The special health considerations of the Boxer dog
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The special health considerations of the Boxer dog

Dogs
Health & Safety

The Boxer dog is a medium sized shorthaired dog with a slightly stocky appearance and signature squashed-looking face. While these dogs originally hail from Germany, they have been popular as pets within the UK for decades, and can be found in many colours and coat patterns, from white right through to brindle. Interestingly, the Boxer dog does not carry the necessary gene to produce an all black coat colour, so you will never see a pedigree Boxer dog that is coloured black!

The Boxer dog has a brachycephalic face, which is the term used to describe the rather flattened appearance of the head of the breed, and the shortened nasal passages that accompany it. While this does not pose as much or a problem as it often does in other more extreme breeds (such as the Pug or the British Bulldog) it does nevertheless require some consideration, as it has an impact on the Boxer dog’s daily life. The degree to which the face is flattened will have a large part to play in this, and Boxer dogs with rather longer muzzles than most will likely only be affected to a very minor degree.

Read on to learn more about the special considerations to bear in mind for the Boxer dog’s general health, and the effect of their brachycephalic muzzles.

General Boxer dog health and genetic health conditions

Overall, the Boxer dog is generally a relatively healthy pedigree breed, with an average lifespan of 9-12 years. The UK Kennel Club’s breed survey lists the leading causes of death in the mature Boxer dog as:

  • Cancer at 38.5%
  • Old age at 21%
  • Heart problems and cardiac issues at 6.9%
  • Digestive, stomach and gastrointestinal issues at 6.9%

The leading health issue associated with Boxer dogs is cancer, although they can also be particularly prone to a range of other conditions as well, including:

  • Boxer Cardiomyopathy, otherwise known as Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy
  • Aortic Stenosis
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Canine Epilepsy
  • GDV (bloat)
  • Intestinal problems
  • Entropion(Eyelids Folding Inwards)

It is also worth noting that the Boxer dog is often prone to allergies, and is particularly known to be sensitive to acepromazine, which is one of the most commonly used sedatives in veterinary practices. Veterinary surgeons will almost always automatically use a different sedative when necessary in treating Boxer dogs, but it can be valuable for the owner of the Boxer dog to be aware of this sensitivity and double-check with the veterinary surgeon before treatment what sedative will be used for their dog.

The Boxer dog is an active and athletic breed, which requires plenty of exercise and stimulation to stay healthy. Ensuring that your dog receives enough exercise and is fed an appropriate diet for their activity levels and life stage is important, in order to maximise the chances of your Boxer dog remaining in good health into old age.

The Boxer dog’s brachycephalic face and what this means for the dog

The brachycephalic appearance of the Boxer dog’s face comes accompanied by some challenges of its own, although how pronounced these are will vary from case to case. The more pronounced the degree of the facial flattening, the more pronounced the affects of this will be. As well as contributing to the squashed up appearance of the muzzle, the brachycephalic nose also means that the nasal passages of the dog are shorter than normal, which can lead to a range of potential side effects.

  • Narrowed airways can lead to difficulties in getting enough air when breathing through the nose, which in extreme cases may require surgical correction.
  • The fact that the eyes are particularly prominent due to the short muzzle means that they are at heightened risk of becoming scratched or damaged (such as by the swipe of a cat’s paw or by brambles) and are also more likely to be affected by problems with tear production and entropion.
  • Due to their shortened nose, Boxers may breathe noisily or snore to some extent. Laboured breathing or extremely loud snoring that appears laboured may again require correction.
  • As Boxer dog’s noses mean that they breathe rather shallowly, they can have problems regulating their temperature during hotter weather. They are more likely to be prone to heatstroke than most other dogs, and special measures should be taken to ensure that they can be kept cool in hot weather.
  • Boxer dogs are one of the more active brachycephalic dog breeds, and are not as severely affected by their shortened muzzles as many other breeds are. The Boxer dog is the only brachycephalic breed that can regularly be seen taking part in agility competitions and other dog sports, and they make good exercise companions for active owners.

Boxer dogs and swimming

It often comes as a surprise to dog lovers to learn that not all dogs can swim! Many dogs love the water, and the ability to swim is the norm for the vast majority of dog breeds. However, various different breeds and types of dogs are unable to swim, due to their unique conformation. Many brachycephalic dogs are unable to swim, as they are unable to both propel themselves forwards through the water and keep their flattened muzzle above the water in order to breathe at the same time.

This is sometimes true for the Boxer dog, and many dogs of the breed cannot swim for this reason. However, some Boxer dogs, particularly those with longer muzzles and less flattened faces will be able to swim, although how well or how keenly depends on the dog in question.

Even if you never intend to take your Boxer dog swimming, it can be helpful to find out if your dog is actually capable of swimming, in order to mitigate any risk factors when you are out and about around water.

Try to find a safe place where you can allow your dog to walk in and out (rather than jump from a bank) into safe, clean water, and be ready and able to pull your dog out of the water if they prove unable to manage to swim. Bear in mind that the Boxer is not a small dog, and may require two people to lift them, particularly if they are thrashing about!

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