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Beagles make wonderful pets for families and active pet parents, but take note: They need a lot of activities and supervision, as they are prone to following their nose to trouble.
Along with caring for their mental well-being, Beagles need special attention paid to their physical health, too. Their floppy ears make them more prone to ear infections, so pet parents need to clean their Beagle’s ears regularly. They’re also prone to obesity, so they need measured meals spaced at regular time intervals (free-feeding is not recommended).
Caring for a Beagle
Beagles are generally considered medium-sized dogs, but they actually come in two sizes: One measuring under 12 inches at the shoulder and a larger size that ranges from 12-15 inches tall at the shoulder. No matter their size, a full-grown Beagle’s weight can range from 20-30 pounds. Males are usually bigger than females.
Beagles come in several colors, including lemon, red and white, and the more common tricolor of black, brown, and white. Beagles have a smooth, dense double coat and floppy ears, which need to be cleaned regularly to prevent ear infections. They also have long tails that seem to never stop wagging. As a result of wagging too much, Beagles can suffer from limber tail syndrome, also called swimmers' tail. This is a temporary, acute condition that results in a strain in the muscles used to keep the tail upright, causing a limp and sore tail. Limber tail syndrome usually resolves with a day or two of rest, but it can require pain medication to make your dog comfortable.
Beagle Health Issues
Beagles are beloved for their long, floppy ears, but those ears do require some extra care. Because they cover the ear opening completely, there is reduced air flow in the ear canal. This creates a moist, dark environment that allows bacteria and yeast to grow. When the yeast grow in abundance, the result is an ear infection.
Beagles with ear infections will scratch excessively at their ears. You might even notice a yeasty smell. To prevent this, regularly clean your dog’s ears with a good-quality ear cleanser. Even with regular cleaning, ear infections may still occur. If your Beagle gets an ear infection, your vet may recommend topical and oral medications. If you notice your Beagle scratching at their ears, schedule a vet appointment.
Despite being a high-energy breed, obesity is very common among Beagles. Most Beagles have an insatiable appetite along with a very strong sense of smell. If allowed, most will overeat and seek out any food within reach. Pet parents need to measure their Beagle’s food consumption carefully and keep any temptations out of reach. Your vet can help you figure out how much and how often to feed your Beagle.
It's not uncommon for vets to see Beagles who’ve eaten something they shouldn't have. This can result in vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis, and may require surgery to remove ingested food packaging or other materials. Make sure to keep all food other than their own out of their reach.
Beagles can be prone to environmental and food allergies and may start to scratch excessively. About 75% of their ear infections are caused by allergies. If your Beagle experiences allergies, there are many treatments your veterinarian can recommend.
A prolapsed nictitans gland in the eye, commonly referred to as "cherry eye,” is common in Beagles. This condition happens when the tear gland is inflamed, becoming visible in the lower inner corner of the eye. This condition is usually not painful, but it can lead to eye infections. Cherry eye can occur in one or both eyes. Some cases resolve on their own, while others may need surgery.
Beagles can be more prone to epilepsy, a seizure disorder, than other breeds. This commonly starts from 2-5 years of age and sometimes requires anti-seizure medications to help control.
Seizures last about 30-60 seconds and can range from mild to severe. A mild seizure may include involuntary movements, such as your dog’s legs going stiff. Signs of a severe seizure can include:
Loss of consciousness
Involuntary body movements
If you suspect your Beagle had a seizure, call your veterinarian right away.
Hypothyroidism is common among older Beagles. This condition is a disease of the thyroid gland, which controls metabolism. In hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, which can cause metabolic changes. Beagles experiencing hypothyroidism may have skin and hair coat changes, such as a coarse and dry coat or hair loss. It can also cause weight gain, even if you aren’t feeding your Beagle more than usual. It can be easily controlled with daily medications under your vet’s guidance.
What To Feed a Beagle
Beagles can be prone to obesity. Usually, a good-quality commercial dog food used in accordance with the producers' instructions and regular exercise will keep your Beagle at a healthy weight. However, if your Beagle becomes overweight, your veterinarian may recommend a prescription restricted-calorie diet.
How To Feed a Beagle
Beagles should be fed the amount recommended by the food manufacturer at regular time intervals, usually about two to three times daily to keep their metabolism increased. They should not be allowed to graze all day, to prevent overindulging and obesity.
Some Beagles will eat too quickly, resulting in choking and vomiting undigested food. To help a hungry Beagle slow down (and to keep them entertained), use a slow feeder bowl so they work for their food.
How Much You Should Feed a Beagle
When feeding your Beagle, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the food package. Every food has a different caloric value, so it’s important to follow the guidelines. If you change brands or flavors, don't assume that your Beagle will get the same amount of food in their bowl.
Nutritional Tips for Beagles
Beagles can benefit from foods made for sensitive skin, which are usually high in omega-3 fatty acids and help reduce inflammation. If your veterinarian suspects that your pup has food allergies, they may prescribe a prescription diet to help.
Behavior and Training Tips for Beagles
Beagle Personality and Temperament
Beagles make loving, affectionate pets that are generally good with children and other animals at home. Most Beagle puppies are full of energy, but as they age they tend to slow down and become a bit more lazy, though they still love joining their pet parents for walks, runs, or hikes.
Led by their noses, Beagles are very curious—which means they can easily get into trouble and wander away if left unattended. When outside, they always need to be on a leash or inside a fenced-in yard so they don’t walk off in search of an interesting scent.
Although they are not considered a very protective or territorial dog, they will definitely bark when confronted with new people and strange noises. Beagles are hounds and are known for their typical loud, long bark and howl.
Many Beagles end up in the vet’s office because their curiosity and superior sense of smell got them into trouble. Led by their noses, Beagles will unzip backpacks to steal lunches and counter-surf for snacks. Their sense of smell keeps their nose to the ground, and they will follow it to anything that smells curious to them.
Beagles are smart, but they but can also be stubborn and have a short attention span when it comes to training. Because they are food-motivated, most Beagles train best before mealtime and will do just about anything for treats.
Potty training can be especially difficult with Beagles because of their powerful noses—they can smell where a part of the house was previously soiled so easily. Repetition, consistency, and positive reinforcement work best to help potty train Beagle puppies.
Leash training may be difficult because they are constantly paying attention to smells on the ground. Using a harness and rewarding them with treats is helpful in leash training.
Fun Activities for Beagles
Hanging out with the family
Beagle Grooming Guide
Beagles have short coats, which makes them easier to groom than, say, a Samoyed. They are, however, moderate shedders, and weekly brushing can help with keeping loose fur from ending up on your floor. Pet parents can give their Beagle a bath every two to four weeks, depending on the dog's activity levels.
Ear cleaning will most likely be the biggest grooming chore with your Beagle. On average, they require ear cleaning once or twice a month.
Is a Beagle a good family dog?
Beagles are good family dogs and usually get along with other pets and with children. They are social pups and like to be with their families.
Are Beagles smart dogs?
Beagles are smart, but their stubborn nature can sometimes make them difficult to train. Use treats and other positive reinforcement methods for success in training.
Are Beagles lazy?
Beagles are active dogs, but like many other breeds, they tend to become lazier as they get older. Don’t adopt a Beagle puppy and expect them to be a couch potato.
How did Beagles get their name?
The origin of the word "Beagle" is uncertain, but it’s suspected to be derived from the French word begueule, which means “open throat.” This may be a reference to their howling.
Featured Image: iStock/Maria Levkina
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