Beagle dogs are prone to epilepsy.

Beagle Epilepsy: What, Why, and How

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Epilepsy in dogs can be scary, especially when they’re in the throes of a seizure. And Beagle epilepsy is a known phenomenon – anyone who’s had Beagles will know these cute floppy-eared hounds are at higher risk for developing the disorder. Given its prevalence, we’re exploring this as National Beagle Day approaches (22 April).

But what is epilepsy in dogs, why does it happen, and how can owners manage and cope with it?

Once this Beagle dog responds well to medication, there’s a good chance it can lead a fairly normal and healthy life.

What causes epilepsy in a Beagle or another dog?

Epilepsy essentially comes in two forms and to explain them we’ll work backwards.

Type 1

Secondary epilepsy is when seizures are caused by a known condition or brain trauma. These could be because of something like hypoglycaemia, poisoning, brain injury, cancer, brain tumours, or similar.

Bloodwork, MRI, or another diagnostic tool will help find the cause/s.

Type 2

The more common form of epilepsy is called idiopathic or primary epilepsy. Here, there’s no known cause for the dog developing epilepsy. Usually, it’s considered to be genetic or inherited.

In cases of epilepsy in the Beagle dog breed, examining the family tree will often reveal other dogs who experienced seizures. This is one example of how purebred dogs can sometimes be prone to health or genetic problems that mixed breeds aren’t. Simply put, it can be a result of selective breeding.

What are the chances?

But this said, it doesn’t mean your Beagle will definitely develop epilepsy – just that they’re at a higher risk than some other dogs. You can minimise your risk by finding an ethical dog breeder to buy from (because they do a wide range of health testing with their breeding parents and the puppies), avoiding puppy mills (who prioritise profit over pet care), and doing your homework about your potential puppy’s family history.

It isn’t just Beagles who are prone to epilepsy. Other dog breeds where epilepsy is common include:

This Beagle bounding through grass suffers from Beagle epilepsy

Symptoms and types of epilepsy in Beagles and other dogs

“The term epilepsy refers to a heterogeneous disease that’s characterized by the presence of recurrent, unprovoked seizures resulting from an abnormality of the brain.”

AKC Canine Health Foundation

Of course, the most obvious symptom of epilepsy is seizures. Seizures aren’t a disorder in and of themselves, but a sign of a problem or condition. Just like in humans, there are different types of seizures a dog can suffer from.

Beagle epilepsy isn’t necessarily one-size-fits-all, though most seizures involve some loss of consciousness. For example, it’s most likely your dog would be unable to respond if you stood behind it and called its name.

3 types of seizures

Here are the main types:

  • Generalised/Grand Mal. These are what most people think of when it comes to seizures. A dog suffering from generalised seizures will be unconscious and rigid. They might salivate, twitch, or chew.
  • Petit Mal. This is a type of seizure that appears mild. Your dog might lose consciousness very briefly and could go floppy or look “blank.”
  • Focal or Partial Seizures. These seizures involve half of the dog’s brain. You may see twitches or jerking in specific areas, strange repetitive movements like lip smacking and vocalisations like barking, moaning, or howling. Often, focal seizures will develop into generalised seizures.

Most often, Beagle epilepsy shows itself between the ages of 18 months and five years old. That said, late-onset epilepsy is also fairly common in the breed, so symptoms may start as old as nine years.

This Beagle dog pictured on a brown blanket suffers from epilepsy.

What’s the prevalence of Beagle epilepsy?

“Epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder seen in dogs and has been estimated to affect approximately 0.75% of the canine population.”

AKC Canine Health Foundation

Research into seizure occurrence in dogs under primary veterinary care in the UK resulted in this report that shows Beagles are near the top of the breeds list for seizures. The top 10 are as follows:

  1. Pug
  2. Boxer
  3. Basset Hound
  4. Border Terrier
  5. Border Collie
  6. Beagle
  7. King Charles Spaniel
  8. Dogue de Bordeaux
  9. British Bulldog
  10. Weimaraner

It states the prevalence for Beagles as being 1.37% and the median age being 5.71 years for these cases.

What to do if your dog has a seizure

If your dog has a seizure they should visit the vet to be diagnosed and properly evaluated. Not only can seizures be dangerous, they could also be a sign of a serious underlying condition. Some dogs will have a once-off seizure and never have issues again, but a vet should still check them over for your peace of mind.

If you notice your dog having a seizure that extends beyond five minutes or they have more than two seizures within 24 hours, they need immediate veterinary attention. These can be very serious and even fatal. Be sure to phone your vet to let them know you’re on your way ASAP.

After a seizure, your dog might seem confused or dazed for a short period. This is normal – though obviously stressful for you. Any out of the ordinary health situation like Beagle epilepsy is of course something you’d be concerned about.

Beagle epilepsy shows itself between the ages of 18 months and five years old.

Take a look at our articles below if you’d like to learn more about other dog health situations:

  1. Can Your Pup Get Sunburn? What You Need to Know
  2. Why Do Terriers Shake? 5 Top Reasons Why
  3. Grass Seed Infection in Dogs
  4. Luxating Patella in Dogs: Signs and Prevention
  5. How to Manage a Dog on Crate Rest

What happens if your Beagle gets an epilepsy diagnosis?

Let’s say you have a case of Beagle epilepsy on your hands. Or, indeed, epilepsy in any other breed of dog. When you visit the vet one of their first priorities is to find the underlying causes if there is one. If secondary epilepsy is found, seizures can often be controlled by treating the primary condition.

In the case of idiopathic epilepsy, most dogs will be prescribed anti-convulsant medications. You’ll normally have to administer these once or twice a day. It doesn’t cure the epilepsy but it treats the symptoms.

Just like in humans, there might be some trial and error to find the type of medication and dosage that works best for your dog. Throughout this process and thereafter, a good vet will work with you to help manage the condition as best as possible.

Once your dog is responding well to medication, there’s a good chance they can lead a fairly normal and healthy life.

Dog insurance for all kinds of vet treatments

If you’ve taken out pet insurance before a condition develops, it won’t be a pre-existing condition. This is great news because your PD Insurance policy (if it’s a comprehensive one) should still cover you – as long as it’s not a congenital condition).

That’s one reason why it’s so important to get pet insurance early on in your pet’s life, while they’re still fit and healthy.

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