Boxer Dog

Virginia LaMon, DVM
Written by:
Published: June 8, 2022
Boxer Dog

The Boxer as it is known today was imported to the United States from Germany in the 1930s. They were used for bull-baiting and to chase wild game. This history means they are excellent runners and playful jumpers. The Boxer is used today by the police and military. Interestingly, in 2005, a Boxer’s DNA was used to sequence the canine genome.

The Boxer dog breed is deep-chested and is usually well-muscled under its smooth coat. They are considered a medium-sized dog breed—weighing in around 65-80 pounds with an average height of 21-23 inches.

Caring for a Boxer Dog

In the past, many Boxers had their ears cropped, but this trend has grown less popular in recent years. They have a prominent lower jaw and a short nose, which makes them sensitive to overheating.

Their high energy and spirited nature typically make Boxers good pets for the active household.

Boxers are prone to health issues, so it is important to talk with your veterinarian and have a strong preventative health routine in place.

Boxer Dog Health Issues

Boxers are predisposed to a few health conditions including cancer, heart disease, and joint problems.

Cancers

Cancers are some of the most common health conditions seen in Boxers. These include:

Spaying prior to the first heat cycle substantially decreases the risk of developing mammary cancer in adulthood. Talk with your vet to learn the risks and benefits of early spaying for your dog. 

Depending on the type of cancer that a Boxer develops, treatments may vary. Surgery is often used to remove the affected tissue. Referral for consultation with a boarded veterinary oncologist is recommended. Chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and/or radiation therapy may be recommended. It is important to recognize that treatment is generally only recommended by veterinary oncologists for as long as quality of life can be maintained.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is degeneration of the heart that causes the muscle of the left ventricle to become very thin and pump weakly. The symptoms of the disease may occur suddenly or progress gradually as the disease worsens over time. DCM can eventually lead to congestive heart failure.

DCM is a very serious condition that requires intensive treatment and not all dogs will return to normal. Treatments include medications like:

  • Antiarrhythmics:  to control arrhythmias

  • Pimobendan: to lower vascular pressure and increase muscle strength

  • Diuretics: to remove excess fluid from the body

  • ACE inhibitors: to lower blood pressure and resistance

  • Cardiac glycosides: to slow the heart rate

  • Vasodilators: to dilate the blood vessels

A correlation between DCM and grain-free diets has been found but is not fully understood. Discussion with a veterinarian regarding the risks/benefits of feeding grain-free diets to Boxers is recommended.

Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC or “Boxer Arrhythmia”)

Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy is a genetic disease that affects the Boxer dog breed and, rarely, other breeds.

The normal heart muscle is replaced by fatty and fibrous tissue which causes abnormal electrical activity and therefore irregular heart rhythm.  ARVC varies in severity.

Many Boxers with ARVC live several years before developing symptoms. ARVC is treated using medications that control the abnormal heart rhythm (antiarrhythmics).

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (“Bloat,” GDV)

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (a severe form of bloat in dogs) is a condition that occurs suddenly and requires immediate life-saving intervention. This occurs when the stomach fills up with food or gas, causing expansion and increased pressure.

The stomach can then rotate, which causes inadequate blood supply to the spleen and stomach. If not treated quickly, shock, tissue damage, and even death can occur.

Increased risk is seen in older dogs that have a deep chest (like the Boxer), are fed from elevated bowls, and are fed only once per day.

Immediate veterinary intervention is needed to stabilize and treat GDV. The longer a dog has this condition without intervention, the greater the risk of death. Initially, fluid therapy, oxygen therapy, and decompression of the stomach may be performed. To repair this condition, surgery is required to return the stomach to the right location and secure it in place (gastropexy).

To prevent GDV, a prophylactic gastropexy can be performed. In other words, surgery can be performed to secure the stomach in the right position to prevent GDV from occurring. This is often done at the same time as the spay/neuter.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition that causes the thyroid gland to be underactive. The thyroid gland controls the metabolism. In hypothyroidism, the body either attacks its own glands or the gland is replaced with fat.

Hypothyroidism is diagnosed using bloodwork. It is treatable with a thyroid hormone replacement medication called levothyroxine, which will be a lifelong medication.

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease

The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is an important ligament that stabilizes the knee. In humans, this is known as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The CCL can break down over time due to degeneration, genetics, obesity, and skeletal/joint conformation. When this ligament breaks down, it is at risk of tearing, which destabilizes the joint.

Surgery is typically required to stabilize the knee. The two most commonly recommended treatments for Boxer-sized dogs are called a Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) and a Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA).

Dogs who have had a CCL tear in one knee have a 40-60% chance of tearing the other CCL. Maintaining a lean body condition helps to prevent CCL disease, as the excess weight adds to the breakdown of the ligament.

What to Feed Boxer Dogs

Feeding an AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials)-approved food commercial kibble or wet food is a good way to make sure that a Boxer receives a complete and balanced diet.

They need quality protein for healthy muscles, including the heart. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids (DHA/EPA) support healthy skin, coat, kidneys, and heart.

You should also talk with your veterinarian about whether or not your Boxer’s dog food should contain grains. There is a correlation between grain-free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy, to which the Boxer is predisposed.

How to Feed a Boxer

The Boxer breed can thrive on being fed one meal a day—or every 12 hours. Using slow feeder bowls can help to slow your Boxer down when they eat, which can help with the prevention of gastric dilatation/volvulus (bloat). Older dogs with deep chests should be fed smaller meals twice a day to help decrease the risk of bloat.

It is not recommended to use raised food bowls; this can actually increase the risk of bloat.

How Much Should You Feed a Boxer

Just like humans, the recommended caloric intake required varies between individuals due to different physical size, metabolism, and activity level. The best way to determine how much to feed your Boxer is to talk with your veterinarian and consult the feeding guide labels on your chosen dog food.

Maintaining a lean body and healthy weight are very important for protecting a Boxer’s joints.

Nutritional Tips for Boxers

Boxers can also benefit from the addition of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA/EPA) into their diets. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in skin and joint supplements, fish oil, and even in some specially formulated dog foods. These fatty acids will act as natural anti-inflammatories that help to support the skin, coat, kidneys, joints, and heart.

Behavior and Training Tips for Boxer Dogs

Boxer Dog Personality and Temperament

Boxers are happy, playful dogs with a lot of energy. They are known to jump and paw when they play—training to teach them to stay down is beneficial.

Additionally, Boxers can be protective of the home and family and may not interact well with other dogs unless socialized early.

The Boxer may be distracted by and/or chase small birds and mammals due to their legacy as hunting dogs. The Boxer may not be the best breed for young children or frail adults due to their jumping behavior.

Boxer Dog Behavior

This happy, playful breed is known for jumping up. They also can be reactive to other dogs and may be protective of the home and family.

Many Boxers like digging in the yard and may even tunnel under a fence. While every individual is different, most Boxers are not excessive barkers. Early leash training can help to prevent pulling on the leash while walking, which is common in Boxers.

Boxer Dog Training

Boxers are very intelligent and trainable but requires patience due to their high energy. They will learn if given clear and consistent commands. Socializing Boxers with other dogs at an early age may help prevent aggressive or fearful interactions with other dogs in adulthood.

Fun Activities for Boxers

  • Fetch

  • Flyball

  • Frisbee

  • Nose work 

Boxer Dog Grooming Guide

The Boxer is a relatively low-maintenance dog breed when it comes to grooming and upkeep. They typically come in three basic color variations: fawn, brindle, and white.

Skin Care

Boxers do not require any special skin care treatment. You can include omega-3 fatty acids in their diet to help support their skin and coat.

Coat Care

Boxers have a short coat that will shed moderately. To keep their coat as healthy as possible, consider brushing weekly. Boxers can be bathed biweekly, if needed, or less frequently if they are keeping themselves clean.

Eye Care

The Boxer breed does not have any special eye care requirements.

Ear Care

To keep your Boxer’s ears healthy, it is recommended to do biweekly ear cleanings to keep their ears clear and clean.

Considerations for Pet Parents

Boxers should have a physical examination with a veterinarian at least annually if they seem healthy. Boxers are predisposed to several heart conditions, including dilated cardiomyopathy, and “Boxer arrythmia” among others. Boxers should be monitored for signs of exercise intolerance, lethargy, or coughing, as these could be signs of a developing heart condition.

Boxers should also be regularly monitored for skin tumors, as these may be cancerous. Additionally, signs of internal cancer may include lethargy, decreased appetite, weakness, or weight loss.

Boxers are a high-energy dog breed known for bouncing around. Therefore, they are not the most ideal dog breed for households with young children, frail individuals, or senior adults who can be knocked down easily.

Boxer Dog Breed FAQs

Is a Boxer a good family dog?

When well-socialized at an early age, the boxer can be a good family dog. Their high energy and jumping may make them less than ideal pets for frail individuals and young children.

Are Boxers smart dogs?

Boxers are very smart and can be trained when given clear, consistent commands.

What are the drawbacks of a Boxer?

Boxers are predisposed to several health conditions, including numerous types of cancer and heart disease. They are very high energy and jump around a lot. If not socialized well at a young age, Boxers can show aggression toward other dogs and/or be protective of the home and family.

What are the types of Boxers?

There are three types of boxers: the American boxer, German boxer, and English boxer. While all boxers are considered a single breed, there are slight variations in appearance based on the type/lineage.

References

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Arrhythmias (Abnormal Rhythms) in Dogs.

American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS). Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus.

American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS). Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease.

 

Featured Image: iStock.com/madcorona


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