
  • Lack of appetite

Glaucoma is very painful and 40 percent of dogs lose their sight in the affected eye within a year, regardless of what measures the veterinarian may take. In most cases the problem is discovered after there is significant damage to the optic nerve. If the other eye is not affected yet, the veterinarian can prescribe medications that will reduce the pressure on the eyeball. This is why it is very important for Basset Hounds to have their vision checked and certified free of glaucoma by a veterinary ophthalmologist before breeding.

  • Treatment: Surgery typically runs in the thousands of dollars and medications to reduce the pressure on the eyeball usually costs anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars a month.


Entropion is the malformation of a dog's eyelids, where the eyelids curve inward towards the eyeball. As a result, the eyelashes irritate the eye, causing it to tear and redden, while causing pain. It can cause corneal ulceration and perforation, and even cause scar tissue to form on the eye. Entropion is a hereditary disease that affects many dog breeds, including Basset Hounds. 

  • Treatment: Dogs with this condition often need surgery to correct it, although Basset Hounds with mild conditions may be able to find relief with artificial tears made for dogs and prescribed by the dog's veterinarian. Artificial tears cost less than $50 a month; surgery is likely to cost several hundred dollars.


Ectropion is the opposite of Entropion, where the eyelid curls outward instead of inward. The result is often a sagging lower lid that shows the inside of the lid and the third eyelid. The tears have trouble draining properly and end up staining the dog's face. Dogs with this condition are more prone to eye infections and eye irritation.

  • Cause: Basset Hounds may have this due to the nature of the loose skin around their face. 
  • Treatment: Veterinarians usually treat this condition with a lubricating and antibiotic ointment for the eyes. Basset owners will have to take care to ensure that their dog's faces are especially clean to avoid complications. Ectropion is likely congenital. Lubricating and antibiotic ointment usually costs $50 to $100 dollars or less per month.

Basset Hound


Cherry Eye

Cherry Eye looks like a red cherry pit in the corner of the eye. It is due to the prolapse of the dog's third eyelid. There is a small ligament in the eye that holds the third eyelid gland in its correct place. When ligament breaks or stretches, it causes cherry eye. It mostly occurs in young dogs under the age of a year old, and it is a congenital condition in Basset Hounds. A veterinarian will have to examine the dog to determine if the condition is cherry eye. In many cases, surgery is required for both eyes as cherry eye can be a bilateral condition. If left untreated, cherry eye can cause dry eye which will lead to complications such as corneal scratches, eye infections, and even perforation.

  • Treatment: The only treatment for cherry eye is surgery which will cost several hundreds to several thousands of dollars, depending on if it is bilateral and other complications.

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Type I Intervertebral Disc Disease or IVDD is a hereditary condition where the dog's spinal discs become hardened and calcified. The dog then does something like jump on stairs or jump down from furniture and causes the spinal disc to rupture.

  • Symptoms: Often called a "slipped disc," Intervertebral Disc Disease often causes pain, lameness in the back end, weakness, paws "knuckling under," and other symptoms. It often damages the spinal cord and causes paralysis without treatment.
  • Diagnosis: The veterinarian will have to run several diagnostic tests including x-ray, CT scans, MRI scans, and myelographs. The veterinarian will also run blood tests and urinalysis to rule out other health problems that may cause the symptoms. 
  • Treatment Options:
    • In mild cases, a veterinarian will recommend crate rest combined with steroids or other pain-relieving medications, and muscle relaxers for several weeks. The dog may have to have holistic remedies such as acupuncture and massage.
    • The cost for conservative treatment will run several hundred dollars.
    • Dogs that have progressive to severe cases require surgery to remove the impinging portion of the disc. This is done by a veterinary neurosurgeon and typically runs several thousands of dollars.

Wobbler Syndrome

Wobbler Syndrome is a neurological disease where the dog walks with a "drunken" or wobbly gait, hence the name. Its scientific name is cervical spondylomyelopathy (CSM). It occurs when there is a narrowing of the neck vertebrae, often due to a slipped disc.

  • Symptoms: This causes the dog to walk with a strange gait, show pain and stiffness in the neck, or even paralysis if it becomes severe. Like Intervertebral Disc Disease, this can cause permanent damage to the spinal cord and permanent paralysis if not treated.
  • Diagnosis: The veterinarian will have to run several diagnostic tests including x-ray, CT scans, MRI scans, and myelographs. The veterinarian will also run blood tests and urinalysis to rule out other health problems that may cause the symptoms.
  • Treatment: Conservative treatment costs in the hundreds of dollars and is much the same as for IVDD, with crate rest combined with steroids or other pain-relieving medications, and muscle relaxers for several weeks. Dogs that have severe cases require surgery correct the problem. This is done by a veterinary neurosurgeon and typically runs several thousands of dollars.


Panosteitis or "Pano," as it is frequently called, is a short-lived or self-limiting condition in young dogs which causes severe bone pain and lameness. Veterinarians don't know what exactly causes it, but it is often characterized by pain and lameness in the front legs, and sometimes the back legs.

  • Symptoms: Dogs that have panosteitis, experience severe bone pain and may stop eating and have a fever. The dog may lose weight. It may last for weeks, or months. A veterinarian will have to perform a blood analysis and x-rays to rule out other causes.
  • Treatment consists of anti-inflammatory medications and rest for weeks to months with frequent check ups.
  • Cost: The total cost for treatment will be in the hundreds of dollars.
  • Prognosis is good and the Basset Hound will eventually heal on his own.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar Luxation is a condition in Basset Hounds and other breeds where the kneecap "slips" or moves out of its normal place. When that happens, the kneecap moves to the side out of the groove it is supposed to stay in, causing pain and lameness. This often occurs when the ligament is attached on the bone too close to the patella. The stress of the joint moving eventually wears down the groove where the kneecap sits and the kneecap no longer has the bony ridge to hold it. It pops out or luxates to the side and continues to do it, even after it pops back into place. The joint becomes painful and arthritic over time.

  • Treatment:
    • In mild cases, veterinarians may prescribe ongoing arthritis medications that will cost around $100 or more per month.
    • In severe and bilateral (both knees) cases, the only cure is surgery which is called Medial Luxating Patella Repair. This entails deepening the groove where the kneecap sits, reattaching the ligament to the correct place on the bone, and tightening up the ligament capsule around the joint. It's extremely important to correct the problem before arthritis sets in as the dog will experience pain and stiffness even after surgery, especially if the weather is cold.
  • Cost: The surgical correction normally costs in the thousands of dollars.


Author: Margaret Bonham
About Margaret: Margaret is a three-time DWAA (Dog Writers Association of America) Maxwell award-winning author and a two-time CWA (Cat Writers Association) award-winning Muse writer for excellence in pet writing. She has also won the Iams Responsible Pet Ownership Award for writing excellence, the Pet Sitters International (PSI) First Person Canine Award, and the winner of the best article at Yahoo. She is the author of more than 40 books, both non-fiction and fiction, including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Labrador RetrieversThe Complete Guide to Mutts, & Introduction to Dog Agility. She lives with two Alaskan Malamutes, a German Shorthaired Pointer, and two cats, all rescued, along with chickens, geese, goats, a llama, and a very opinionated horse.

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