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Managing Your Beagle’s Day-to-Day Health

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Maintaining your Beagle’s health means much more than schlepping him to the vet for periodic shots and when he feels sick. You, not your vet, are your dog’s primary health-care provider, and you can do a lot right from your own home to keep your little hound in tip-top condition.

That said, you certainly need not (and should not) go it alone when taking care of your Beagle. Your veterinarian is ready to be your partner in your ongoing effort to maintain your dog’s health. This chapter outlines what you need to know and do — both on your own and with your vet’s help — to keep your Beagle healthy and happy.

Working with Your Vet

Your friendly veterinarian plays an important role in keeping you on track in your efforts to keep your Beagle healthy. He’s got the professional training to be the perfect partner for you, the loving owner. His knowledge of overall canine health, coupled with your knowledge of your own, very individual Snoopy-dog, give your dog the best possible odds for living a healthy, happy life.

The wellness exam

Just as you need regular checkups from your doctor, so too does your dog. Most experts suggest bringing your Beagle in for a wellness exam once a year until he turns 8 or 9 years old. At that point, you can consider him to be a senior citizen, and he should see his vet for wellness exams twice a year instead of just once.
But just what is a wellness exam? Simple: It’s a checkup that a doctor or veterinarian gives the patient when that patient is believed to be free of illness. The exam provides a baseline against which to measure future changes in health status.
During a complete wellness exam, your vet will

– Measure your dog’s vital signs, such as weight, temperature, pulse, and respiration

– Look into your dog’s ears and eyes to see if there’s any redness, discharge, odor, or any other signs of ear and eye disease

– Run his hands over your Beagle’s bod to determine if he’s got any lumps, bumps, or tender areas

– Check the heart, lungs, joints, feet, and “private areas”

– Peer at your Beagle’s teeth and gums to see if any redness, puffiness, or plaque is present

– Check his skin to see if it’s flaky, has a rash, or shows anything else that’s out of the ordinary

Depending on how your vet clinic does things, your vet also may

– Ask you to bring in a stool and/or urine sample so he can check for intestinal parasites, nutritional problems, and/or urinary tract infections.

– Give your dog some shots or other immunizations. But then again, he may not. The next section explains why.

To immunize or not to immunize?

Not so long ago, there was only one answer to the above question: Yes, you should immunize your dog, and you should do it every year. And there’s no question that immunizations have done our dogs a world of good. They’ve saved many Beagles and other dogs from contracting dreaded diseases such as rabies, distemper, parvovirus, and hepatitis. They can also prevent less serious but nevertheless unpleasant conditions such as bordetella, which is also known as kennel cough. Chapter Beginning a Beautiful Friendship describes the shots your Beagle probably will get the first time he visits your vet.
In recent years, however, many experts have begun to question whether yearly immunizations are necessary or even beneficial. These experts believe that immunizations can protect dogs from disease for much longer than a year. After all, do we get shots every year? Not by a long shot (and yes, that pun was fully intended).

Collecting free samples

If your vet needs a stool or urine sample, he can get them himself, but he’ll charge you a fee to do so. Better for you, your Beagle, and your wallet to bring the samples yourself. And you can do it, without making a mess. Here’s how.
To collect a stool sample:
1. Grab a plastic bag (such as a grocery bag or the bag your daily newspaper comes in) and take your Snoopy-dog out for a walk.
2. When he takes a dump, turn the bag inside out and pull it over your arm.
3. Use the hand covered by the bag to pick up the poop. Then, with your other hand, pull the bag inside out.
The poop will now be inside the bag.
4. Knot the open end, and take the poop to your vet as soon as possible.
To collect a urine sample:
1. Get a plastic bag and a clean plastic container such as the kind that margarine comes in.
2. Pull the bag over your arm, and hold the container with your bag-covered hand.
3. Take your little hound out for a walk and watch to see when he’s about to pee.
4. As soon as he squats, slip the container under his tush to collect the urine that will stream out immediately thereafter. You don’t need much; a teaspoon at most.
If some of the urine splashes on your arm, no big deal — you’ve got it covered!
5. Seal the container, and take the sample to your veterinarian as soon as you can.

Conventional or alternative medicine?

Not so long ago, veterinarians in the United States pretty much all took the same approach to treating their patients: They viewed disease as an enemy to be vanquished. The usual battle plan embodied two approaches: stopping the disease before it started or conquering the disease once it occurred. The result has been — and continues to be — a vast array of preventive treatments for dreaded diseases such as parvovirus, rabies, and distemper, and an equally large variety of medicines, surgical techniques, and similar remedies to rid the body of disease that’s already taken hold. This approach is known as conventional veterinary medicine or Western veterinary medicine.
But in recent years, another approach to animal health care has gained ground. This approach, known as alternative veterinary medicine, complementary veterinary medicine, or Eastern veterinary medicine, focuses on maximizing the body’s own defenses against illness. This approach to medicine uses therapies and treatments, such as acupuncture and chiropractic, that may be unfamiliar to conventional practitioners. And because this approach emphasizes treating the whole animal, not just the disease, it’s sometimes known as holistic veterinary medicine.
So which approach is better for your Beagle?
The answer is both. The best veterinary medicine combines each of these approaches. For example, a Beagle with allergies may need the immunizations developed under the conventional approach, but may also benefit from a change in diet, which often is advocated by alternative veterinary medical practitioners. A good veterinarian will use both approaches in her practice — or, if she can’t, refer you to someone who can offer the other approach if hers isn’t working.
You can find out more about both approaches by checking out some Web sites such as that of the American Veterinary Medical Association ( and the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association ( The latter site also contains a searchable database that enables you to find a veterinarian who specializes in holistic medicine in your state — either as the primary practitioner whom you consult or someone who works with you and your regular vet to maintain your Beagle’s health.
In addition, many vets and knowledgeable owners have become concerned that yearly immunizations actually may endanger some dogs. Among the possible problems they cite:

Tumors: The possibility is remote, but nevertheless real, that the dog could develop a tumor at the immunization site.

Negative effects on the immune system: Frequent shots may catapult a dog’s immune system into warp drive, which could trigger the onset of chronic, potentially serious autoimmune diseases, such as lupus.

For those reasons, some veterinarians suggest yearly tests for antibodies to specific diseases to determine whether immunizations to prevent those diseases are necessary. Others, however, believe that these tests, which are called titers, aren’t yet accurate enough to be relied upon. Many vets compromise between the old and new theories and recommend giving shots every three years instead of annually. In fact, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends that after 1 year of age, dogs receive their core (essential) vaccinations — against rabies, parvovirus, and distemper — every three years. For dogs who spend a lot of time with other dogs, an annual bordetella shot is recommended.

Should your Beagle have babies?

If you’re concerned that your female Beagle will worry about her biological clock if she doesn’t have puppies . . . or that your male Beagle will feel like less of a guy if he doesn’t have a sex life . . . think again. Your Snoopy-dog’s life can be happy and fulfilling even if that life does not include sex or babies — I mean, puppies.
Or maybe you thought that by breeding your female Beagle you could show your kids the miracle of birth? Yes, maybe you could. But you’ll have an awful lot of hard work to do after that birth occurs: taking care of several puppies ‘round the clock, and then finding good homes for them. If you’re like most parents, you barely have time to help your kids with their homework. Do you really think you’re going to be able to take care of a litter of puppies? I thought not.

Show dogs get to skip surgery

There’s really only one reason to refrain from spaying or neutering your Beagle, and that’s if you plan to enter her or him into conformation dog shows. The American Kennel Club (AKC), which is the primary U.S. honcho for such shows, does not allow spayed or neutered dogs of any breed to compete. The reason behind that prohibition is based on history: Dog shows were developed in the late 19th century to showcase breeding stock to potential buyers. That thinking still applies to some extent today.
If you think you’d like to show your Beagle, though, get an expert’s opinion before you begin to venture down that road. The reputable breeder from whom you bought your Beagle can tell you whether she thinks your dog has what it takes to become a breed champion. And get a book that tells you what you need to know to get started in breeding. A good book to begin with is Breeding Dogs For Dummies by Richard G. Beauchamp (Wiley).


Chances are, if the contract from your breeder contains a mandatory spay or neuter provision, she doesn’t think your little hound is dog show material. Most breeders evaluate their puppies at a very young age. They identify show prospects at that time and structure the purchase contracts for those puppies accordingly.

Ready, aim, specialize!

If you had a heart condition and needed a triple bypass, your regular family physician almost certainly would not be the person to perform the procedure. Instead, he’d probably refer you to a doctor who specializes in performing surgery on hearts: a cardiac surgeon. Similarly, if you became pregnant, your regular doctor probably would send you to a physician who specializes in prenatal care and the delivery of babies: a obstetrician/gynecologist.
The same is becoming true of veterinary medicine. If your Beagle develops a serious eye problem, your regular vet can refer you to an eye specialist: a veterinary ophthalmologist. If he develops a mysterious rash that doesn’t respond to treatment, your vet would probably refer you to a veterinary dermatologist. The world of human medicine has become populated with highly skilled specialists — and so, too, has veterinary medicine.
A national professional organization for vets who work in the United States, the American Veterinary Medical Association, maintains a listing of 20 specialty organizations. Some of those groups, such as the American College of Zoological Medicine, probably don’t include vets who would treat your Snoopy-dog. But specialized veterinarians who would treat your canine companion are likely to be a member of the group that represents their field, such as the American Veterinary Dental College, the American College of Veterinary Dermatology, and the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmology. You can find the most current list by logging onto the World Wide Web at
Members of each specialty group are veterinarians who have completed post-graduate work in their subjects. They have to pass challenging exams that test their knowledge in their specialties. If they pass, their specialty organization certifies them as being qualified to specialize in their particular field of veterinary medicine. When you hear that a veterinarian is board-certified, you know that the specialist brings a ton of knowledge to the work he does with his animal patients.
Some of these specialists work together to create a large referral center. For example, about two miles away from my home is the Southpaws Veterinary Referral Center. This facility houses specialists in emergency care, holistic internal medicine, neurology, oncology, radiology, surgery, and orthopedics. Other specialists work from schools of veterinary medicine attached to large universities. To find a referral center in your area, type “veterinary referral center” into an Internet search engine, such as Google or Yahoo.

The good news about spaying, neutering

If your Beagle isn’t a show prospect, there’s really no sense in holding off on spaying (the canine equivalent of a hysterectomy, in which the dog’s uterus and ovaries are removed) or neutering (the removal of a dog’s testicles). In fact, by “fixing” your Fido or Fidette, you may well prolong your dog’s life. A neutered male can’t acquire testicular cancer, which is a fairly common scourge among doggy guys. A spayed female won’t ever suffer from pyometra, a potentially serious uterine infection. And if you have her spayed before her first heat cycle, she’s much less likely to develop breast cancer, which is one of the most common diseases suffered by intact female dogs.
Not convinced? Consider this: The neutered or spayed Beagle probably will behave much better than he or she would otherwise. The male Beagle will have much less of a need to mark his territory with a shot of dog pee across the bow or onto your furniture. He won’t get nearly as upset as he otherwise would if he were to catch the scent of a female dog in heat and is much less likely to take off for parts unknown in search of that female. That greatly lessens his chances of getting lost or struck by a car. As for your female, she — and you — won’t ever have to deal with the mess and inconvenience of coming into heat: a twice-a-year, one- or two-week episode that involves keeping her off the rugs and keeping her in doggy diapers to spare your furnishings from the bloody discharge that occurs.
Some veterinarians spay or neuter puppies as early as 7 weeks of age, but many others suggest waiting until the dog is 6 months old or so, when a pup may be better able to tolerate being anesthetized. In any case, you need not wait until your female Beagle comes into heat for the first time, which is usually around 6 to 9 months of age. The surgery will probably involve an overnight stay, and your Snoopy-dog will be sore for a few days as the incision heals — but that’s all. And neither a boy Beagle nor a girl Beagle will miss having a sex life. Promise!

Can I See Your ID?

No, no, no — I’m not discussing how to keep underage Snoopy-dogs from bellying up to the local bar and scoring illegal drinks. Beagles need several kinds of identification for other reasons: to enable them to get back home if they become lost (which is way too easy for a wandering Beagle to do), and to comply with state and local ordinances. Read on to see which forms of ID do which — and see which one you might consider not bothering with.

Playing tag(s)

Every Beagle needs to have at least two tags hanging from his collar: a tag that certifies he’s been inoculated against rabies and a tag that tells people who he is. Depending on where you live, he may also need a third tag: a dog license.

Rabies tag

Your veterinarian will give you a rabies tag after he has inoculated your Beagle against the dreaded and always fatal disease of rabies. The tag certifies that your dog has been immunized against the disease (see Figure 11-1). Your dog needs to have this tag on his collar at all times, especially if the two of you are traveling outside your home state. That way, if your dog is injured or becomes ill while you travel, the veterinarian who takes care of him will know that he is protected against rabies and that she doesn’t need to give him another rabies shot as a precautionary measure.
Figure 11-1: A rabies tag indicates that your Beagle is current on his rabies immunization.

Identification tag

An identification tag is the quickest way that a person can determine who your dog is and where he lives (see Figure 11-2). You can create these little gizmos on the spot at any local pet superstore, and the cost will be minimal. If, however, you go for fancier fare, you can order a larger, more attractive tag from an upscale pet retailer. For example, Planet Dog ( offers a round, silver-plated disk with your dog’s name and address on one side and the company logo on the other.


Make sure your dog’s tag includes at least his name, address, and a phone number where you can be reached.

Dog license

Many municipalities and towns require that your dog acquire still another tag: a dog license. Having a license entitles your dog to use canine facilities, such as a dog park — although you’ll see plenty of people bring their dogs to such facilities without anyone checking to see if the animal has a license. Still, if your beloved but unlicensed Beagle gets loose, you may have to pay a fine to your community for having an unlicensed animal. You make the call.

Tattoo you

Until the use of microchips (discussed in the next section) became widespread as a form of identification, tattoos were the backup ID of choice for dogs. After a number is tattooed on the inside of a dog’s hind leg, the number is entered into a national registry, such as the National Dog Registry ( or AKC Companion Animal Recovery ( A person who finds a dog can call a veterinarian, the police, or animal control, any of whom know to look for a tattoo and contact the registry. Voilà! Your dog is then on his way home.
Figure 11-2: An identification tag gives the who and where information for your little hound.

A chip in the old (or not-so-old) Beagle

In recent years, microchips have become more popular than tattoos (refer to the previous section) as a form of permanent identification for dogs. A veterinarian can easily insert one of these chips under the skin between your Beagle’s shoulder blades; the chip is just a little bit larger in diameter than a pencil lead.
At the same time your Beagle gets his microchip, you get a form that registers him with the registry that’s administering the microchip, such as the AKC Companion Animal Recovery Program. Just as with the tattoo, animal pros know how to scan your dog (using a special scanning device) to see if a microchip is present. The scanning device activates a unique identification code. The person who performs the scan then calls the appropriate registry, where a recovery specialist has all of the information needed to get your Beagle safely back to you. The registry also will give you a tag that contains your Beagle’s microchip number and the registry’s telephone number.
However, microchipping is all for naught unless you complete the registration form and send it to the company that administers the chip. And if you move, contact the registry and tell them your new address. Make sure, too, that you register with a large microchip company, such as Home Again or AVID, both of which manufacture chips that are more easily scanned.


Have your vet insert your Beagle’s microchip when she or he is being spayed or neutered. That way, you don’t have to make a separate trip to the vet to have the job done.


Do not rely solely on an identification tag to help your lost Beagle find his way home. A dog can lose his collar all too easily; my own dog has done so twice — so far. A permanent form of identification such as a tattoo or microchip can reunite you with your lost dog even if he loses his collar.

Maintaining Good Health at Home

Your veterinarian is the best person to know how to treat your Beagle when he gets sick or injured. But you are the best person to know when all’s right with your canine companion, and to keep him that way between visits to the vet.

Knowing what’s normal

You can’t know if anything’s wrong with your Beagle unless you know how he looks and acts when everything’s fine. That’s why it’s important to spend time grooming and otherwise caring for your little hound and observing how he behaves when he’s free from illness.
Make it a point to note how much your Beagle usually eats during one sitting. That way, you’ll know immediately when your dog’s appetite is off. A lack of interest in food that lasts for more than a couple of meals can be a sign of serious trouble and warrants a call to your veterinarian.
Another behavioral clue to note is how much water your Beagle drinks when all is well. See how often, generally speaking, you need to fill his water bowl — once a day, twice a day, whatever. If you observe a sudden increase in his water intake for no obvious reason (such as being hot, thirsty from exercise, or thirsty from enjoying a chew toy), your vet needs to have a look at him.
Take note, too, of how often your Beagle does his business, and what that business looks like. Such knowledge will help you spot signs of difficulty quickly. For example, if your Beagle suddenly starts peeing more often than normal, he may have a urinary tract infection — an uncomfortable condition that requires treatment by a vet. And if your dog’s stool changes in consistency or color, he could have any one of a number of intestinal ailments; some of those ailments are serious, while others may be less so. Either way, by observing those changes sooner rather than later, you can get him to the vet and start treating his problem that much quicker.
Finally, try to get a sense of what your dog’s normal activity level is — whether he’s a hyperactive little dynamo, a laid-back kind of a fella, or somewhere in between. Any prolonged changes in that activity level could signal the onset of a medical problem that needs your vet’s attention.

Checking vital signs

Your Beagle’s temperature, pulse, and respiration (TPR) are crucial measurements of his health status. If your little hound’s temperature is above or below normal, if his heart rate is way faster than usual, or if his breathing is quicker than it should be, he clearly needs to see the vet pronto. But for you to know whether those vital signs are normal, you need to know what normal is and how to measure your own dog’s TPR.
Table 11-1 tells you what a Beagle’s normal TPR should be.
Table 11-1
Normal Vital Signs
Vital Sign
Normal Range
100.5° Fahrenheit to 102.0° Fahrenheit
60 to 140 beats per minute at rest
10 to 30 breaths per minute at rest
Here’s what you need to know to measure your Beagle’s TPR.

Taking the temperature

To measure your dog’s temp, gather together three items:

– A clean, digital rectal thermometer (get one just for him, but you can use any thermometer for humans from your local pharmacy)

– Some petroleum jelly

– Another person

After you’ve got your gear:
1. Have the other person hold your Beagle still.
2. Smear some petroleum jelly on the thermometer bulb (the end with the metal tip).
3. Slowly and gently slide the thermometer about 1 inch into the dog’s rectum.
4. Wait for two minutes — and gently pet your dog or engage him in another activity that will help him stay calm and still.
5. Remove the thermometer slowly, and read it.

Measuring the pulse

All you need to take your pooch’s pulse is yourself, him —preferably after a nap or otherwise in a relaxed state — and a timer that counts seconds. Then:
1. Have your Beagle lie down on his side.
Use a treat to lure him into a Down position (see Chapter Schooling Your Beagle); then move the treat in a two o’clock or ten o’clock direction — depending on which side he prefers to lie on — to lure him into the proper position.
2. Sit behind your Beagle and place your hand atop his hind leg.
3. Move your hand forward until your fingers are curled around the front of the leg.
4. Slide your hand upward until your hand touches the wall of your dog’s abdomen (see Figure 11-3). Your hand should be resting on his inner hind leg.
Here, you feel a pulse beating beneath your fingers.
5. Count the beats for 15 seconds.
6. Multiply that number by four, and you’ll have your dog’s heart rate per minute; compare that number to the normal pulse rate listed earlier in Table 11-1.
Figure 11-3: Measure your Beagle’s pulse by placing your hand atop his inner hind leg.

Measuring respiration

To determine how many breaths your Beagle takes per minute, grab a timer that counts seconds, and then:
1. Have him lie down on his side.
Get him into a Down position (see Chapter Schooling Your Beagle) by using a treat; then move the treat in a two o’clock or ten o’clock direction — depending on which side he prefers to lie on.
2. With your hand resting lightly on his rib cage, count how often your hand rises in 15 seconds.
3. Multiply that number by four; compare that number to the normal respiration rate listed earlier in Table 11-1.

Stocking a first-aid kit

You can be ready to deal with any illness or injury to your Beagle by stocking up on first-aid gear and medications. A portion of a bathroom medicine cabinet, a tackle box, or a toolbox are all good places to stash the following items:

Giving meds

Dispensing pills or liquid medication to a dog is no fun — mainly because the dog often makes the job very difficult. Some pooches fool their owners by holding the pill in their mouths and spitting it out later (my own dog is a master at this maneuver). Others struggle so much that you may be exhausted from the wrestling match that ensues when you try to dispense the meds.
However, the job doesn’t have to be difficult. With a little confidence and patience on your part, you can get a drug, whether in pill or liquid form, into your dog with ease.

The pill drill

In most cases, you can bury a pill inside some soft food such as peanut butter, cream cheese, or moist dog food. Alas, though, some dogs don’t fall for this ploy: They eat the good stuff and leave the pill in the dish. If your Beagle proves to be one of these crafty canines, you’ll need to dispense the pill manually. Here’s how:
1. Place your dog in a sitting position (Chapter Schooling Your Beagle tells you how).
2. Tilt his head back about 45 degrees.
3. Gently run your fingers along his upper lips until your fingers are about halfway back along the lip line. Place a slight bit of pressure on both sides of the lips to open the mouth.
4. Quickly place the pill as far back on the tongue as possible.
5. Close the mouth and hold it.
6. Keeping his head tilted upward, gently rub his throat until you feel him swallow the tablet.

Liquid potions

Administering liquid medicines is a bit trickier than dispensing pills, because they can’t be readily mixed in with food. But you can still do the job. Just find a clean eyedropper and proceed as follows:

1. Have your dog sit down (Chapter Schooling Your Beagle can help).
2. Tilt his head upward and open his mouth by gently running your fingers along his lips until your fingers are halfway back along the lip line. Then exert a small amount of pressure on both side of the lips to open the mouth.
3. Fill the dropper with the proper amount of liquid, and inject the liquid as far into the mouth as you can.
4. Close the mouth, hold it shut, and stroke the throat until you feel him swallow the liquid.

by Susan McCullough
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