Welcome to Part 4 of Basset Hounds 101, our series to familiarize you with the wonderful world of Bassets. This week we are going to cover the health issues that are most commonly associated to the breed. Let me begin by saying that there are no perfect breeds. I know that everyone has his or her perfect dog and for me, it’s the Basset Hound. All breeds are subject to common dog ailments. However, some are predisposed to certain problems, because of their body size and shape. It’s important to research the breed you are interested in, so that you can take preventative steps to avoid or lessen these issues.
Compared to many other breeds, the Basset Hound is generally a very healthy dog. Given proper care and nutrition, they can live a long and happy life.
When you are searching for a new Basset, get as much information as possible about their genealogy. Two inherited disorders are Canine Thrombopathia and Von Willebrands disease. These are bleeding disorders where a dog’s blood does not clot. If the pet is wounded, increased or excessive bleeding occurs. If you suspect your Basset has this disease, your vet may recommend testing along with treatment to help control it. Signs to watch out for are excessive bleeding, bleeding from the nose or gums, bloody stools or urine and red spots on the belly. The best way to prevent this disorder is to exclude an afflicted dog from any breeding program.
Bloat is a condition that is common among several breeds of large dogs with deep, narrow chests. It happens when a dog’s stomach fills up with swallowed air and then rotates. This is a very serious condition and may quickly result in death. Once the stomach has rotated, the blood supply is cut off and your pet’s condition will deteriorate very fast. It is normal for dogs to swallow air during exercise or rigorous activities. This also happens when they gulp their food or water. This air is usually released through a burp. When a dog is unable to release the air, bloat develops. The signs of bloat include a swollen belly, non-productive vomiting, restlessness, abdominal pain, rapid, shallow breathing and/or profuse drooling. To help prevent bloat, feed your Basset two or three small meals each day rather than one large meal. Remove their drinking water during meals and wait a bit after mealtime before returning it. Avoid vigorous exercise before or after eating. Make sure their dining experience is calm, so they don’t rush to finish. A slow feed dog bowl is helpful to make them eat a bit slower. Again, checking your dog’s family history is helpful to find out if bloat runs in their bloodline.
Cherry eye occurs in many breeds, but found mostly in Bassets, Bloodhounds, Beagles,
Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, and St. Bernards. All dogs have a third eyelid in the corner of their eyes. You’ve probably seen it when they are waking up or falling asleep. This eyelid has a tear gland that under normal circumstances can’t be seen. Cherry eye happens when this tear duct slips out of its normal position or prolapses and becomes red and swollen. Surgery is usually recommended to correct the problem. If you notice a red or pink swollen mass protruding from the inner corner of your dog’s eye accompanied by a watery or thick discharge, seek medical advice as soon as possible. There is no way to prevent your dog from getting cherry eye and veterinarians aren’t sure of its cause.
Ear infection is a problem that is very common in the Basset Hound. Their trademark long, droopy ears trap dirt and retain moisture, which make a perfect combination for bacteria, yeast, allergies, and parasites. Your family vet can diagnose the trouble and prescribe an appropriate treatment. Signs of ear trouble are usually very obvious. They will begin to shake their heads, scratch the ears, and cock their heads to one side. If the infection progresses, you’ll see redness, and a discharge accompanied by an unpleasant odor. It is crucial that you clean and check your Basset’s ears at least once a week. I am extremely vigilant with Bentley’s ears, but he still has to see his vet at least a couple of times each year for treatment.
Elbow dysplasia is another common disease that a Basset faces. It occurs because of an abnormal development of the elbow’s joint as they are growing. It will cause lameness in the front legs. This is usually treatable, but will most often result in arthritis, as your pet gets older. Although the exact cause is unknown, it is believed to be linked to genetics, over nutrition, or trauma. Consult a veterinarian if you see any front leg lameness or stiffness. Again, the best way to prevent an inherited disorder is to exclude a Basset Hound that is affected from any breeding program.
Hip dysplasia is due to abnormal development of the hip joint. It can result in crippling lameness and severe arthritic joints. Although it is another hereditary problem, it can be brought on by diet, weight, and rate of growth. You will notice the onset of hip dysplasia by a swaying or staggering in your dog’s walk. Any obvious discomfort in lying down, standing up and a reluctance to run or jump are all signs of a problem. You can place a hand on the back end of your pet when it walks and actually feel the hip joints popping. A dog with hip dysplasia should never be bred. *On a personal note, two of our wonderful dogs, Madison, the German Shepherd and Tucker, our Golden Retriever both suffered from severe hip dysplasia. It is a cruel and heartbreaking disease. I feel very strongly that NO dog with hip dysplasia should reproduce under any circumstances. You can ask for a certificate proving sound hips from a reputable breeder. If you are adding a purebred dog to your family, don’t hesitate to ask for written proof that both parents have been tested.
Due to the Basset’s long back, they are prone to intervertebral disc disease that causes a spinal disc(s) to become ruptured or herniated. Although the exact cause cannot always be pinpointed, it is usually due to age or traumatic injury. It is vital that your seek veterinarian assistance immediately if you notice back pain, an arched back, unwillingness to turn or lower its head to eat or drink, and crying out when they are handled, petted, or touched. Any reluctance to climbing stairs, walking slow and carefully, or the inability to walk/paralysis needs to be checked out by a professional. Accidents are sometimes unavoidable, but to lessen the chances of injury you should not let your Basset jump on or off the furniture, especially a high bed. Bentley was not allowed on the couch until last year at the age of five and a half years. He climbs up and slides off but never jumps. He has never been on our bed, because it is too high. Avoid letting them becoming overweight as this increases the stress to the spine.
Glaucoma causes excessive pressure to develop in the eye. This is another genetic problem usually not showing up until at least two years of age. When it does occur, it can escalate quickly within hours or days causing severe damage to the eye including blindness. This usually does not appear in both eyes at the same time. If you notice your dog rubbing his eye, squinting or fluttering, immediate medical intervention is required. The pupil of the afflicted eye will be larger than the other and sensitive to light. It can look bloodshot and the cornea will be cloudy. If it does occur in one eye, your vet may suggest ways to prevent and protect the second eye.
I know that this seems like a long list of problems, but in reality, the Basset Hound is one of the healthiest purebred dogs when compared to others. As I said in the beginning of this article, there are problems inherent to every breed.
If you are interested in adding a fun, lovable Basset Hound to your life, there are steps that you can take to ensure you are getting a healthy pet. Always purchase your dog from a responsible breeder who is knowledgeable and proactive in reducing the chance of any inherited disease or disorders. Ask for written proof of any testing that has been performed and get a documented bloodline. Under NO circumstances, buy a puppy from a pet store, flea market, a seller with several different breeds, or a parking lot. Don’t be drawn in by low prices or adorable puppies. If you decide to adopt, you may not have access to any information on your dog’s history. Have your new rescued friend checked thoroughly by your vet and pay close attention to any warning signs listed here.
In case you missed the previous Basset Hounds 101, you can read them today.
Basset Hounds 101 ~ Part 1 is a history of the breed. Click here.
Basset Hounds 101 ~ Part 2 covers the breed standard. Click here.
Basset Hounds 101 ~ Part 3 discusses their wonderful temperament. Click here.
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