Beagles are one of America's favorite dogs. They are generally healthy dogs, but are prone to an assortment of "old dog" diseases. Among the most common are an assortment of cancers. Knowing the most common cancers in beagles can help with early detection and treatment.
Mammary tumors, or breast cancer, occur in beagles much like they do in humans. These tumors are almost always malignant or cancerous. They can occur at any age but are most common in intact females after the age of 6 years. While spaying a beagle before the first heat can dramatically decrease the likelihood of mammary tumors, this is no guarantee that cancer will not develop.
Lipomas and Skin Cysts
Lipomas, or fatty tumors, and skin cysts are also common in beagles. These often occur together, but can be present separately. They usually are benign, or noncancerous, but should be checked by a veterinarian to be certain.
Lipomas often develop in beagles who are overweight or have eaten a diet high in grains. These are usually on or near the surface of the skin and feel fluid or soft to the touch. Some lipomas have small, hard masses that feel like beads under the skin. These fatty cysts should be checked by a veterinarian to confirm that they have not become malignant.
Skin cysts either occur deep in the sebaceous gland or on the surface in the hair follicle. They often feel hard and round to the touch and may look like warts if closer to the surface. These are often benign, but can be drained by a veterinarian if they are causing the beagle discomfort.
Lymphoma is a cancer occurring primarily in the lymph nodes, liver, spleen and bone marrow. Because of the nature of the disease, it can spread rapidly so early detection is key. Beagles suffering from lymphoma are often lethargic, have a decreased appetite and lose weight.
Osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, is a malignant cancer that occurs deep in the bone. This cancer of the marrow may develop without symptoms until the outer bone tissue is affected. Beagles with osteosarcoma may appear healthy with the exception of a limp that worsens with time and does not improve with rest.
Though most common in large breed dogs, osteosarcoma may affect beagles who have experienced rapid growth, excess weight gain or athletic training early in development. For this reason, it is advisable not to sport train any beagle until a veterinarian has confirmed closure of the growth plates within the bones.
Other Cancers and Diagnosis
Beagles also suffer from other cancers, although they are less common. These include bladder cancer and hemangiosarcoma, cancer of the liver and gallbladder. Thyroid cancer also may develop in beagles suffering from hypothyroidism.
Early detection is important to prognosis. Lumps that appear suddenly, rapidly change in size or texture or seem to bother your beagle should be examined as soon as possible. Likewise, changes in appetite, stool or urine production or activity level should be brought to your vet's attention.
Though it is impossible to prevent cancer in beagles, a high quality diet, weight management and proper activity can improve outcomes before and after diagnosis. Visit the National Beagle Club of America's Health and Genetics page for additional information or click here for more on common health concerns in beagles.