Beagles are no more inherently likely to have skin problems than most other breeds. Unfortunately, due to poor breeding practices, many beagles do develop them. Treatment is straightforward but does require diligence.
Proper diagnosis helps to curtail problems and provide the best long-term management of your dog’s skin problems. However, it can be tricky. Beagles are somewhat prone to allergies, in part (again) because of the tendency to overbreed and in-breeding. Beagles are very popular and to satisfy the demand some puppy mills don’t exercise adequate quality control.
The first major step is to try to determine if the problem is a food allergy or the result of fleas or ticks. A visual exam will help detect the latter.
Take your Beagle outside, then move your hands carefully over the skin, brushing against the fur. Fleas appear as small black spots. If present, fleas may or may not jump off (the primary reason for doing this outside). Fleas that make their way onto furniture and into rug fibers are tougher to eliminate.
To look for ticks, do the same thing. Look for and feel for small, smooth bumps. If ticks are present, they’re usually light or dark brown and about 1/8 inch long. They almost never fall off just by brushing the fur with your hands because they hold on to the dog tightly with their mouths. That’s how they feed, by sucking blood.
Fortunately, flea and tick infestations are easy to treat these days. Commercial products like Biospot or Revolution are perfectly safe and provide long-term control. Just squeeze a spot of the oily liquid onto the back between the shoulder blades (per the instructions) and the fleas and/or ticks (and their eggs) are killed and kept at bay for several weeks or longer.
With proper treatment, the red spots produced from the dog scratching or biting itself in response to a flea or tick bite will heal spontaneously in a few days or so.
Food allergies represent a somewhat tougher problem. They’re much more difficult to diagnose. People tend to blame food (which certainly can be allergenic), but the problem is less common than those opposed to commercial dog food suppose. There are several possible allergens in the environment, just as there are for humans, and food is only one possibility.
Changing the diet can help determine if this is the cause. Ensure that you substitute a different type of protein (usually the culprit in food allergies). If your Beagle has been fed chicken-based food, switch to lamb or duck. If wheat is suspect, switch to a food containing only corn.
If food does turn out to be the problem, it may take several weeks to be sure. Still, you should see lessening of symptoms within a month at most. If there’s no change after 10 weeks, the diet is unlikely to be the problem.
If scratching is curtailed, you can switch back for a couple of weeks to be completely sure, or continue on the changed diet. Some conscientious Beagle owners will cook raw chicken, vegetables, and other foods to eliminate commercial foods entirely.
That can be a good plan, but it does require care and consistency. Preparing meals is only half the job. The real difficulty is to achieve the proper balance of protein, fat, fiber, and carbohydrates, along with all the essential vitamins and minerals. It can be done at home, but it takes good research to ensure your Beagle is getting all it needs.
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