There are many reasons to purchase or adopt a boxer. They're handsome, loyal, protective and loving. That's the plus side. The, uh, other side is that this breed is prone to a number of serious hereditary ailments. Before buying your pup, get information about his genetic history from the breeder.
Boxers are prone to the hereditary heart disease aortic stenosis, meaning an obstruction underneath the aortic valve. This medical condition can cause sudden death, so your dog looks fine one minute and keels over the next. If he's diagnosed beforehand by a veterinarian via an electrocardiogram or X-ray, medication might control the condition. Another heart-related, genetic disease is dilated cardiomyopathy, when the heart can't pump blood effectively.
Unfortunately, cancers of various types are prevalent in the breed. Among the most common are lymphomas, or cancers of the lymphatic system. Boxers are prone to mast-cell tumors, skin cancers, and cancers of the reproductive organs, heart, brain, thyroid, blood and spleen. Check your dog regularly for any suspicious lumps and make sure he has at least an annual veterinary exam. Early detection can save his life or buy him some time.
The endocrine disorder hypothyroidism occurs frequently in the boxer. It may manifest itself as skin disease or hair loss, weight loss, depression, exercise intolerance and lethargy. A normal boxer is alert and active. If your dog appears constantly tired and in poor condition, take him to the vet for an analysis. Medication can help relieve symptoms of hypothyroidism. Since hypothyroidism appears primarily in middle-age dogs and older dogs, don't assume a change in a level of activity or personality is just age-related.
The scary and often fatal condition known as bloat often occurs in boxers. Bloat causes gases trapped in the dog's stomach to twist the organ. Get the dog to a veterinary hospital immediately to save his life. As a precaution, feed your boxer small meals several times a day rather than one large meal, and limit water and exercise before and after he eats. Boxers are also prone to genetic histiocytic ulcerative colitis, or inflammation of the bowel. Dogs with this incurable condition experience lifelong diarrhea rather than normal bowel movements.
Boxers are one of several breeds of dog genetically prone to hip dysplasia. The boxer may suffer from early degenerative disease in this joint, eventually losing the use of it. Your vet can prescribe medication so your dog moves more comfortably; surgery is an option in severe cases.
As a boxer ages, he may develop degenerative myelopathy, a neurological disease. As it affects the spinal cord and the nerves in the hind end, the dog eventually becomes incontinent and unable to walk. It does not affect the dog's brain, so he remains alert and does not appear to be in pain. While many owners opt to euthanize their pet, if you purchase a custom-made cart your dog can regain a certain amount of mobility for the rear legs.
Boxers may suffer from refractory superficial corneal ulcers on one or both eyes. SIgns of this disease include watery eyes, with the dog exhibiting pain. Topical antibiotics and surgery can aid this condition.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.