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Beagles were historically kept almost exclusively for working roles, but over the course of the last couple of decades, they’ve also become really popular as pets. The small size, sunny disposition and sheer versatility of Beagles means that they’re a good choice of dog for people from all walks of life, and as the popularity of Beagles as pets has risen in recent years, so too has our understanding of the breed and some of the health issues it can face.
The Beagle breed as a whole is a robust and healthy one, and they are not considered to be a high-risk breed when it comes to hereditary or conformation-based health problems. However, like virtually all pedigree dog breeds, there are a small number of hereditary health issues that can be found in some Beagles and that all owners or prospective owners of a dog of this breed should be aware of.
One such health condition is lumbar vertebral subluxation, and whilst this issue isn’t considered to be one of a small cluster of conditions most commonly found in Beagles, it does nonetheless occur more commonly within this breed than most others.
In this article we will talk about lumbar vertebral subluxation in Beagles in more detail, explaining what the condition is, how it affects dogs, and the symptoms to look out for. Read on to learn more.
Lumbar vertebral subluxation affects the vertebrae in your dog’s lumbar spine. If one of the seven vertebrae in the lumbar spine becomes misaligned, this is known as a subluxation, which causes it to press on the spinal cord’s nerves. This in turn has a knock-on effect on other important nerves, bones and muscle groups in your dog’s body.
The Beagle breed as a whole is rather more susceptible than most to problems with the back and spine, and lumbar vertebral subluxation is just one of them. Exactly why the breed suffers from problems of this type is unclear – the Beagle conformation is theoretically a sound, healthy and natural one, and they’re not one of the breeds that have suffered from deliberate exaggerations and widespread poor breeding practices that can lead to conformation defects.
Beagles do have higher than normal risk factors for intervertebral disc disease or IDD, which can in turn cause an increased risk of lumbar vertebral subluxation. Other conditions such as hip dysplasia or arthritis can also trigger or worsen the condition too.
An injury, knock or impact to the dog’s spine can lead to lumbar vertebral subluxation developing, in some cases months or even years after the incident itself. However, not all cases of the condition can be traced back to a specific incident, and you may not ever know for sure why your own Beagle is affected.
The condition is more common to older Beagles due to the natural effects of aging and the time taken for damage to occur or become acute, but it can theoretically affect younger Beagles too.
The range and severity of the symptoms of lumbar vertebral subluxation in any affected Beagle can be quite variable, and they may develop either very suddenly or very gradually, and will often worsen over time.
Some of the main symptoms of a potential lumbar vertebral subluxation in the Beagle include signs of pain in the dog’s lower back, hypersensitivity to touch, a numb or limp tail, and reluctance to walk and exercise. The condition may also lead to a change in your dog’s normal gait and movement, such as a loss of coordination or reluctance to take full, normal strides with the hind legs.
Over time, lumbar vertebral subluxation can cause loss of muscle tone, faecal or urinary incontinence, and even hind limb paralysis.
In order to ease pain and provide your dog with a good quality of life, your vet will first need to make a definitive diagnosis of lumbar vertebral subluxation, and rule out any other similar issues. Next, they will need to establish why the condition developed in the first place, because managing lumbar vertebral subluxation relies upon treating the underlying cause.
Some of the conditions that can cause lumbar vertebral subluxation in Beagles are themselves chronic – like arthritis – but by bringing such conditions under control and managing them effectively, the secondary issue may be able to be controlled too.
Your vet may prescribe pain killers and/or anti-inflammatory medications for your dog, and in some cases, spinal surgery may be recommended to correct the issue and restore your dog’s comfort and freedom of movement, although surgery is not appropriate for every presentation of the condition.
Physiotherapy, hydrotherapy or veterinary chiropractic care might also be recommended to relieve symptoms and ease pain.
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