In 2010, boxers were the seventh most popular dog breed in the United States, according to the American Kennel Club. But boxers are prone to many health problems, especially puppies. Anyone considering purchasing or adopting a boxer puppy needs education about common health problems of the breed such as bloat, heat stroke and hip dysplasia.
Boxer puppies are prone to bloat because they possess an insatiable appetite coupled with a conformation conducive to bloat -- deep chests and narrow waists. Boxer puppies or adults that bolt their food can develop bloat, also known as stomach torsion or gastric-dilatation volvulus. Gas pressure accumulates in the stomach and expands the stomach to dangerous degrees. The stomach presses on other organs and can shut off blood supply to the stomach and heart. Bloat is a medical emergency. Symptoms include abdominal swelling, dry heaves, drooling and panting suddenly due to pain.
Boxers possess a very short nose or a brachycephalic face. Although this makes a boxer cute, the shape of the nose can lead to serious health issues, most notably heat stroke. Dogs regulate their body temperature through panting, not sweating. The tissues inside of a dog's nose help cool inhaled air. But brachycephalic noses like boxers work inefficiently because they lack enough of this tissue. Boxer puppies play vigorously, even during hot and humid weather. They may play until they collapse with heat stroke. Heat stroke can be fatal. Symptoms of heat stroke include panting rapidly, struggling for breath, bright red gums and loss of coordination.
The American Boxer Club states that hip dysplasia is the leading cause for lameness in boxers and that 11.3 percent of boxers develop dysplasia. Hip dysplasia, mostly seen in puppies, is a genetic disease that causes malformations of the hip sockets. The head of the femoral leg bone rolls loosely in the socket, causing pain, lameness and arthritis. Puppies begin to show signs of lameness and sitting awkwardly when they are from 6 to 18 months old, according to Mar Vista Animal Medical Center. Hip dysplasia is treatable, often through surgery.
Sometimes known as boxer cardiomyopathy or arrythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, this is a genetic heart problem that can cause sudden death from congestive heart failure in boxers of all ages. Boxers with this condition may suddenly faint or go into a seizure. Boxer cardiomyopathy is treatable with medication.
- AKC: AKC Dog Registration Statistics
- Pet Education.com: Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus) in Dogs; Holly Nash, DVM, MS
- "The Howell Book of Dogs"; Liz Palika; 2009
- Boxer Rescue LA: Boxer Heat Tips
- The American Boxer Club; Genetic Diseases; Paul W. Gerard, MD; 1998
- Mar Vista Animal Medical Center; Hip Dysplasia; August 2010
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