Beagle Back, Neck and Hip Health Concerns
While the Beagle is not nearly as prone to as many health conditions as many other breeds of dogs, there are some back, neck and hip problems that can affect them. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of these medical conditions, so that you can judge when it is time to seek professional medical care for your Beagle.
Beagle Pain Syndrome (BPS) acquired its name for having been first discovered in Beagles. However, it does affect other dogs such as Springer Spaniels and Boxers. The actual condition is called Steroid Responsive Meningitis or SRM. There can be a wide variety of symptoms associated with this disease and it has often been misdiagnosed as Lyme Disease, bacterial infection or neck/back injury. The actual cause of this condition is not known, but it is known that it is an immune system response where the body is attacking itself. Symptoms may include any combination of the following:
Neck pain or stiff neck
Standing with the back hunched up
Lack of appetite
Muscle spasms in the legs or neck
Being unwilling to move
Crying when trying to move
In general, symptoms first appear when puppies are between 4 and 10 months of age. It can also occur in older dogs when it is referred to as Granulomatous Meningo-Encephalitis or GME. Male and female Beagles are equally susceptible to this disease. The first attack may only last a few days, but a relapse will surely follow within the next few months. Seizures have been noted in some cases where scarring was caused by this condition, because treatment was not sought early enough, or the steroids with which it is treated were discontinued too soon.
Canine Wobbler Syndrome is another Beagle disease that only affects two other breeds of dog, the Doberman Pinscher and the Great Dane. This syndrome occurs when the cervical (neck) or spinal (back) bones, ligaments or discs have some type of malformation or other abnormality that causes the spinal cord to be compressed. This causes leg weakness, pain and instability of the legs. Symptoms include:
Poor leg coordination when in motion
Difficulty rising from a lying or sitting position
Awkward swaying of the hips when walking
Hind legs crossing up when walking
Legs collapse and appear stiff
It is not known for certain what causes this condition, but diet, over-feeding and heredity are thought to contribute. It is treated with steroids, unless it is extremely severe. In that case surgery is required.
Herniated Disc is a common problem for Beagles; they are one of the top five dogs that are prone to develop this condition. Gradual degeneration or injury to the disc causes pressure to be put on the spinal cord, interrupting the messages that pass through those nerves between body and brain. It can cause paralysis of legs or loss of bladder and bowel control among other things. The middle of the back is the most susceptible area where 85% of herniated discs occur. The remaining 15% happen in the neck. Symptoms are:
Difficulty bending the neck to eat from a bowl
Crying when you touch the neck
Tries not to move the neck
Guards the neck
Crying when lying down or walking
Leg weakness or paralysis
Dragging back legs when walking
Scuffing his toenails when walking
Herniated discs are more prevalent in older dogs, but can happen at any age. The veterinarian will prescribe medication and rest, with only minimal exercise. Generally this condition does improve if treated.
Intervertebral Disc Disease or IDD is usually a disease affecting older Beagles. In this condition the discs literally dry out, both inside and out. The edges may crumble and since the disc cannot move normally any longer it will bulge and possibly even rupture. This causes extreme pain and can result in paralysis. This problem may be seen anywhere in the spine and affect the back, neck or chest.
Arthritis is as common to Beagles as it is to humans. If your Beagle displays the following symptoms, a trip to the vet is in order.
No interest in playing
Hesitant to climb or jump
Difficulty attempting to sit or stand
The vet can diagnose arthritis with a simple x-ray. The vet will probably prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication. You will need to control the Beagle’s diet and make sure he gets sufficient exercise to keep off unwanted weight, which will only aggravate the problem. Joints need hydration, so make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water at all times. Add glucosamine, chondroitin and omega 3 fatty acids to the diet to relive inflammation and pain.
Hip Dysplasia is not normally associated with medium sized breeds like the Beagle. However, they can have hip dysplasia. This condition is basically caused from a malformed hip socket which causes the hips to be in an unnatural location. Because of the location, even more wear and tear occurs that to a normal hip socket. You might see your dog walk with the back legs too close together in an attempt to compensate. The joint will eventually be unable to repair itself and chronic inflammation and pain will follow.
Chondrodysplasia is referred to as Beagle Dwarfism. According to some experts this is not what it is. This condition is a case of the front legs of the Beagle being too short and twisted, causing the dog to resemble the conformation of a Basset Hound. This is a rare condition, and it can sometimes be found in the back vertebrae, as well. It is usually noticeable by the time a puppy is 3 to 4 weeks old. It can cause pain and there is no cure. However, the pain may be controlled with medication.
As you can see, many of these conditions share certain symptoms. That is why you should never attempt to make your own diagnosis of a Beagle’s condition. Take him to the vet immediately and make sure he gets the right treatment for the specific ailment.