Beagle Health Problems for Owners to Know About

Energetic, devoted, and curiously clever, Beagles have a history as a prized hunting companion for small prey like rabbits. Yet, these lovable, small-build hound dogs have made their way into homes on every angle of the planet. The Beagle has won the famed Westminster Kennel Club's "Best in Show" award twice in the last 20 years and is the only canine breed that has managed to be ranked as one of the top 10 dog breeds every year by the AKC ever since it was initially registered in 1885.

Guided by their profound sense of smell, Beagles are ever on the lookout for something interesting to explore or chase, but these cute-faced hounds are a prized canine companion because they are so intelligent and happy-go-lucky. Beagles are clever, adaptable, and social creatures. They get along well with most other pets, are gentle enough to live with small children, and generally have a merry personality that's hard to resist.

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Beagle Health Problems


History and Background of Beagles 

Even though Beagles reign as one of the top dogs these days, their precise origins are actually something of a mystery. Actually, there is a lot of conjecture out there about the Beagle and where it originated from, even right down to its name. Some claim the name Beagle comes from the word "beag" which is a Gaelic word for little, but the most commonly referenced name association is the French word "be’geule" that is used to describe the sound some hounds make during a hunt. 

In the early 1500s, many English hunters utilized two separate types of hounds for hunting; a larger hound for deer and a smaller hound for hares. It is assumed that this is where the Beagle originated from, and it is highly likely that those earlier English "foot hounds" are the primary roots for what we know as the Beagle today. Smaller hounds referred to as Beagles did make their way to America not long after the Civil War. In 1885, the first Beagle, named Blunder, was registered by the AKC. 

  • Lifespan: 10 to 15 years 
  • Weight: Small beagles are under 20 pounds; standard beagles are 20 to 30 pounds
  • Height: Small beagles are up to 13 inches; standard beagles are between 13 and 15 inches 
  • Breed Type: Hound Group or Scenthounds 
  • Personality and Temperament: Easygoing, happy, curious 

Beagle Health Issues 

Beagles are generally a healthy breed with few major health issues to speak of. Nevertheless, they can have a few health issues. In the Official Breed Club Health Statement, Beagle breeders are recommended to check their stock and their pups for things like hip dysplasia and autoimmune thyroid disease. Here is a closer look at a few Beagle health concerns. 

1. Ear Infections

Dogs that have longer ears are naturally more prone to ear problems, and Beagles have some of the longest ears of all dog breeds. The Beagle’s ears tend to capture dust, dirt, and debris as they run, and they can also be prone to getting scratched and injured. Unfortunately, this can lead to issues with ear infections if the dog’s ears are not properly cleaned and checked on a regular basis. 

Symptoms of Ear Infections 

  • Scratching the ears incessantly and whining

  • Redness or inflammation 

  • Discharge from the ears that can smell foul 

  • Shaking the head repeatedly 

  • Tilting the head to one side or the other 

Treatment Options

Thankfully, ear infections can be easily treated with the help of a vet and an attentive owner. Usually, the vet will prescribe antibiotics for an outer ear infection. The total cost of treatment may be around $150, including medication and the exam. Inner ear infections can be more threatening to your Beagle’s hearing, and they do require prompt treatment with oral antibiotics. Treatment costs can be close to the same whether for out or inner ear infections. 

Tips for Beagle Owners 

  • Pick up some vet-approved ear wipes to keep your Beagle’s ears clean.  See how here.

  • Keep an eye on any injuries and treat them with an antibiotic ointment 

  • Follow medication instructions to the letter to prevent an ear infection getting worse

2. Hip Dysplasia 

Hip dysplasia is a condition characterized by a ball and socket of the joint that do not function together properly. Hip dysplasia is something Beagles should be screened for through a hip evaluation by the breeder, as this is one of the most common problems with this breed. However, hip dysplasia can also come about later in life and may be more common in older Beagles than younger ones even though it can be mostly related to genetics. Improper feeding and lack of exercise are direct contributing factors for the condition. 

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia 

  • Loss of muscle mass in the thighs 

  • Enlargement of upper limbs and shoulders as muscles compensate for the loss of strength 

  • Stiffness during movement 

  • Difficulty rising from a seated or lying down position 

  • Swaying gait 

Treatment Options

Typical treatment for hip dysplasia will involve things like anti-inflammatory medications and possibly some form of physical therapy. If the beagle is overweight, which is common, the vet may outline a feeding schedule or prescribe a special kind of food and a certain amount of physical activity. Joint fluid modifiers may also be used if inflammation is severe. There are surgical strategies to correct hip dysplasia, but these strategies are only used in the most extreme circumstances and are not normally recommended for older dogs. Surgery can cost anywhere from $1,700 to $4,700 depending on the procedure. 

Tips for Beagle Owners 

  • Keep your Beagle’s weight in check with proper nutrition and plenty of exercise

  • Make sure Beagle pups get the proper nutritional support as they grow 

  • Always work with a breeder who has performed the proper hip evaluations in their stock 

3. Cherry Eye and Other Eye Problems

All Beagles should get an ophthalmologic exam periodically to check for problems with their eyes. One of the main problems this canine breed can have is one referred to as a cherry eye, which is a protrusion of the third eyelid. The issue can be related to a direct injury, but it can also be relative to the genetic-related structures of the face. All breeding stock should have their eyes examined for signs of weakness of the nictitating membrane. Beagles may also develop glaucoma and cataracts, even though these conditions are not quite as common. 

Symptoms of Cherry Eye and Other Eye Problems  

  • Red lump at one of the corners of the eye

  • Changes in the appearance of the dog’s eye (cloudiness, more reflective, etc.)

  • Discharge from the eyes

  • Pawing at the eyes

  • Changes in the dog's vision (bumping into furniture for example) 

Beagle with Cherry Eye

Treatment Options

Cherry eye is a condition that can actually come and go on its own, but it can also require surgical correction. Some dogs will experience a prolapse of the thin tissue and it will not revert to normal on its own. Surgery to correct this problem is highly successful and relatively simple, and it can cost as little as several hundred dollars. Other eye problems can involve varying levels of treatment. For example, cataracts can be treated with surgical lens replacement and glaucoma progression may be slowed with medication. 

Tips for Beagle Owners 

  • Make sure your Beagle is getting an eye exam at every wellness visit 

  • Discuss any changes of the eyes with the vet immediately to avoid damage to your dog's vision 

  • Surgery to correct cherry eye can involve a brief recovery period but the outcome tends to be very good

4. Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is actually one of the most common Beagle health problems, which is why all reputable breeders should have their stock screened for genetic predispositions to thyroid issues. Hypothyroidism can lead to a range of issues from increased risk of infection and illness to poor brain and kidney function. The symptoms of the condition can be mild to extreme but are best treated when diagnosed early in the dog’s life. 

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism 

  • Inactivity or decreased energy levels 

  • Prone to skin problems 

  • Unexplained weight gain or obesity 

  • Compromised wound healing 

Treatment Options

The typical treatment for a Beagle with hypothyroidism is going to revolve some level of artificial thyroid hormone replacement therapy. While there is no cure for the condition, many dogs have hypothyroid issues and still live happy lives with treatment. Treatment does have to be a lifelong thing, however. Therefore, owners with a Beagle that has been diagnosed with hypothyroidism can expect care costs to be pretty substantial over time. 

Tips for Beagle Owners 

  • Always make sure your Beagle has been screened for hypothyroidism by the breeder 

  • Some dogs develop neurological issues if not promptly treated for low hormone levels 

  • Consistency of hormone replacement therapy is the key to quality of life for your dog 

Beagle at the Vet

5. Diabetes 

Beagles actually have an above-average risk of developing diabetes mellitus, even though this is one health condition that many Beagle owners never suspect. A canine that has diabetes is unable to physically metabolize sugar just like humans, and also just like humans, this can be a serious health concern. Diabetes is most often linked to a poor diet and lack of exercise. 

Symptoms of Diabetes

  • Increased appetite 

  • Increased thirst 

  • Frequent urination 

  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain  

  • Lack of energy 

Treatment Options

Thankfully, a diabetic Beagle can easily be treated with either oral medications or a straightforward diet and exercise plan. In the more severe cases, a Beagle may have to have insulin injections to maintain stable blood sugar levels, but this is rarer. Over the course of a month, a diabetic Beagle owner can expect to pay anywhere from just $43 for oral medications to as much as $231 for insulin injections. Special food may also be an added cost of care, especially if the vet recommends a prescription food. 

Tips for Beagle Owners 

  • Beagles with diabetes can live just as long with the proper care and vet attention 

  • Be mindful of what foods you feed your Beagle; kibble with a lot of fillers can lead to glucose issues

  • Follow your vet’s care plan to the letter even if it means more time for exercise

Beagle Breed Variations and Health 

The AKC recognizes two types of Beagles, but with very minimal variation. The larger, or standard, Beagle is perhaps the most common, but the smaller and slightly shorter Beagle is fairly prevalent as well. In general, there are no drastic variations between the two Beagle sizes. Both of these Beagle types tend to be healthier canines. Do be careful about any breeder with any Beagle that seems excessively small. This is not a typical thing and can mean the dog has been crossed with other smaller breeds or has been selectively bred to be smaller statured, which can lead to health concerns that would normally not be associated with the usually hearty and resilient Beagle. 

Beagles: Healthy, Happy Dogs with Loads of Heart and Determination 

Beagles in just a few words: Always happily ready for a grand adventure, a new social interaction, or a simple bout of belly rubs on the couch. Courageous, friendly, and just plain lovable, Beagles have that trademark puppy-dog face that is hard to resist with their floppy ears and big brown or hazel eyes. While this dog breed may have a few health concerns, they are generally healthy overall and tend to have a relatively long life. While they can be wanderers, diggers, and even have a bit of stubborn streak, these lovable canines will likely always find their way right into family life as a beloved four-legged member. 

Author Sheena HarrisAuthor: Sheena Harris
About Sheena: 
Sheena Harris has 10 years of experience in canine health wellness. Having worked with both veterinarians and breeders across the country to curate content, she has a wealth of insight to share on pet wellness, proper breeding practices, and keeping canine companions happy. Her history in breeding AKC-registered beagles lends a great deal of firsthand insight to her work. She's also been published at 


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