The following is a list of 11 potential health issues that boxer dog owners may face at one time or another. This is not intended to be a “mega-article” but a brief summary of each condition. Further investigation/research may be necessary. It is always good to be aware of any signs or symptoms that may arise so that immediate medical attention may be provided, if necessary, to help your pup live a long and healthy life!
1. Cushing’s Disease
Definition: A medical condition where the Adrenal Glands produce too much steroid hormone. This is caused by either a Pituitary gland tumor (most common) or an Adrenal gland tumor.
- excessive drinking and urination
- increased eating
- reduced activity
- hair loss
- pot-bellied appearance
Treatment: This condition can usually be treated with medication-if the tumor(s) are benign.
2. Degenerative Myelopathy
Paralysis of the Hind Legs
Definition: A degenerative disease that effects Boxers in which the nerves in the hind legs are effected. Degeneration of the white matter of the spinal cord leads leads to hind limb paralysis.
- difficulty getting up
- loss of balance
- weakness in hind legs
- paralysis of the hind legs
Treatment: There is a genetic test for the disease but no cure. It is a progressive disease that will eventually claim the life of the dog.
Abnormal White Blood Cells
Definition: a type of cancer that causes the body to produce abnormal white blood cells. It can occur almost anywhere in the body but often is seen in the lymph nodes, spleen, and bone marrow. For unknown reasons, certain breeds, such as Boxers, are at a higher risk.
Symptoms (depending on the type):
- swollen glands
- weight loss
- difficulty breathing
- abdominal pain
- fluid in the chest
Treatment: This type of cancer is treatable (it cannot be cured) through chemotherapy but is a lifelong, costly commitment. The average survival time with chemotherapy is 1 year.
4. Mast Cell Tumors
Definition: A type of skin cancer found in boxer dogs more than many other breeds. Up to 70% of dogs with this cancer will only develop one tumor.
Symptoms: It may be difficult to identify because it may appear as any other bump or lesion that dogs may often have. Can be a raised lump above or below the skin that may grow quickly then stop growing.
Treatment: One of the most treatable types of cancers in dogs. Early detection and removal are critical. Surgery is often mandated.
Definition: A tumor that generally forms in the spleen (but may form in other internal organs). It is a very aggressive type of cancer that has usually metastasized by the time it is diagnosed.
- high pulse/respiration
- weight loss
Treatment: There is no effective treatment. Once diagnosed, dogs generally die within 2 weeks. There are no early detection tests. Little progress has been made in the treatment/diagnosis of this disease over the past 30 years.
6. Acepromazine Sensitivity
Potential Dangerous Side Effects
Definition: Acepromazine is a widely used tranquilizer that is often used in treating dog “phobias” and anxiety. Recent studies have shown there may be dangerous side effects for some breeds-including boxers.
Thyroid Hormone Imbalance
Definition: This condition occurs when the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone.
- excessive weight gain with the same appetite
- difficulty swallowing
- hair loss
- chronic ear/skin infections
Treatment: It can usually be treated via thyroid hormone supplements such as levothyroxine which has been shown to be effective.
8. Respiratory Distress Syndrome
Definition: Due to the boxer dogs head anatomy and smaller snout, sometimes the windpipe and nostrils are undersized resulting in severe difficulty breathing. While this may be normal up to a point, displaced nasal cartilage and other obstructive nasal conditions may be present, worsening the condition.
- loud breathing
- inability to sustain exercise
Treatment: Extreme cases require surgery. It is recommended that a harness type collar be used with Brachycephalic breeds as opposed to a neck collar.
Definition: Epilepsy is generally an inherited condition in boxers. Boxers have a predisposition to a type of Epilepsy called primary Epilepsy that develops between 1-3 years of age.
- drooling (more than usual)
- spacing out
- walking in place
- rigid limbs
Treatment: A lifetime of medication is required to control the seizures. While they may not stop completely, they will be greatly reduced. Some other treatments that have been tried (with mixed results) are: Omega 3 and Omega 6 supplementation, dietary changes and acupuncture.
10. Dilatation and Volvulus
Definition: A condition that effects many “large-chested” breeds in which the stomach turns and twists-filling with gas. This will cut off blood supply to vital organs and can result in death. Care should be made not to feed Boxers directly after heavy exercise AND not to let them exercise AFTER eating.
- swollen abdomen
- pacing, standing instead of lying down
- stiff legged walk
Treatment: Surgery is often required. Prevention is the BEST treatment. Care should be taken NOT to allow your dog to partake in strenuous exercise before or after eating. Dogs should not be allowed to “inhale” their food too fast (there are bowls that can slow a dogs eating).
11. Dilated Cardiomyopathy
Definition: A degenerative heart condition that results in an enlarged, weakened heart muscle. It is the most common cause of heart failure in Boxers.
- difficulty breathing
- exercise intolerance
Treatment: If found early enough, the condition can generally be treated with medication. If dogs are diagnosed and treated early enough, they can survive up to 2 years.