Boxer dogs have a well-earned reputation for being playful, affectionate and loyal companions. The average lifespan for members of the boxer breed is 8 to 10 years. Although sturdy boxers are relatively hardy and healthy dogs, several eye problems are somewhat common to this breed.
Boxer dogs are quite prone to developing corneal ulcers, often called boxer ulcers, a condition that occurs when the outer layer of the cornea breaks due to an injury or scratch. Symptoms might include excessive blinking or squinting, light sensitivity, redness, increased eye discharge and excessive tears. Eye ulcers can cause blindness if not treated promptly. Vets typically treat eye ulcers with antibiotic ointments and oral antibiotics, but some dogs need surgery if their ulcers don't heal with treatment.
Other Corneal Issues
Corneal dystrophy is a genetic disease that affects one or more layers of the cornea, causing the outer layer of the eye to look cloudy. Although there is currently no treatment for this vision-impairing eye condition, it rarely blocks a dog's vision completely and your doggy won't be in any pain. Pannus, or chronic superficial keratitis, is an eye disease that typically turns the cornea a pinkish-red color. In severe cases, lesions start forming and might gradually spread until the entire cornea is affected. This eye problem won't cause your dog any discomfort and vets can effectively treat pannus with topical corticosteroids. Untreated pannus can cause vision loss and even blindness.
Progressive retinal atrophy is one of the most serious boxer eye problems because affected dogs become blind within six months to two years of onset. This genetic disease attacks the retinal cells, causing symptoms that commonly include night blindness, increased eye shine and dilated pupils. Although there is currently no cure for this disorder, antioxidant supplements that promote eye health might help slow down the progress of symptoms.
Unlike most other dog breeds, boxers are born with three eyelids: the lower lid, the upper lid and a third eyelid that rests beneath the upper lid. It's that third eyelid that causes the most problems, most commonly a condition called cherry eye or migrating membrane. Certain canine health problems can cause this eyelid to migrate, making your doggy look appear to have a red tissue or film covering the affected eye. Treatment typically involves undergoing a surgical procedure that puts the third eyelid back into place. Severe cases might require the vet to remove the lid entirely.
Other Eye Problems
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca occurs when the protective film in the eye becomes injured or infected and dries out. Also called dry eye, this condition causes discomfort and often makes the film take on a brown tint. Vets usually treat this condition with medicated eye drops that keep the film lubricated. Some boxers are prone to developing cataracts, an inherited disease that causes the lens to lose transparency. Veterinary specialists can remove cataracts during surgery so your dog retains most of his vision.
- American Kennel Club Meet the Breeds: Get to Know the Boxer
- AllBoxerInfo.com: Boxer Dog Eye Care—Eye Diseases and Eye Problems
- University of California Veterinary Ophthalmology Service: Chapter 9: Cornea
- Bark Bytes: Corneal Ulcers
- Coastal Boxer Rescue of Florida: Common Boxer Issues [PDF]
- Raevon Boxers: Eye Ulcers
- Kaboom Boxers: Eye Disorders
- University of Illinois Extension: Boxer
- Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
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