There are several DNA tests that are available for beagles to determine if the beagle is affected or carries the defective gene for that disease.
While there are several diseases within the breed, responsible breeders will undertake DNA testing and will have in place a program to eradicate the disease from their breeding stock and from the breed in general. It is important that before purchasing a beagle, you identify what health testing has been done by the breeder and you are given a copy of the results of DNA and other health tests undertaken by the breeder.
The following outlines the diseases within the breed that currently have DNA tests available.
Musladin-Leuke Syndrome (MLS)
Musladin-Leuke Syndrome (MLS), sometimes referred to as Chinese Beagle Syndrome, is a genetic disease found in some beagles that prevents normal formation of the skin and connective tissue within beagles.
This affects the appearance and gait (movement) of the beagle affected by the disease. Many smaller beagles, which may be marketted as “pocket” beagles, may be affected by the disease, as MLS causes the beagle to be smaller in stature. MLS may also cause the beagle to walk on its toes, rather than on the pads of the foot. In severe cases, MLS is not fatal in the majority of cases but can cause severe impairment to the Beagle and can have a significant impact on the beagle’s quality of life. Some puppies with MLS die before they reach one year of age due to the condition. The condition cannot be cured or treated.
Neonatal Cerebellar Cortical Degeneration (NCCD)
Neonatal Cerebellar Cortical Degeneration (NCCD) is a disease that damages brain cells in the cerebellum of beagles. This damage affects coordination and movement in the beagle.
The disease is degenerative, meaning it gradually gets worse as more brain cells are affected. The brain degeneration from NCCD begins with a general lack of coordination, then progresses to a staggering gait, wide stance, body tremors and seizure-like episodes. Eventually, the affected beagle may not be able to move or eat and will need to be euthanized. There is no cure and only limited treatment for the disease.
As the disease is degenerative, the affected puppy may appear normal at birth or at an early age. A breeder may not be aware the disease is prevalent in their lines, as the puppies may not exhibit any symptoms of the disease until they have sold the puppy to the new owner. Only DNA testing will determine if a beagle is a carrier of the disease.
Factor VII Deficiency
Factor VII protein in dogs is an essential protein in blood to support blood clotting. Factor VII Deficiency is a genetic disorder that can cause excessive bleeding in the affected beagle. This is the most common genetic disease in Australia for beagles and does not have any physical signs until the beagle suffers an injury or has surgery.
The severity of the disease in beagles varies greatly, with some beagle little effect from the disease. While the disease itself does not cause death, in severe cases, the resultant ineffective clotting can cause the beagle to bleed out if injured. In many instances, it will require a blood transfusion.
As the disease has no physical signs, DNA testing is the only accurate method of determining if a beagle is affected by the disease. Beagles with Factor VII Deficiency may lead normal lives until an injury or surgery is required.
Imerslun-Grasbeck Syndrome/Cobalamin Malabsorption (IGS)
This disease can be found many mammals and in a number of breeds including beagles. Imerslund-Grasbeck Syndrome (IGS) or Selective Cobalamin Malabsorption, causes dogs to be unable to absorb levels of Vitamin B12, also known as Cobalamin. Vitamin B12 deficiency causes anemia, lethargy, lack of growth, and lack of appetite.
IGS typically does not appear until 6-12 weeks, often after the puppy has left its breeder. This is due to the puppy having a supply of B12 stored in its body from its mother. After the supply runs out, the symptoms will begin to be displayed.
Lafora’s disease is an inherited form of epilepsy. It is a late onset disease, meaning it may not commence to affect the dog until the animal is several years old, usually over 5 years of age. As a result, breeders may not know of beagles they have bred being affected by the disease.
The disease can cause seizures displayed as the uncontrollable jerking of muscles. As the disease progresses, it can cause ataxia (lack of coordination of the nervous system), blindness and dementia. While there are medications that can reduce the occurrence of seizures, some versions of the disease can be drug resistant.
DNA testing for Lafora’s Disease is now available for beagles through some testing facilities.
Vetstream IGS: https://www.vetstream.com/treat/canis/diseases/imerslund-gr-228;sbeck-syndrome
Factor VII Deficiency: https://www.animalgenetics.us/canine/Genetic_Disease/F7.asp