by Dennis Dollar
changes occur in beagles, like any dog, as they age. The key
to caring for aging beagles is to spend quality time with your
older beagle to distinguish between the normal changes that
come with age and the early signs of health problems. Careful
and attentive observation will reveal many signs of disease
or injury which can be treated quickly. Like younger dogs,
the senior beagle should be regularly groomed, which provides
the perfect time to physically examine the dog and find early
signs of disease or injury. By knowing your older beagle, you
can help them adapt to the normal changes that come with age
by modifying the dog's environment, and changing the way in
which you interact with your older friends, while
simultaneously diagnosing problems early and using-- but not
over using -- appropriate medications and supplements.
Changes That Come With Age
age, their metabolism changes and their need for calories
decreases. In general, their maintenance energy requirement
decreases by about 20%. Because their activity usually
decreases as well, their energy needs are decreased by another
10-20%. Adjustments can be made by switching to specially
formulated senior food, and substituting items such as carrots
or other vegetable for treats.
beagles may start to show gray hair, most often on the muzzle
and around the eyes. The coat may also become thinner and
duller. Fatty acid supplements may help restore some of the
luster to the coat. If the coat of an older beagle changes
significantly, you should have this checked by a
veterinarian, it may be an early sign of disease or
nutritional deficiency. Older dogs may also need to be
groomed more often, with special attention given to the anal
area. While grooming, you should feel all parts of your
beagle’s body to find either tender areas or unusual growths
and lumps. Some older dogs develop multiple benign tumors of
the skin, which are generally not removed. Any unusual
changes in size, appearance or texture of these growths,
however, should be reported to your veterinarian, as they may
be indications of malignancy.
disease is the most common change seen in older beagles.
Routine dental care including toothbrushing, can help keep
dental disease to a minimum. Beagles who have not received
proper dental care can develop significant dental disease as
they age and may develop life-threatening complications. A
dental care program should consist of toothbrushing, regular
dental checkups, and professional cleaning as needed.
age, the movement of food through their digestive tracts
slows. This can result in constipation. A good practice with
the older beagle is to make sure that there is plenty of fiber
in their diet. This can be accomplished by adding a
tablespoon of canned pumpkin (not pie filling) or a fiber
product such as Metamucil or All Bran or Bran Buds, to their
food daily. Constipation can also be a sign of some serious
disease conditions, and a beagle experiencing constipation
should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
is not an uncommon occurrence in older beagles, especially if
they injured joints earlier in their life. As in people,
arthritis in beagles may range from only slight stiffness to a
debilitating condition. Accommodations should be made for
older beagles that have difficulty going up and down stairs,
jumping into the car, or walking through snow. Chondroitin
and glucosamine supplements can be beneficial to support
healthy joints. There are many chondroitin and glucosamine
products on the market specially formulated for dogs that make
it an enjoyable treat for your dog.
beagles who are inactive will also lose muscle mass and tone.
Thus, regular exercise for an older dog is important for the
health of the muscles, as well as the heart, digestive system,
and general disposition. Exercise routines can be adapted
according to the older beagle’s abilities. Swimming and or
regular short walks will help maintain and strengthen the your
older beagle’s muscles.
age, their ability to regulate their body temperature
decreases. Thus, they may become less adaptable to temperature
changes. Beagles who could handle cold temperatures when
young, may not be able to as they age. Monitoring the
environmental temperature around your dog, and making
adjustments will help your older dog be more comfortable. You
may need to move his bed closer to a heat register, or keep
him indoors during hot or cold weather.
beagles will experience hearing loss as they age. Hearing
loss generally cannot be reversed, but some changes in
interaction with the dog can help reduce the effects. So, it
is a good idea to teach senior beagles hand signals for
various commands while they are still young enough to have
full hearing. Also, special care should be taken to protect
them from hazards, such as cars and kids that they may not
hear or see.
including beagles, develop a cloudy or “bluish” transparent
“haze” in the pupil area of the eyes. This is a normal
effect of aging, and the medical term for this is lenticular
or nuclear sclerosis. In this condition, the lens of the eye
appears cloudy, however, the dog can usually see quite well.
Many owners are concerned their dog has cataracts, which do
affect vision, when the dog really has nuclear sclerosis. As
noted below, if you have any question, you should you’re your
senior beagle’s eyes examined by your veterinarian, as it may
be a sign of a more serious condition.
Care For The Senior Beagle
general rule, by about the age of seven or eight, it is a good
idea for a beagle to have a full physical examination which
may include a full blood panel so your veterinarian will have
a baseline for future treatments and will show early signs of
decreased kidney, liver and glandular function. As a beagle
ages, the immune system may not function as effectively,
making the senior beagle more prone to develop infectious
diseases. Therefore, you should maintain the vaccination
schedule recommended by your veterinarian. On the other hand,
recent studies have shown that over-vaccination poses as much
if not more risks than under-vaccination. Therefore, if you
have any questions about the need for vaccinations, ask your
veterinarian about the advisability of blood titre testing as
opposed to risking over-vaccinations.
There are a
number of classic signs that you should watch for that will
tell you that an older beagle needs to be seen by your
veterinarian to determine whether these changes are part of
the normal aging process of early signs of disease.
activity level and behavior
As with any
beagle, any changes in appetite should be matter of concern.
Senior beagles may also show a decreased activity level. This
may be due to normal aging or be the first sign of a number of
different diseases ranging from arthritis to thyroid
problems. Older beagles may also have a decreased ability to
cope with stress, and this can result in behavior changes.
Separation anxiety, aggression, noise phobias, and increased
vocalization can develop or worsen in older Beagles. You know
your beagle better than any veterinarian, so you are in the
best position to notice changes in behavior and activity
level. Like people, the senior beagle may have a bad day from
time to time, but if this persists it could be signs of any
number of diseases, and you should discuss these changes in
activity or behavior with your veterinarian.
water consumption can be an early sign of many diseases, such
as kidney disease, Cushings’ Disease or diabetes. Many of
these diseases can be treated or managed through medication.
So if you notice a significant increase in your senior
beagle’s water consumption you should consult your
veterinarian to have appropriated testing conducted.
As a beagle
ages, tartar, gum disease, and tooth loss are all potential
problems. Bad breath or bleeding gums are signs that your
senior beagle needs professional dental care. In addition to
the buildup of tartar and plaque, bad breath and bleeding gums
may also be the symptom of oral cancers, infections, and
metabolic diseases, such as kidney disease or Diabetes
the eye and vision loss
and glaucoma are common in older beagles. Any significant
changes in vision or appearance of the eyes, including shape
or color could signal an emergency and you contact your
veterinarian as soon as possible. With early treatment, many
diseases of the eyes, such as glaucoma, can be managed with
simple oral medication. Ophthalmic exams should be part of
the physical exam in older dogs.
incontinence and loss of housetraining
beagles who have been housetrained for years, particularly
spayed females, may start having “accidents.” As with other
behavior problems in older beagles, this may be a part of the
aging process or there may be multiple medical causes for this
change in behavior. Any older beagle with a house soiling
problem should be examined by a veterinarian and you should be
prepared to give a detailed history of the color and amount of
urine (or stool) passed, the frequency at which the dog needs
to eliminate, changes in eating or drinking habits, the dog's
posture while eliminating, and whether the “accidents” only
occur when the owner is gone. Medical conditions contributing
to the house soiling problem should be treated appropriately.
unneutered male beagle reaches 8 years of age, it has been
reported that he has a greater than 80% chance of developing
prostate disease, but it is rarely cancerous. In most cases,
the prostate just enlarges. The prostate enlargement, however,
can cause problems with urination or defecation. Older male
beagles, especially those who are not neutered should have
their prostate gland checked as part of the regular physical
exam. The risk of prostate disease can be greatly reduced if
the dog is neutered.
may develop some hardening of the mammary glands due to the
infiltration of fibrous tissue. Breast cancer in unspayed
beagles is not uncommon. Older female beagles, whether they
are spayed or not, should have their mammary glands checked as
part of the regular physical exam.
your beagle better than anyone. Therefore you should observe
your older beagle more closely, taking particular notice of
physical and behavioral changes. Do not disregard a change in
your beagle’s activity or behavior as just being part of the
aging process. Many of the changes can also be signs of a
serious disease which is most easily treatable when caught
early. If you are in doubt, do not hesitate to consult your
veterinarian and be sure to discuss any concerns you have
about your older beagles.