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Boxers 101: 5 Common Health Issues & How to Prevent Them

Keyana Beamon - Writer for DailyTails
By Keyana Beamon
Davor Štefanović - Editor for DailyTails
Edited by Davor Štefanović

Updated July 17, 2023.

Sick Boxer Dog with a thermometer in their mouth

If you're considering adding a Boxer to your family or you already have one, you might be wondering about the most common health issues in this breed. Boxers are known for their energetic and playful nature, but like all dogs, they are prone to certain health problems. Being aware of these issues and taking steps to prevent them can help you keep your furry friend happy and healthy for as long as possible.

One question that's often asked is, "how long do Boxers live?" The answer is that, on average, Boxers have a lifespan of 10–12 years. With proper care and attention to their health needs, many Boxers can reach the upper end of this age range, and some can live beyond it.

Here are the 5 most common health issues in Boxers with some tips on how to prevent them.

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Stomach issues

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1. Cancer

Sick Boxer Puppy Lying on a Rug

When it comes to health issues in Boxers, cancer is, unfortunately, a major concern. In fact, Boxers are at very high risk for several types of cancer. So if you've been wondering what Boxers usually die from, the sad truth is that cancer is often the cause.

Of the various types of cancer that can affect Boxers, brain tumors are among the most common. These tumors can cause symptoms such as seizures, changes in behavior, and difficulty walking or standing.

Another type of cancer that is particularly prevalent in Boxers is lymphoma or lymphosarcoma. This cancer affects the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, and can show up almost anywhere in the body. Boxers are more prone to lymphoma than other breeds, and it's one of the leading causes of death in Boxers.

Signs of lymphoma include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Swelling of the face and legs
  • Increased thirst and urination

Skin cancer in Boxer dogs is also fairly common. They are particularly prone to skin hemangiosarcoma, which can occur anywhere on the body and tends to spread rapidly. This type of skin cancer is more likely to develop in this breed than in others.

This type of cancer can manifest as lumps that are firm to the touch. They are usually found on the head, lower legs, rear, and abdomen. It's important to regularly check your Boxer's skin for any unusual lumps or growths, especially in areas that are prone to skin cancer.

How to Prevent Cancer

Boxers can minimize cancer risk factors by following a raw, natural canine diet and living in a chemical-free environment with no fragranced products. Exercise your Boxer in places that aren't treated with lawn care chemicals or weedkillers to reduce their exposure to toxins.

Another way to minimize the risk of cancer in Boxers is to limit their exposure to sunlight. Provide shade and keep your Boxer indoors during the hottest parts of the day. If caught early, skin hemangiosarcoma may be treatable with surgery. That's why it's important to take your dogs to regular checkups.

2. Heart Disease

Happy veterinarian with a boxer dog in her clinic

Heart disease is unfortunately very common in Boxers, and two of the most prevalent heart conditions in this breed are cardiomyopathy and aortic stenosis. Here's a closer look at each of these conditions:

Cardiomyopathy: This heart disease is specific to Boxers and is characterized by an irregular heartbeat. Signs of cardiomyopathy include coughing, rapid breathing, fainting, or sudden heart failure. This condition is often genetic and can be diagnosed through an electrocardiogram or echocardiogram.

Aortic stenosis: Aortic stenosis is another common heart condition in Boxers. This condition is characterized by a loud murmur that can be heard in the left base of the heart and may radiate to the right base. The pulse quality may also be weak. Signs of aortic stenosis include chest pain, coughing, breathing difficulties, and muscle weakness. This condition can be diagnosed through a physical exam, electrocardiogram, or echocardiogram.

How to Prevent Heart Disease

Preventing heart disease in Boxers can be challenging, as some conditions are genetic. However, there are steps you can take to help manage these conditions and reduce the risk of complications.

Treatment for cardiomyopathy aims to normalize the heartbeat. Your veterinarian will determine whether medication is necessary for your Boxer. Limiting hard exercise is important for Boxers with aortic stenosis to reduce the risk of complications. Medication may be needed in severe cases to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

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3. Hip Dysplasia

Boxer Dog Resting

Hip dysplasia is a common skeletal condition in dogs, including Boxers. It's caused by a combination of genetic, nutritional, and environmental factors. In this condition, the head of the femur and the hip socket in the pelvis don't fit together perfectly, causing the loose hip to rub against the socket. This results in bone spurs, pain in the hip joint, and degenerative joint disease. Early signs of hip dysplasia include lameness in the hind legs and a 'bunny hop' gait. Diagnosis typically involves X-rays at the veterinarian's office. Obesity and unbalanced nutrition can exacerbate this condition, so it's important to maintain a healthy diet and weight for your Boxer to help prevent hip dysplasia or manage it if it occurs.

How to Prevent Hip Dysplasia

Preventing hip dysplasia in Boxers involves a combination of good nutrition and regular exercise. Feeding your Boxer a diet high in iron can help. Iron-rich foods include beef, chicken, and leafy greens. Moderate exercise and keeping your Boxer active can also help them stay physically fit and increase muscle mass, potentially reducing their risk of hip dysplasia.

4. Degenerative Myelopathy

White Boxer Dog Lying in Grass

Degenerative myelopathy is a spinal cord condition that causes hind limb weakness, loss of coordination, and paralysis in dogs. The condition is progressive and can lead to dogs losing feeling in their hind limbs, resulting in paw dragging. Early symptoms of the condition resemble osteoarthritis, such as difficulty rising from a lying position. Degenerative myelopathy is most common in middle-aged to older dogs and, unfortunately, has no cure. Early detection is key in managing the condition and improving the quality of life for affected dogs.

How to Prevent Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy is a genetic condition that cannot be prevented. However, maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can help minimize the risk of muscle atrophy and improve your dog's overall well-being. Additionally, physical therapy can help maintain muscle strength and prevent further muscle deterioration.

5. Stomach Issues

Boxer Dog Empty Bowl

Boxers are prone to developing digestive issues, including granulomatous colitis, which is a severe form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Signs of granulomatous colitis include bloody diarrhea, weight loss, and debilitation. In some cases, digestive issues in Boxers may begin as vomiting, discomfort after eating, or bad gas. If you notice any unusual symptoms, it's important to consult your veterinarian. They may administer wormers or test for parasites with a fecal sample to rule out any underlying health conditions.

How to Prevent Stomach Issues

Preventing stomach issues in Boxers involves a combination of good nutrition, avoiding chemical inputs, and minimizing the use of drugs. Additionally, fasting your Boxer for 12–24 hours can help reset their digestive system, but it's important to consult with your veterinarian before fasting to ensure it's safe and appropriate for your Boxer's individual needs.

Keep Your Boxer Healthy

By being aware of the common health concerns in Boxers and taking steps to prevent them, you can help your furry friend live a long and healthy life. Remember to provide prompt medical attention if health issues arise, and consider getting pet insurance to minimize the costs of veterinary expenses. With your love and care, your Boxer can live their best life by your side.

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