Basset Hounds, perhaps because they were originally developed by using dwarf lines found within Bloodhound and other hunting hounds, tend to have slightly more health concerns than most of the other hound breeds. They have also had significant spikes in popularity throughout history, leading to poor breeding practices by many backyard types of breeders only in it for the money. Reputable breeders and kennels have maintained very healthy and genetically sound Basset Hounds that have few of the health issues listed below.
Buying a Basset Hound from an established, recognized breeder is the best way to avoid having to deal with some of the more significant health issues within the breed. Asking for health records for the mother and father is also important and a good breeder will provide these without hesitation. Buying a Basset from a pet store or an unknown breeder is not recommended as often there was little if any consideration as to the genetics of the cross, leading to the inferior health and genetic makeup of the litter.
Even very healthy and well bred Bassets have to be monitored for food intake and weight. This breed is a bit of a glutton and most Bassets will eat anything the owner provides. Free choice food, if started early, can be an option with the breed if the dog is very active and has lots of exercise time. For dogs that are mostly indoors and sedate, free choice is not an appropriate option. They need to stay within the recommended weight range for their size to prevent obesity. Not only does this increase the chance of digestive and metabolic health complications but it puts additional pressure on the long spine. If the spine bends downwards because of the excess weight it is supporting there is a great risk of paralysis and mobility problems to the hind quarters.
When the spinal cord does become damaged the result is Intervertebral Disc Disease. Treatment may range from crate rest for the dog for several weeks along with hydrotherapy and dieting to surgical procedures in an attempt to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord. Keeping the Basset in top shape and not allowing the dog to jump up or down is really the best prevention for this condition. Lots of exercise and play time also keeps the muscles along the back strong, providing additional support for the spinal column and also helping to keep weight down and in the recommended range.
Skeletal problems that can be inherited include hip and elbow dysplasia and luxating patella. Hip and elbow dysplasia occur with the connective tissue around the joint is not correctly formed, allowing the two bones of the joint to rub and bump against each other. This eventually wears away the protective jelly-like substance in the joint, leading to bone on bone contact. Stiffness, pain and immobility or restricted mobility of the joint occurs. There are some treatments to correct the problem and manage pain, but they are costly and not always appropriate or effective. Having the parents screened for hip and elbow malformations prior to breeding is essential.
Luxating patella occurs when the kneecap pops or moves out of place, preventing the dog from being able to correctly position the leg. This is sometimes an inherited condition but can also happen with sudden twists or pressure on the knees. Jumping on and off furniture can lead to problems with luxating patella. Screening the parent dogs, providing routine exercise for the puppy and dog as it grows and through life as well as preventing possible traumatic injury is important.
Von Willebrand's Disease is a blood disorder found in many dogs of all sizes and breeds. The Basset Hound can have VWD as well as another bleeding disorder known as Canine Thrombopathia. In both conditions the blood does not clot properly and the dog bleeds excessively, even potentially to the point of death. Screening for the condition and closely monitoring the dog's mouth, teeth and urine or stool for any signs of blood is important. There are medications that can be used to manage the condition although these dogs should not be used in breeding programs.
Cherry eye is occasionally seen in the Basset Hound and may be partially inherited and partially do to other factors that are not clearly understood. It is actually an outward prolapsed of the tear gland found in the dog's third eyelid. The prolapsed causes as swelling and an outward bubble of pinkish to red tissue in the inner corner of the eye. This mass may have a thick discharge if an infection has occurred or the dog may simply have a lot of tearing. Surgical removal of the prolapsed will correct the problem and is a relatively simple procedure. Some Bassets that have Cherry Eye in one eye may also have it in the other although typically not at the same time.
All hounds have a tendency towards a condition known as bloat. Bloat occurs when dogs gulp food, exercise immediately after eating or drink lots of fluids while eating poor quality food. All these activities lead to swelling and increased gas production in the stomach that can actually push the stomach to rotate, cutting off the exits for the food and gas. This also cuts of blood supply to the stomach, almost immediately causing tissue death. Without proper treatment death will occur from bloat in full torsion type situations. Monitoring the dog for any signs of anxiety immediately to one hour after eating a meal, feeding high quality, low bulking foods and feeding several smaller meals a day is the best form of prevention. If bloat is suspected immediately get the dog to a vet as surgery early is the only way to save the dog's life.
Occasionally in puppies and juvenile dogs from 6 to 24 months of age a painful growth condition known as Panosteitis can occur. The reasons for the disease are not known but it will go away on its own, typically before the puppy is two years of age. The symptoms of the condition include lameness that moves throughout the limbs as well as stiffness in movement and pain in getting up and down that is not always present. Talk to your vet about pain management options and also watch for any secondary health conditions that may make the condition worse.