Caring for a 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 chasing wild games. 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 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 Boxer’s 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 are some of the most common health conditions seen in Boxers. These include:
- Brain tumors
- Mast cell tumors (which can be on the skin or internal organs)
- Canine lymphoma (a cancer of the lymph nodes and lymph system)
- Osteosarcoma (cancer of the bone)
- Mammary cancer (breast cancer)
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. A 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 the 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 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 the 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.
Hypothyroidism is a condition that causes the thyroid gland to be underactive. The thyroid gland controls the metabolism.
Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease
The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is an important ligament that stabilizes the knee. 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.
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.
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.
How Much Should You Feed a Boxer
Just like humans, the recommended caloric intake required varies between individuals due to different physical sizes, 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 is 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. 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.
Additionally, Boxers can be protective of the home and family and may not interact well with other dogs unless socialized early.
The Boxer may not be the best breed for young children or frail adults due to their jumping behavior.
Boxer Dog Behavior
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 require 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
- 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.
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.
Boxers have short coats that will shed moderately. To keep their coat as healthy as possible, consider brushing weekly.
The Boxer breed does not have any special eye care requirements.
Considerations for Pet Parents
Additionally, signs of internal cancer may include lethargy, decreased appetite, weakness, or weight loss.
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.
What are the drawbacks of a Boxer?
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, the German boxer, and the English boxer.
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.