Beagle breakdown: An in-depth look at the breed
The vet’s office
By Dr. Beth Engelbert, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
The term “beagle” originally meant any small hound, and the use can be found as far back as ancient Greece. The beagle underwent many different changes, including size and shape. The beagle recognized today was refined in England in the 1830s. Known as a little foxhound, the beagle was made from different types of hounds, including the harrier. Some of the other foundation breeds have become extinct.
The beagle was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885. The official breed standard established in 1957 still stands today. The beagle is known to be active and friendly, even described as “merry.” However, beagles are scent hounds and tend to follow their noses, sometimes into trouble. Much time and training are needed to keep beagles from roaming and to keep them safe.
Beagles were bred to hunt in packs and generally get along with other dogs if socialized properly. Although, being hunters, they may want to track down smaller animals, including cats and rabbits.
According to the breed standard, beagles come in two sizes — under 13 inches and 13 to 15 inches — but the distinction has been lost in some breeding lines.
Beagles can come in a variety of colors. Most common is tricolored with the recognizable black saddle. The tail is usually carried up and frequently has some white at the tip. Stories say the white tip acts as a flag so the dog is easily seen in the brush while hunting.
Beagles are sturdy dogs with a solid body but not necessarily long legs. The short legs can lead to health concerns, including intervertebral disc disease. This is similar to “slipped” discs in people and can be very painful and lead to paralysis. Other leg issues include hip dysplasia and dwarfism. Many beagles love to eat, so obesity can be a huge problem, exacerbating joint and back issues.
Beagles are also prone to hypothyroidism, low thyroid hormone. Contrary to popular belief, hypothyroidism is not a leading cause of obesity. Other signs are typically present, like poor hair coat and skin and ear infections.
Other considerations with beagle health include epilepsy; cherry eye, eversion of the third eye lid; bladder cancer; factor VII deficiency, causing blood clotting issues; and Musladin-Lueke syndrome (MLS) that affects the rigidity of the skin, muscle, and tendons causing mobility issues. MLS is a genetic condition, and with the high representation of the other diseases in beagles, genetic links are suspected.
Reputable breeders are usually happy to discuss their pedigrees and health of their dogs. Meeting the parents is always recommended. Your local kennel club, breeders, and breed rescues are available to help find the perfect beagle for you.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.