Beagles suffer eye problems no more than any other breed. Most are healthy and have only the usual, short-lived conditions that are part of any dog’s life. But there are a few eye diseases to watch out for that tend to occur in Beagles more than others.
The most common is a condition called ‘cherry eye’. This appears as a large, bright red, swollen piece of tissue at the base of the eye. The swelling is the result of the nictitans gland coming loose, part of the so-called ‘third eyelid’. That ‘eyelid’ is a sheath of transparent tissue that helps protect the eye.
The gland can become detached (a condition called ‘prolapse’), possibly the result of weak connective tissue. The end result is inflammation, soreness, and higher likelihood of infection. It’s often accompanied by a condition called ‘dry eye’, which results when the eye can’t produce tears properly.
Traditional treatments removed the gland entirely, but that created the need to perpetually counteract the ill-effects of dry eye, since the nictitans plays a role in producing needed tears. Nowadays, the gland is much more often repaired. It can be ‘sewn’ back in place with small, permanent stitches.
Another common Beagle eye problem is distichiasis, a fancy word for a condition in which eyelashes grow inwardly or too close to the eye. Just as with humans, any object poking the eye produces discomfort and excess tears. If it persists, it can lead to inflammation and even infection. In extreme cases, it’s possible for the cornea to become scarred as the eyelash scrapes over the surface when the dog blinks.
Treatments range from simple eye drops of an ophthalmic lubricant solution (which also reduces pain and prevents infection) to surgical alteration of the gland that produces the unwanted eyelashes. During the procedure the gland may be frozen cryogenically or cauterized with a laser.
Plucking them tends to cause more problems than it solves. The gland can be irritated and the eyelashes will simply grow back anyway.
PRA or PRD
The frequency of genetic diseases in dog populations varies considerably, depending on breeding practices. Because Beagles are so popular, they tend to be overbred or inbred more than some others. As a result, their odds of suffering from a genetic disorder increase somewhat. Among those disorders one is more common than others: progressive retinal degeneration (or atrophy). In PRD/PRA, the retina gradually deteriorates, ultimately producing blindness.
Because Beagles are hounds who rely on their sense of smell even more than the already-pronounced use by dogs in general, eye problems may not become evident until they’re quite advanced.
Look for disorientation or night blindness, which is extremely rare in healthy dogs. If your Beagle exhibits fear of entering a dark room, also rare in well-adjusted dogs, especially Beagles who love to explore, consider taking it to the vet for an eye exam.
There’s no cure and no effective treatment, so the best that can be done in these cases is to ensure that your dog is well-cared for and kept safe from what would otherwise be minor risks.