Caring for Your Faithful Companion
American Foxhounds: What a Unique Breed!
Your dog is special! She’s your best friend, companion, and a source of unconditional love. Chances are that you chose her because you like Foxhounds and you expected her to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle:
- Excellent hunting dog
- Has a short, easy-to-care-for coat
- Large, strong, and athletic
- Mild-mannered and easy to get along with
- Great with kids and other dogs: a true family pet
- Even temper and gentle disposition
However, no dog is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:
- Requires vigorous, frequent exercise and space to run
- Can be strong-willed and difficult to train
- Easily bored or distracted if not given something to do
- Standoffish toward strangers
Is it all worth it? Of course! She’s full of personality, and you love her for it! She is a friendly, devoted, and very vocal companion.
The American Foxhound orginated during the 1700’s in Virginia and Maryland and were bred as scenthounds for hunting fox. George Washington was considered not only the father of his country, but also the “Father of American Foxhounds” as he was an early breeder and fox hunting enthusiast. American Foxhounds are highly active and generally healthy with an average lifespan of 11-14 years. They can develop some common diseases such as hip or elbow dysplasia and hypothyroidism. Early diagnosis is the key to a long and happy life, so be sure to schedule routine checkups.
Your American Foxhound’s Health
We know that because you care so much about your dog, you want to take good care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Foxhound. By knowing about health concerns specific to American Foxhounds, we can tailor a preventive health plan to watch for and hopefully prevent some predictable risks.
Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. There is a general consensus among canine genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners that the conditions described herein have a significant rate of incidence and/or impact in this breed. That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that she is more at risk than other dogs. We will describe the most common issues seen in American Eskimo Dogs to give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.
This guide contains general health information important to all canines as well as the most important genetic predispositions for American Foxhounds. This information helps you and us together plan for your pet’s unique medical needs. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Foxhound looking and feeling her best. You will know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your pal.
General Health Information for your American Foxhound
Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your American Foxhound is more likely than other dogs to have problems with her teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If we don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose her teeth and be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your American Foxhound’s life span may be cut short by one to three years! We’ll clean your dog’s teeth regularly and let you know what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites clean.
American Foxhounds are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections — the same ones that all dogs can get — such as parvo, rabies, and distemper. Many of these infections are preventable through vaccination, which we will recommend based on the diseases we see in our area, her age, and other factors.
Obesity can be a significant health problem in American Foxhounds. It is a serious disease that may cause or worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your pal food when she looks at you with those soulful eyes, you can “love her to death” with leftover people food and doggie treats. Instead, give her a hug, brush her fur or teeth, play a game with her, or perhaps take her for a walk. She’ll feel better, and so will you!
All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Foxhound’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest her skin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into her system in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep her healthy.
Spay or Neuter
One of the best things you can do for your Foxhound is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this means we surgically remove the ovaries and usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. This is convenient for you and easy for your friend. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss the specific problems we will be looking for when the time arrives.
Genetic Predispositions for American Foxhounds
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Both hips and elbows are at risk for dysplasia, an inherited disease that causes the joints to develop improperly and results in arthritis. Stiffness in your Foxhound’s elbows or hips may become a problem for him, especially as he matures. You may notice that he begins to show lameness in his legs or has difficulty getting up from lying down. We can treat the arthritis—the sooner the better—to minimize discomfort and pain. We’ll take X-rays of your dog’s bones to identify issues as early as possible. Surgery is sometimes a good option in severe and life-limiting cases. Keep in mind that overweight dogs may develop arthritis years earlier than those of normal weight, causing undue pain and suffering!
Allergies, swimming, overgrowth of hair in the ear canals, or an accumulation of earwax can all predispose your dog to ear infections, which are painful and annoying. Foxhounds are very often afflicted by allergies, which cause itching and inflammation in the ears and elsewhere. The earlier we diagnose this disease, the less discomfort and pain he will suffer. Be sure to call us if you notice him scratching or shaking his head, a foul odor from the ears, or if his ears seem painful to the touch. By monitoring for ear infections and treating them early, we also reduce the likelihood of eardrum damage that can lead to deafness. Most ear infections tend to recur until we work together to control the underlying cause.
Many older dogs have arthritis , and bigger dogs tend to have more pain and disability than smaller dogs. American Foxhounds are particularly prone to developing arthritis, for which we need to use many treatments. The earlier we begin treatment, the better the results. Good nutrition and proper exercise are also very important to help reduce bone and joint problems as your pet gets older. Do not let him become overweight; this puts a huge strain on the joints.
Sometimes your Foxhound’s kneecap (patella) may slip out of place (called patellar luxation). You might notice that he runs along and suddenly picks up a back leg and skips or hops for a few strides. Then he kicks his leg out sideways to pop the kneecap back in place, and he’s fine again. If the problem is mild and involves only one leg, your friend may not require much treatment beyond arthritis medication. When symptoms are severe, surgery may be needed to realign the kneecap to keep it from popping out of place.
Myelin is often called the insulation for the wiring (neurons) in the brain and nervous system. Leukodystrophy is a loss of myelin, which causes the affected dog to become excessively clumsy or weak. There are several different forms of leukodystrophies, and the form seen more frequently in American Foxhounds causes severe problems; luckily it is rare! Symptoms such as weakness and falling may appear anywhere between three and thirteen months of age, though six to nine months is most common. Some dogs will become completely paralyzed and most will become at least somewhat disabled. Unfortunately there is currently no effective treatment for this disease, but supportive care is available that can help make his life comfortable.
Bladder or Kidney Stones
There are a few different types of stones that can form in the kidney or in the bladder, and American Foxhounds are more likely to develop them than other breeds. We’ll periodically test his urine for telltale signs indicating the presence of kidney and bladder stones; they are painful! If your buddy has blood in his urine, can’t urinate, or is straining to urinate, it is a medical emergency. Call us immediately!
Foxhounds are prone to a common condition called hypothyroidism in which the body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Signs can include dry skin and coat, hair loss, susceptibility to other skin diseases, weight gain, fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes. We’ll conduct a blood screening test annually to screen for the disease. Treatment is usually simple: replacement hormones given in the form of a pill.
Cricopharyngeal dysfunction or cricopharyngeal achalasia (CPA) is a disorder of the cricopharyngeal muscle in the throat, which doesn’t relax properly, leading to an inability to swallow. It is seen primarily as an inherited defect in Foxhound puppies, but can be acquired in adult dogs with low thyroid hormone levels, nerve problems, immune issues, or specific types of infections. If your pup has this problem, you will notice him gagging or regurgitating following repeated attempts to swallow. It’s important to catch early, because pneumonia is a common complication if left untreated. The good news is surgical correction often results in restoring the ability to swallow normally.
There are several types of inherited bleeding disorders which occur in dogs. They range in severity from very mild to very severe. Many times a pet seems normal until a serious injury occurs or surgery is performed, and then severe bleeding can result. Von Willebrand’s disease is a blood clotting disorder frequently found in American Foxhounds. We’ll conduct diagnostic testing for blood clotting time or a specific DNA blood test for Von Willebrand’s disease or other similar disorders to check for this problem before we perform surgery.
Cancer is a leading cause of death in older dogs. Your Foxhound will likely live longer than many other breeds and therefore is more prone to get cancer in his golden years. Many cancers are cured by surgically removing them, and some types are treatable with chemotherapy. Early detection is critical! We’ll perform periodic diagnostic tests and look for lumps and bumps when we examine your pet.
Lymphoma or lymphosarcoma is a type of cancer that afflicts American Foxhounds more than other breeds. This disease makes the body form abnormal lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell. Because white blood cells can be found throughout the body, this cancer can show up almost anywhere. Lymphoma is a very treatable form of cancer, with an excellent success rate in dogs receiving chemotherapy. Treatment can be costly, however, and is a lifelong commitment. Luckily, lymphoma is one of the few types of cancer that can often be found with a blood test, so we may recommend a complete blood count twice yearly. Watch for swollen glands (ask us, we’ll show you where to look), weight loss, or labored breathing at home and be sure to call us if you notice any unusual symptoms.
Some male Foxhounds have a condition present at birth in which one or both testicles do not descend into the scrotum (a condition called cryptorchidism). Instead, the testicle stays in the abdomen, which can cause problems later in life, including high cancer risk. We’ll check for this problem when your pet is a puppy; we recommend removal of both testicles if he has this condition.
Each time a female goes through her heat cycle, her hormones cause a growth of nourishing cells to line the walls of the uterus. This becomes a lush environment for the development of a raging bacterial infection that can progress rapidly into a critical emergency that may require surgery. Pyometra can happen to any female dog, but it seems to be more common in Foxhounds. If you don’t plan to use your friend as a breeding animal, a spay/neuter procedure is best for health!
Heritable deafness has been noted in some Foxhound bloodlines, so if his ears are healthy and he’s still ignoring you, a more thorough hearing workup may be needed, including brainwave analysis, if indicated. If you suspect he may not be hearing as well as he should, schedule an appointment with us right away as the problem could also be caused by a severe ear infection.
A relatively rare blood disorder called Pelger-Huet Anomaly can occur in your American Foxhound. If he is a carrier of the disease, his infection fighting white blood cells will look abnormal microscopically, but operate normally. Puppies that inherit a copy of this abnormal gene from both parents, however, usually die before or shortly after birth. For this reason, it is important to diagnose breeding dogs who are carriers of this defect so they don’t pass it along to their offspring.
Much of what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual (see “What to Watch For” below). Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for her. This is when we’ll give her the necessary “check-ups” and test for diseases and conditions that are common in Foxhounds. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures she will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.
Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise
Build her routine care into your schedule to help your Foxhound live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.
- Supervise your pet as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep her out of trouble and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
- She has low grooming needs. Brush her coat as needed, at least weekly.
- American Foxhounds generally have good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!
- Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
- She’s a smart dog with lots of energy, so keep her mind and body active, or she’ll get bored. That’s when the naughty stuff starts.
- Always walk your American Foxhound on a leash, she has a tendency to run off after interesting smells.
- Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
- Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for her age.
- Exercise your dog regularly, but don’t overdo it at first.
What to Watch For
Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease, or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently. Many diseases cause dogs to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your American Foxhound needs help.
Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of signs:
- Change in appetite or water consumption
- Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
- Itchy skin (scratching, chewing or licking), hair loss
- Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
- Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes
Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these types of signs:
- Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
- Inability or straining to urinate; discolored urine
- Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
- General reluctance to run or play
- Stiffness or reluctance to rise/sit/use stairs
- Dull coat, hair loss, sluggish, weight gain
- Swallowing difficulty or gagging
- Swollen lymph nodes or glands, unexplained weight loss
- Easily startled, no reaction to unseen sounds
Partners in Health Care
DNA testing is a rapidly advancing field with new tests constantly emerging to help in the diagnosis of inherited diseases before they can become a problem for your friend. For the most up-to-date information on DNA and other screening tests available for your pal, visit www.Genesis4Pets.com.
Your Foxhound counts on you to take good care of her, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that she lives a long and healthy life. Our goal is to provide the best health care possible: health care that’s based on her breed, lifestyle, and age. Please contact us when you have questions or concerns.
- Ackerman L. The Genetic Connection: A Guide to Health Problems in Purebred Dogs. Second edition. AAHA Press; 2011.
- Bell JS, Cavanagh KE, Tilley LP, Smith FW. Veterinary medical guide to dog and cat breeds. Jackson, Wyoming. Teton New Media; 2012.
- Gough A, Thomas A. Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats. 2nd Edition. Wiley-Blackwell; 2010.
- Breed Specific Health Concerns [Internet]. American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, Inc. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http:/www.akcchf.org/canine-health/breed-specific-concerns/?breed=american-foxhound