Beagle Health Info

Common Health Problems in Beagles

Photo obtained from on 26-July-2013

Many health conditions are known to occur in beagles, hereditary or otherwise. This is a listing of some of the disorders that are known to occur in beagles at a higher statistical frequency than in the average dog population. Information for this page was taken from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook" (Giffin JM & Carlson LD, 2000) and from a previous version of the AKC page for health problems in beagles:

Congenital - a condition that exists at birth, although it may not become evident until later in life

Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy (CPRA) - congenital disease of the eye in which the the rods and cones of the retina deteriorate over time, typically resulting in the loss of central vision; peripheral vision may be maintained until old age; age of onset is typically 2 years

Cherry Eye - a congenital defect of the eye in which the tear gland of the 3rd eyelid spontaneously prolapses, exposing the "cherry-like" tear gland; this prolapse can be corrected by a surgical procedure to tack the tear gland back into place; removing the gland is not recommended since this gland provides tears for the eye and removal may result in dry eye; age of onset is typically under 1 year

Cleft Lip/Cleft Palate - failure of the palate (the roof of the mouth) & upper lip to seal together, allowing food and liquid to pass into the nasal passages; present from birth

Cryptorchidism - literally, hidden testicles; the testicles fail to descend into the scrotal sack by 6-8 weeks of age; males should not be used for breeding

Dwarfism - a disorder that reduces the size of a dog beyond the lower range of what is considered normal for the breed; various physical abnormalities may be present; caution should be exercised when considering the purchase of puppies that a breeder advertises as "mini-beagles" or "pocket-beagles"; most 13" beagles should weigh between 15-30 lbs at maturity, with 20-25 lbs being average

Epilepsy - chronic disease of the nervous system, characterized by repeated seizure activity; there are many types of seizures -people are most familiar with the classic grand mal seizure in which a dog becomes unresponsive and stiffens and jerks; abnormal behavioral displays such as obsessive licking and swallowing are now recognized as complex partial seizures; for more information about epilepsy in canines, go to: and

Elongated soft palate - overhang of the soft palate which partially obstructs the airway, resulting in snorting or snoring noises during breathing; exacerbated by exercise; present from birth, may worsen with age

Glaucoma - disease of the eye characterized by increased pressure in the globe which damages the eye, and if left untreated, causes pain & often blindness; age of onset is typically 3 years

Hip Dysplasia - congenital defect of the hip joint in which the ball of the femur fits poorly into an abnormally shallow socket (acetabulum); age of onset is 4-6 months and is characterized by pain and limping in the rear legs that gets progressively worse over time; dogs must be 2 years of age to become OFA (Orthopaedic Foundation of America) certified for their hips; certification is obtained by submitting X-rays of the hips and pelvis (obtained while the dog is under anesthesia) to an OFA certified radiologist who can determine if the hips are normal for the breed

Hypothyroidism - disease in which the body doesn't make enough thyroid hormone, typically due to the destruction of the thyroid gland by the immune system; common early symptoms may include unexplained weight gain, a dry coat, increased frequency of skin infections, flea & food allergies, chronic ear infections, infertility, and dry-eye syndrome; first occurs under 2 years of age

Imperforate Lacrimal Punctum (Epiphoral)
- the drainage system for the tear glands on the inner corner of the eye fails to develop properly, causing tears to spill from the eyes; commonly associated with tear stains; frequently noticed by 3-4 weeks of age

Intervertebral Disc Disease - bulging, herniation, or rupture of the discs that cushion the vertebrae of the spine; movement or rupture of the discs may put pressure on the spinal cord, resulting in nerve damage and full or partial hind-limb paralysis

Perianal Gland Adenoma - a benign growth in the peri(near)anal area that may rupture and bleed as it increases in size. Surgical removal of the growth is required to prevent bleeding out; first occurs under 9 years of age

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) - congenital degeneration of the rods and cones of the retina which eventually progresses to blindness; age of onset may vary

Reverse Sneezing - spasms often caused by irritation of the soft palate and/or sinuses; characterized by loud honking, sneeze-like sounds that may be alarming to those who witness episodes; rigid extension of the neck during episodes is common; episodes are not considered to be harmful, but frequent occurrences should be brought to the attention of a veterinarian to rule out tracheal collapse or underlying allergy conditions; may occur at any age.

Subluxation of the Patella - poor development of the tendons that hold the knee cap in place allows for excess movement of the knee cap; this may lead to traumatic injury of the ligaments of the knee which may require surgery; age of onset (subluxation) under 1 year of age

Umbilical hernia - a protrusion of fat and/or bowel through an opening on the abdominal wall that would normally close during pre-natal development; there is often a genetic predisposition for delayed closure of the abdominal ring around the naval; most umbilical hernias will get smaller and disappear by 6 months of age but those that don't may require surgical repair


When certain of the above-mentioned conditions are present in a beagle, such as epilepsy or PRA, the beagle in question should not be bred under any circumstances whatsoever (due to the known hereditary nature and seriousness of the disease). Other conditions may not exclude a beagle from a breeding program; however, breeding decisions must be made carefully based on severity of the condition and consideration of the dog's other qualities, such as disposition, conformation, and hunting ability.

Many breeders will not admit this, but most purebred dogs will have one or more congenital conditions. We feel that in order for potential buyers to make an informed, educated decision about getting a beagle from us, they should be aware of congenital conditions that are potentially present our lines. On occasion, we have had dogs with: cherry eye, elongated soft palate, imperforate lacrimal punctum (tear stains), skin allergies, and umbilical hernia. However, we continue to make conscientious breeding decisions to eliminate these conditions from our lines. Please feel free to discuss these conditions with us if you have any questions or concerns.