11 Boxer Dog Health Issues Owners Should Know

boxer dog owners 11 boxer dog health conditions every boxer owner should know petrage

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


Causes: Cushing’s disease, also known as hyperadrenocorticism, is a condition that affects boxer dogs and is caused by an overproduction of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is a hormone that helps regulate various bodily functions, including metabolism and immune response. There are three main causes of Cushing’s disease in boxer dogs: pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease, adrenal-dependent Cushing’s disease, and iatrogenic Cushing’s disease. Pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease occurs when there is a tumor on the pituitary gland that stimulates the release of excessive cortisol. Adrenal-dependent Cushing’s disease occurs when there is a tumor on one or both adrenal glands, leading to an overproduction of cortisol. Iatrogenic Cushing’s disease can occur as a result of long-term use of corticosteroid medications. It is important for boxer dog owners to be aware of the signs and causes of Cushing’s disease in order to seek proper diagnosis.


  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Excessive panting
  • Weight gain, especially in the abdominal area
  • Muscle weakness and loss of muscle mass
  • Thin skin that bruises easily
  • Hair loss or thinning coat
  • Chronic skin infections or slow wound healing
  • Lethargy and decreased activity levels
  • Increased appetite or changes in eating habits

Treatment: The usual treatment for a boxer dog with Cushing’s disease involves medication to control the excessive production of cortisol, which is the hormone responsible for the symptoms of the disease. Veterinarians typically prescribe medications such as trilostane or mitotane to regulate cortisol levels and manage the symptoms. Regular check-ups and blood tests are necessary to monitor the dog’s progress and adjust the medication dosage if needed. In addition to medication, a balanced diet and regular exercise are also important in managing Cushing’s disease in boxer dogs.

2. Degenerative Myelopathy

Paralysis of the Hind Legs

Definition: Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive neurological disease that affects boxer dogs. It is characterized by the degeneration of the spinal cord, leading to hind limb weakness and paralysis. The exact cause of Degenerative Myelopathy in boxer dogs is not fully understood, but it is believed to have a genetic component. Research has shown that a mutation in the SOD1 gene, which can be identified through DNA testing, is strongly associated with the development of this condition. However, it is important to note that not all dogs with the mutation will develop Degenerative Myelopathy, indicating that there may be other factors involved in its onset.


  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Hind leg weakness
  • Loss of coordination and balance
  • Dragging of the hind legs
  • Muscle atrophy in the hindquarters
  • Incontinence or difficulty controlling bowel and bladder movements
  • Loss of muscle tone and reflexes

Treatment: Unfortunately, there is currently no known cure for DM in boxer dogs. However, there are management strategies that can help slow down the progression of the disease and improve the quality of life for affected dogs. These strategies may include physical therapy, exercise, and mobility aids such as wheelchairs. Additionally, genetic testing can be done to determine if a boxer dog carries the gene mutation associated with DM. This is a progressive disease that will eventually claim the life of the dog.

3. Lymphoma

Abnormal White Blood Cells

Definition: Lymphoma is a type of cancer that causes the body to produce abnormal white blood cells, specifically lymphocytes. It can occur almost anywhere in the body but is often seen in the lymph nodes, spleen, and bone marrow. While the exact cause of lymphoma in boxer dogs is unknown, there are several factors that may contribute to its development. Genetic predisposition is one potential factor, as certain genetic traits may increase a dog’s susceptibility to developing lymphoma. Environmental factors, such as exposure to certain chemicals or toxins, may also play a role. Infections, such as the canine distemper virus, have been linked to an increased risk of lymphoma in dogs. Boxers, being more prone to developing lymphoma, are particularly susceptible to this type of white blood cell cancer.

Symptoms (depending on the type):

  • swollen glands
  • weight loss
  • difficulty breathing
  • lethargy
  • 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. Other treatment options may include radiation therapy, surgery to remove tumors or affected lymph nodes, and immunotherapy to boost the dog’s immune system. The average survival time with chemotherapy is 1 year.

4. Mast Cell Tumors

Skin Cancer

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.

5. Hemangiosarcoma

Bleeding Tumor

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.


  • lethargy
  • high pulse/respiration
  • anemia
  • 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.

“In the Boxer, it tends to cause a problem called first degree heart block, a potentially serious arrhythmia of the heart. It also causes a profound hypotension…”

7. Hypothyroidism

Thyroid Hormone Imbalance

Definition: This condition occurs when the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism in boxer dogs can have various causes. One common cause is an autoimmune disease called lymphocytic thyroiditis, where the dog’s immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, leading to decreased hormone production. Another possible cause is idiopathic atrophy, where the thyroid gland shrinks and loses its ability to produce hormones for unknown reasons. Additionally, certain medications or treatments, such as radiation therapy or certain drugs, may also contribute to hypothyroidism in boxer dogs.


  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
  • Fatigue or low energy levels
  • Hair loss or thinning coat
  • Dry skin or flaky skin
  • Muscle weakness or stiffness
  • Intolerance to cold temperatures
  • Behavioral changes, such as aggression or depression
  • Slow heart rate or irregular heartbeat
  • Digestive issues, such as constipation

Treatment: The most common treatment for this condition is the administration of synthetic thyroid hormone medication, such as levothyroxine. This medication helps to supplement the inadequate production of thyroid hormones in the dog’s body. Regular blood tests are typically conducted to monitor the dog’s thyroid levels and adjust the medication dosage accordingly. In addition to medication, a balanced diet and regular exercise are important for managing hypothyroidism in boxer dogs. A veterinarian may also recommend supplements or dietary modifications to support thyroid function.

studies have shown that large amounts of cruciferous vegetables can affect a dog’s thyroid

8. Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Brachycephalic 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
  • fainting

Treatment: Extreme cases require surgery. It is recommended that a harness type collar be used with Brachycephalic breeds as opposed to a neck collar.

9. Epilepsy


Definition: Boxers have a predisposition to a type of epilepsy called primary epilepsy. This condition typically develops between the ages of 1 and 3 years old. While the exact cause of primary epilepsy in boxers is not fully understood, it is believed to be an inherited disorder. Research suggests that certain genetic factors may contribute to the development of epilepsy in boxers, making them more susceptible to seizures.


  • drooling (more than usual)
  • spacing out
  • walking in place
  • fainting
  • rigid limbs
  • confusion
  • non-responsive

Treatment: The treatment of epilepsy in boxer dogs typically involves a combination of medication and lifestyle management. Anticonvulsant medications, such as phenobarbital or potassium bromide, are commonly prescribed to control and reduce the frequency of seizures. These medications work by stabilizing the electrical activity in the brain and preventing abnormal firing of neurons. Some other treatments that have been tried (with mixed results) are: Omega 3 and Omega 6 supplementation, dietary changes and acupuncture.

10. Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus


Definition: A condition that effects many “large-chested” breeds in which the stomach twists and turns-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
  • whining/moaning

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 be fed smaller meals and not allowed to “inhale” their food too fast (there are bowls that can slow a dogs eating).


11. Boxer Cardiomyopathy

Weakened Heart

Definition: A degenerative heart condition that results in an enlarged, weakened heart muscle. It is the most common cause of heart failure in Boxers. While the exact causes of DCM in boxers are not fully understood, there are several factors that have been identified as potential contributors. One possible cause is genetics, as certain genetic mutations have been associated with an increased risk of developing DCM. Other factors include nutritional deficiencies, such as taurine deficiency, which can impact the structure and function of the heart muscle. Additionally, certain medications, infections, and autoimmune diseases may also play a role in the development of DCM in boxer dogs.


  • coughing/gagging
  • difficulty breathing
  • fainting
  • lethargy/weakness
  • exercise intolerance

Treatment: Treatment options for DCM typically focus on managing symptoms and improving the dog’s quality of life. Medications such as diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and beta-blockers may be prescribed to help reduce fluid buildup, regulate blood pressure, and improve heart function. Additionally, dietary changes may be recommended, such as a low-sodium diet, to help alleviate strain on the heart. In severe cases, surgical intervention or implantation of a pacemaker may be necessary. If dogs are diagnosed and treated early enough, they can survive up to 2 years.



Boxer Health Issues – FAQ

How can I ensure my boxer dog maintains good health?
faq q and a section

To ensure your boxer dog maintains good health, make sure to provide a balanced diet, regular exercise, and routine vet check-ups. Additionally, keep up with vaccinations, practice good dental hygiene, and be aware of common health issues in boxers such as heart problems, hip dysplasia, and allergies.

Are there any genetic factors that contribute to boxer dog health problems?
faq q and a section

Yes, boxer dogs are prone to certain genetic health issues. Some common genetic health problems in boxer dogs include heart conditions and certain types of cancer. It is important for boxer dog owners to be aware of these issues and take appropriate measures to monitor their dog’s health.

Are there any specific dietary needs that will help my boxer dog stay healthy?
faq q and a section

Boxer dogs have specific dietary needs to maintain their health. A high-quality dog food that is rich in protein and low in grains is recommended. Additionally, boxer dogs may benefit from supplements such as glucosamine for joint health and omega-3 fatty acids for a healthy coat and skin.

Boxer Dog Health Issues – Final Thoughts

Health conditions can be a concern for any dog owner, but it is especially important for owners of the boxer dog breed to be aware of the common health problems that can arise. Boxers are known for their high energy and active lifestyles, which can put strain on their bodies and make them more prone to certain health issues. From heart conditions to cancer, there are several health concerns that boxer owners should keep an eye out for. Regular veterinary care, including physical examinations and maintaining a healthy weight, are crucial in detecting and managing these health problems early on.

10 health concerns of boxer dogs petrage infographic

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