Beagle Health

Scroll down to find information on:- feeding, exercise, grooming, vaccinations, training, veterinary care, Musladin-Leuke Syndrome ('MLS'), Steroid Responsive Meningitis ('SRM')

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Beagles are not normally difficult dogs to feed, as they will eat just about anything, but do keep to the breeder’s recommended diet as any sudden changes may well upset a puppy’s digestive system.

A fully grown, adult Beagle will be happiest if his daily ration of food (approx. 180 – 220 grams) is split into two meals – one in the morning and one in the evening.

Beagles are very food orientated and to expect them to “survive” for 24 hours between meals is unrealistic! Many will be driven to thieving and scavenging although some will do this no matter how much you feed them.

There are many proprietary brands of dog food available and whilst the manufacturers’ feeding guidelines are helpful, the Beagle’s ability to put on weight quickly, should not be underestimated. Owners must use their own good judgement to decide if their Beagle is getting too much to eat. With just a little pressure, you should be able to feel your hound’s ribs – if you can see them, then your Beagle is probably a little thin. If an otherwise healthy Beagle is overweight, it’s usually because they are being over fed and under exercised. Obesity in dogs can cause the same serious health problems as it does with humans.

Experience has shown that some Beagles react badly (both mentally and physically) when they are fed complete food which is high in additives and colouring and owners may feel it is better to avoid such foods. Sensible leftovers can be fed as part of the daily ration, they help to make dinner time even more interesting. Hot and spicy foods are best avoided. Remember, some foods can have a very bad effect upon dogs, leading to illness and occasionally death. These include chocolate, onions, raisins and grapes.

As your hound gets older and less active you may need to adjust the diet and feed less protein.

Clean, fresh water should always be available.

Beagle health and exercise


Beagles require plenty of exercise, ideally a minimum of an hour each day but this will vary, depending on the health and age of the Beagle.


Beagle coats are easily kept clean with a quick brush through every day, and when they moult a fine comb will help to get rid of unwanted hair quickly.

Feel free to bath your Beagle whenever needed, but don’t let your hound get cold and remember clean bedding helps to keep your hound healthy.

Watch out for fleas, especially in hot weather, and if necessary treat adult hounds with a spray or shampoo. Never treat a young puppy for fleas without first obtaining veterinary advice.

Check weekly that your Beagle’s ears are clean and get your hound used to having its teeth inspected. Some hounds, especially those who do not get much exercise on hard surfaces, grow rather long toenails, so pay attention to them by clipping the tip off or by filing, otherwise you will need to get your Vet’s help.


Once your Beagle has settled in and is of suitable age, do attend a good training class. Vets normally know of local classes or you may have a neighbour or friend who can recommend a club.

Other Health Issues

For more details in relation to Musladin-Leuke Syndrome ‘MLS’ (previously Chinese Beagle Syndrome) or Steroid Responsive Meningitis (SRM) please see below.

Veterinary Care

Beagle veterinary care

As soon as you obtain your Beagle puppy contact your local Veterinary Surgeon to find out their programme of vaccinations. This does vary with the type of vaccinations used, but until your puppy has received its first full course, it must not be taken out where other dogs have been.

You can still take your puppy out to get used to new noises and sights by wrapping it in a blanket and carrying it safely in your arms, or taking it for short journeys in the car.

Most vaccines need a yearly booster, and licensed boarding kennels will need proof that this has been kept up to date.

If you obtain a Welfare Beagle, vaccination details will be passed to you where available, but if there is any doubt as to whether the vaccinations are up to date, then you must seek veterinary advice.

Remember also that puppies and adult hounds must be regularly wormed. Also think about getting your hound neutered - a very good idea for any pet hound.

Musladin-Leuke Syndrome ‘MLS’ (previously Chinese Beagle Syndrome)

Samantha Goldberg BVSc MRCVS (KC Health Coordinator for the UK Beagle Clubs)

Those of you who follow International Beagle News may have heard of Chinese Beagle Syndrome or Musladin-Leuke Syndrome (MLS). These conditions are the same and MLS is the current correct name for this disorder. MLS is a genetic disorder, which results in a Beagle being born with several defects, characterised by short outer toes on the front or sometimes, all four feet, a flat skull with high set, creased ears, with extra cartilage in them, slant, narrowed eyes and very thick, tight skin with little scruff. Such pups are small in stature with a very stiff gait BUT not all affected pups will show all these signs. The short toes make them walk like a ballerina, on their middle toes. They have a very good gregarious temperament, although many have been reported to develop seizures.

There are some clear dogs that have conformational defects as above, so we must be careful and not assume anything unless a dog has been DNA tested. Pictures and images can be seen on Darlene Stewart’s web site

There have been sporadic reports of MLS in the UK, with some reports in welfare Beagles but breeders have assumed it was nothing to worry about. However, this year, two breeders have spoken out after two puppies in a litter tested positive as affected, using a DNA test available in the USA. Imagine how devastating it is to have to take two puppies to the vet to be put to sleep after this is diagnosed. As they grew it became obvious they would suffer and not lead the normal life their litter mates would have. Since the news broke there have been several people who feel they may have seen it and there are reports of Beagles in packs having MLS.

Other countries, like the UK, may have had it, unrecognised, for some time. Since the UK Beagle is based on packs, it is possible the gene is present in many of the show Beagles and may crop up at any time when two carrier parents are unknowingly mated together. First reports, worldwide, were over 100 years ago and it is a mutant gene unique to Beagles, although there are two human conditions (stiff skin disease and geleophysic dysplasia), which have similarities. Scientifically, the gene is thought to have a 2-3% incidence in the Beagle population but this is hard to verify. Dr Mark Neff at UC Davis California has developed a DNA test which can be used to help eliminate the condition.

MLS sufferers have a thick inelastic skin, and thick fibrous muscles with little flexion even under anaesthesia. This leads to the stiff gait and also the hard, inflexible abdominal wall. The facial features are produced as the bone is very dense and the ears and skin thickened, pulling back the skin, hence the slanted eyes. The only way to know which Beagles are carriers is to test, and there is a DNA test available from the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory in UC Davis in the USA -

The gene causing the mutation is a recessive one so both parents need to be carriers to produce affected puppies. A recessive gene is one that is hidden (as opposed to a dominant gene which produces visible characteristics).

Testing is simple and inexpensive ($50 or approx £35) so let’s not pretend this is not here but test if possible. This condition is one, which we can start tackling straight away and remove slowly from our population. We can avoid mating two carriers together by knowing their status and use this as a tool to help in our breeding programmes. We have other considerations too and should not eliminate all carriers straight away as we can still breed from them as long as they are mated to clear dogs. Puppies in the litter will be 50% clear and 50% carriers and we can test puppies before they are sold to help make sensible decisions on what to keep.

Test results are given thus -

  • N/N: Normal. The dog does not have the MLS gene.
  • N/MLS: Carrier. The dog carries one copy of the MLS gene.
  • MLS/MLS: Affected. The dog has two copies of the MLS gene.

If a carrier dog (with a single mutant copy of the gene) is used in a mating, an offspring from the cross has a 50% chance of inheriting the mutation from this parent. If two carriers are mated, 25% of the offspring in the litter are expected to have MLS and another 50% of the puppies are expected to be carriers. Mating two clear dogs will only produce clear puppies, which need not be tested by DNA.

We must also use our common sense and not just focus on this condition but take into account temperament, breed type and other things such as Steroid Responsive Meningitis (SRM) in our decision-making. SRM research is ongoing and the Animal Health Trust are still looking for samples from affected dogs and also related dogs over 5 years who have not had SRM.

So the message is keep all factors in mind and let’s use the DNA test to get rid of one condition we can tackle whilst working on others to keep the Beagle breed healthy!

Any comments or questions to [email protected]

Steroid Responsive Meningitis (SRM)

Samantha Goldberg BVSc MRCVS (KC Health Coordinator for the UK Beagle Clubs)

This disease is also called Stiff Beagle Disease, Immune Mediated Meningitis or Beagle Pain Syndrome; and is associated with Ateritis and Vasculitis in some texts.

There are more breeds than Beagles affected by this condition, and I have seen several different ones. Bernese Mountain Dogs seem to get it too but Beagles are “over-represented” as a breed when the number reported are compared to the percentage of Beagles in the canine population. As a Health Coordinator for the breed I get more calls about this than any other condition and it seems to cause more distress to the owners than anything else since it debilitates so much.

SRM is more commonly first seen in the young Beagle under one year of age and repeated bouts of the disease flare up until about 2 to 2 ½ years when they “grow” out of it. Occasionally cases are seen in older Beagles. Symptoms include lethargy, neck pain, reluctance to eat or drink, reluctance to exercise, fever, bad temper (due to pain), and sometimes gastro-intestinal upset. There is not currently a test for the disease in an apparently healthy Beagle and the only definitive test during illness is a spinal tap taking fluid from the spine just behind the skull. Blood results often show a rise in white blood cells but this in itself doesn’t diagnose the condition. Dogs with SRM show abnormal spinal fluid during the illness with white blood cells present at high levels.

The only treatment which works is a course of steroids with prednisolone being commonly used in the UK. A high dose is used to start with and the dose is tapered down. Some Beagles may get a recurrence when the dose drops below a certain level but most can be weaned off. Recurrent bouts can be rapidly treated the same way and within 24 hours your bouncy Beagle is returned. The cause of SRM is unknown at the moment, but there is discussion about there being an underlying genetic predisposition in the breed for this immune response to occur. This is unproven but the suspicion is there because of the high numbers of Beagles seen with it compared to other breeds of dog. Possible triggers or causes to investigate include:


1) Vaccination - Most cases are not seen immediately after vaccination but we need more information on timing, vaccines used by people and the regime used.

2) Feeding - This is very varied but again information on the diet may throw up some common factors.

3) Worming - Types of wormer may be triggers?

Other Illnesses

There may be an immune response which is over-reactive in the beagle and results in SRM as a secondary problem when the body is combating other disease. Most of the reports I get appear to come out of the blue without something else being diagnosed but there might be a trigger as yet not detected.

Genetic or Congenital Effect

1) Congenital means literally “born with” and can be caused by something which affected the pups in utero or during birth. This could be for instance if the mother was ill during pregnancy. If a caesarean was required or the birth was difficult the pup could be damaged or affected in some way. There is some suggestion that lack of oxygen at birth might trigger epilepsy in children and certainly there seems to a link with cerebral palsy and difficult birth.

2) Genetic implies the condition can be passed on to offspring. Genetic disease can be carried as a simple gene or inherited as a multifactorial condition. Simple genes are either recessive or dominant. With dominant conditions there needs only be one copy in an individual to show the condition which can come from either parent. With recessive conditions two copies need to be present and one comes from each parent. Multifactorial conditions require several genes present and these can come from both parents.

In order to find more out about SRM, I have contacted the Animal Health Trust at Newmarket. They are involved with a lot of the genetic screening tests that have been produced to test pure bred dogs. My contact there, Dr Catherine Mellersh, suggests that in order for us to find out more about the disease they need information on dogs affected and whether litter mates or cohorts (companions or associates) are affected. So if more than one individual in a litter were affected this information would help. Pedigrees of such individuals will help elucidate whether there is any connection between affected Beagles or not. These initial statistics would advise us whether it is worth doing any genetic study and may hopefully throw up any connection through environment or other disease. Unless we put together some information we won’t find out what is causing SRM. Please contact me for details of how to help with the survey.

Steroid Responsive Meningitis - where are we?

The SRM investigation at the Animal Health Trust (AHT) has completed the first stage. DNA samples from affected Beagles were scanned versus unaffected Beagles to look for any obvious differences. The first scan has proved inconclusive which was not entirely unexpected as it is likely this condition is multi-factorial. Anecdotally, there seems to be a familial pattern to this condition with some lines seeming to be more affected than others.

At the moment we have no idea if this is due to a DNA defect or maybe certain lines have a difference in how their immune response occurs. Many people have reported this condition to me in breeds other than Beagles, so it may be that we have missed an infectious cause as yet or it may be that dogs in general are more susceptible.

Please do keep sending in your DNA samples from affected Beagles and also from unaffected Beagles particularly over 5 years old. These may help as they are unlikely to develop the condition after this age.
Do include a history of the dog’s health status and any disease you know they have suffered from as well as the pedigree.

Swabs can be obtained FOC from the AHT by contacting either: Bryan Mclaughlin ([email protected])

We have gathered a tremendous amount of money for this project - over £10,000 and the AHT are keen to help us study the disease but we do need your help.

Meanwhile I get asked:

Which lines are free? I cannot give out confidential information about dogs that have been diagnosed or are related to them, so please ask the owner if you wish to know.

Is it safe to breed from my Beagle? I would not suggest breeding from any Beagle that has been diagnosed with SRM. Whether is it OK to breed again from a parent or sibling is hard to say. We don’t know enough about why this happens to answer the question. All I can advise is that any related dog is not mated until over 2 years of age as 8-18 months is the most common age to develop SRM. Also consider that the dog you are mating to is not closely related or closely related to another who has had it.

We would have no Beagles left if we tried to avoid all who had a connection to SRM as it pops up here and there all the time. Unfortunately most breeders have come across a case even if not in their own show dogs, either in a puppy they have sold or a one sired by a stud.

Please keep reports coming in and if you have any questions email me on [email protected].