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Boxer Health Problems

Common Boxer health problems include hip dysplasia, heart problems (dilated cardiomyopathy, aorta stenosis), bloat, and other congenital diseases.

Boxer dog

If you own a boxer, you will most definitely agree that boxer dogs are goofy, playful, energetic, and extremely loyal. They are perfect as a pet for children because they have an extended puppyhood - they are not considered as an adult dog until they reach the age of three. Boxers are obedient and are trainable - if training starts at an early age.

Despite their playfulness and loyalty to families, they are by nature suspicious of strangers. As such, they make excellent watch dogs and can be trained to be guard dogs or police dogs.

If you are a proud Boxer parent, or are thinking of getting a Boxer, you need to know about the common health problems that may affect this dog breed.

Of course, not all Boxers will be affected by the common health problems as described below, but keep in mind that they are more predisposed to these illnesses.

Boxer Health Problems - The Heart

There are some Boxer health problems that are related to the heart, including:
  • Aortic Stenosis: Aortic stenosis is a congenital heart disease characterized by the narrowing of the aorta as it leaves the left ventricle. The narrowing is caused by scar-like tissue just underneath the aortic valve, and the narrowing makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood forward to the body. Over time, this can cause problems to the heart and the condition can be fatal.

    Symptoms of this condition may not be obvious, especially if the condition is mild. However, Boxers with moderate to severe stenosis may show signs of exercise intolerance because the heart is not strong enough to keep up with the body's demands during exercise. The dog may tire easily, and sometimes may even faint due to inadequate supply of blood to the brain. Therefore, if your Boxer has moderate or severe aortic stenosis, you need to think carefully about his exercise regime - both the amount and intensity of exercise need to be restricted.
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Dilated cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart) is a common cause of canine congestive heart failure. Boxers are predisposed to this heart problem. The age of onset is 2 to 5 years. Dogs with this problem usually tire easily. They are lethargic and may be unwilling to exercise. In more severe cases, they may cough, have difficulty breathing, bluish gums, and fainting spells.

    Treatment is to use medication to improve the force of the heart muscle, to control arrhythmias, and to prevent fluid buildup in the abdomen and lungs. Supplements such as vitamin-B, Coenzyme Q-10, taurine and carnitine are also recommended.

Boxer Health Problems - Digestive System

Boxer health problems that are related to the digestive system include:
  • Bloat: Bloat is rather common in deep-chested large breed dogs such as the Boxers. It is characterized by a distended stomach as a result of gas accumulation. Sometimes, the bloated stomach may rotate, resulting in a "twisted stomach" which can completely block entry of blood supply into the organ. This condition is serious and can be life-threatening.

    Some of the classic symptoms of dog bloat include unproductive attempts to vomit, retching, and enlargement of the stomach. The dog may drool excessively and may appear restless.

    Sometimes, the dog may just have gas and simply look uncomfortable, and the stomach may feel a bit tight (but not distended). If your dog does not show the classic symptoms of bloat but has a tight stomach and cannot vomit or belch, be very observant and be prepared for an emergency trip to the veterinary clinic.
  • Colitis: Colitis is the inflammation of the colon. Histiocytic Ulcerative Colitis is a form of colitis that occurs almost exclusively in Boxers. Signs of this problem include severe, unrelenting diarrhea that contains mucus and blood, and weight loss. Signs usually appear in Boxers before the age of 2.

    Treatment involves the use of medication (such as antibiotics or immunosuppressant drugs) to control the symptoms. Hypoallergenic diets are also recommended if colitis is the result of food intolerance or allergies.

Boxer Health Problems - The Joints

  • Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease that is characterized by an abnormal development of the hip joint. The typical sign of hip dysplasia is limping and bunny hopping. The condition can range from "mild" to "severe". Treatment includes medical therapy and/or surgery.

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Other Boxer Health Problems

  • Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is a hormonal condition. Specially, the thyroid gland produces insufficient amounts of the thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism in dogs is commonly an autoimmune disease (autoimmune thyroiditis), although it can occasionally be the result of causes such as a poor diet, overuse of certain medications, or toxins. Dogs with hypothyroidism have low metabolisms, and show symptoms such as exercise intolerance, chronic skin infections, hair loss, and weight gain (without increase food consumption).
  • Growh Hormone-Responsive Alopecia (hair loss): Normally growth hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland. However, for some unknown reasons, in some dogs the pituitary gland does not produce or release enough growth hormone. This results in, amongst other symptoms, symmetrical hair loss. The symptoms generally appear at puberty, and Boxers, especially males, are predisposed to this disease. Treatment of choice for growth hormone-responsive alopecia is neutering.
  • Corneal Dystrophy: Corneal dystrophies are inherited diseases of the cornea that occur in both eyes and are not related to inflammation. In most cases, corneal dystrophy appears as a round or oval grayish-white opacity in the substance of the cornea. In some cases, these opacities may grow bigger; in other cases, they remain the same size.

    Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for this eye problem. Surgical removal of the dystropy may temporarily improve vision, but the opacity will eventually re-form.
  • Cancer: Boxers are predisposed to certain types of cancer, such as lymphosarcoma, which is cancer arising from the lymphocytes in the lymphatic system, malignant melanoma, which is a form of malignant skin tumor that arises from melanocytes, mast cell tumors, which arise from tissue mast cells, and osteosarcoma, which is the most common form of bone cancer in dogs.
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