Boxer health problems
Unfortunately, cancer is the most common health issue with this breed, reaching almost 40% of causes of deaths in Boxers according to the UK Kennel Club with brain tumours being one of the conditions represented in the majority of cases.
A brain tumour is a cancer that affects the brain or the membranes surrounding it. The causes and risk factors are not well understood, so there is no way to prevent the condition as there are a number of different things that may influence the development of a tumour.
Treatment depends on the severity and type of brain tumour, but chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery can be offered if appropriate.
Mast Cell Tumours
Another common cancer found in Boxers is mast cell tumours and can range from being benign to something more malignant with a high rate of spread. These tumours do not appear because of something you did or didn’t do, Boxers are just one of the breeds to have a predisposition to mast cell tumours.
Surgery is usually used to remove these tumours, but this does depend on the location. If it is too difficult to reach, radiotherapy may be used.
Lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system which can affect many different organs as the cells circulate through the blood. There are a number of different Lymphomas so it is a varied condition where treatment will depend on the dog’s individual diagnosis.
Chemotherapy is usually recommended with other medication provided alongside the treatment to help your pet maintain an excellent quality of life.
Boxers are predisposed to a series of potentially life-threatening heart conditions such as Boxer Cardiomyopathy, which affects the heart muscle tissue. This condition can result in episodes of weakness, fainting and sudden cardiac death.
As the cause of this condition is not known, treatment will help control the abnormal rhythm of the heart but cannot cure the disease.
Another common finding in Boxers is aortic stenosis, in which there is a narrowing of the valve through which blood leaves the heart. This causes progressive damage to the chamber that pumps the blood out of the heart, making the organ work harder to do its job.
Regular health checks can help your vet detect the presence of this condition as symptoms depend on the severity of the narrowing of the valve, and whether the body receives the right amount of blood from their heart.
Dogs with this condition should not be bred from to try and prevent and control this condition.
Bone and Joint Problems
A number of different musculoskeletal problems have been reported in Boxers. These include hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament ruptures (in the knee joints) and degenerative myelopathy (a progressive disease affecting the spine).
As a common guide rule in the preventive healthcare of musculoskeletal disorders, it’s important to keep a dog at their ideal weight, provide a high-quality diet and avoid excessive work on the knees (like playing with a frisbee or ball fetching).
Also, joint supplements can provide great help in preventing and slowing down the progression of these types of illnesses.
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV or Bloat)
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) or “bloat” happens when air, fluid, food or foam collects in the stomach, making it expand. This can occur with or without twisting of the stomach, but vets are unsure as to whether the twisting or distention happens first.
When the stomach twists, the contents are then trapped with no way of leaving which restricts blood flow to organs such as the heart and stomach. Bloat is a life-threatening condition so it’s important to be able to recognise the signs which include:
- Swollen upper abdomen
- Signs of anxiety or agitation
- Retching but unable to vomit
- Excessive drooling or panting
Bloat can often be prevented through some easy to follow precautions during feeding time:
- Don’t exercise for at least an hour before or after eating
- Slow down your dog’s eating (there are special bowls to buy, manufactured for this reason)
- Feed the dog at least twice daily, so to give smaller portions
- Don’t let your dog drink too much water too fast.
Another effective preventative method is an elective surgery (called gastropexy) that pins the dog stomach to the abdominal wall so that it is unable to twist.
This will not prevent bloat but dramatically reduces the risk of stomach rotation which is the most severe condition.
Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)
Brachycephalic breeds like the Boxer have a short snout, and this can cause a range of abnormalities in the upper airways such as:
- Stenotic nares (narrow nostrils, restricting the airflow during inspiration and expiration)
- Elongated soft palate (the soft tissue on the roof of the mouth is abnormally long and obstructs the windpipe)
- Hypoplastic trachea (narrow windpipe)
- Everted laryngeal saccules (these sacks are located inside the larynx and when breathing with lots of effort, they can turn outward and obstruct the airways).
Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome causes a permanently increased breathing effort and less efficient breathing activity, that can lead to lack of oxygenation in cases of extreme exertion, stress or heat.
There are several preventive measures that can be taken to avoid significant health issues in brachycephalic dogs such as the Boxer. Some symptoms are worsened by obesity, so keeping your dog at a healthy weight is important.
The use of a harness instead of a collar prevents pressure on an already struggling larynx and owners should limit exercise during high temperatures and humid weather.
In the most severe cases, there are some surgeries, such as soft palate shortening and enlargement of the nostril width, that can help prevent serious symptoms and consequences caused by this challenging syndrome.
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