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Common Health Problems and Issues For Boxer Dogs

Updated on December 29, 2015
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Anna studied psychology, law, English, and animal welfare in college. She is a mother of two and aspires to become a vet some day.

Boxers are lively, playful and loving dogs who have, as a breed, captured the hearts of many dog-lovers. They are among the most popular and most commonly seen dog breeds in the United States. As with all dog breeds though, boxers are particularly prone to developing certain conditions and diseases that as an owner, you need to know about in order to protect your pet.

CCLR In Boxers

One common problem seen in boxers is a condition known as Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture (CCLR), which is the culprit for most cases of hind-limb lameness in dogs.

The other way CCLR can occur is if the dog twists or jumps and tears the ligament, which can be extremely painful. CCLR can also lead to damage to the menisci (two small cushions of fibrecartilage in the knee), which may result in the dog needing surgery.

This condition can be seen in boxers as young as 12 months, and the main symptoms include stiffness after resting - particularly after rest taken following exercise, difficulty getting up and down stairs and problems jumping into the car, for instance. The most common type of surgery to correct CCLR is Tibial Plateau Levelling Osteotomy (TPLO), which has a fantastic success rate.

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Aortic Stenosis

Heart problems are, unfortunately, also incredibly common in boxers simply because they are a larger breed and even the healthiest boxer dog can develop a heart murmur. This condition can range from mild to severe, so it is best to know as much as possible about Aortic Stenosis (heart murmurs), so that you know what symptoms to look out for, and what to do if you suspect your dog is having heart issues.

Aortic Stenosis is caused when the valve between the aorta and the heart becomes blocked, which results in the body struggling to pump the desired amount of blood to and from the heart. Vets grade the severity of this condition between zero and six - with six being the most problematic, and zero meaning 'no murmur detected'.

Symptoms can include coughing, difficulty exercising and a longer recovery time after walks, collapsing and an increased heart rate/skipped heart beats. If you suspect your dog may be suffering from this condition it is vital to get them checked out by a vet as soon as possible, so the severity of the issue can be determined and appropriate steps can be taken to prevent the situation becoming worse.

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Arrhythmic Cardiomyopathy

Arguably one of the most commonly diagnosed heart problems in the boxer breed specifically, arrhythmic cardiomyopathy (AC), refers to an abnormality in the heart muscle which manifests itself as extra or skipped heart beats. This is an incurable condition, but it can be managed with medication which will be prescribed by a vet. Quite often this is only diagnosed during a regular check up as there can be few or even no symptoms aside from the abnormal heart rate.

Bloat In Boxers

'Bloat' - a health problem in many boxer dogs - actually refers to two separate conditions - the first is gastric dilatation, where the distended stomach fills with gas and water, and the second is volvulus, where the stomach rotates on it's long axis - because the spleen is attached to the wall of the stomach and therefore turns with it, this results in a twisted stomach (180 degrees or more). This has to be corrected through surgery if volvulus has occurred, but in less serious cases and if caught early, bloat can be treated by a vet feeding a small tube down the dog's throat to help the built up gas escape.

Bloat can be deadly, so it is important to act fast if you suspect your dog may be suffering from it. Symptoms include pacing, being unable to get comfortable, restlessness, whining, attempts to vomit with no success, panting even when resting, abdominal swelling (after food in particular) and salivating. You can help prevent bloat from occurring by feeding your dog several smaller meals instead of one big meal and not exercising the dog immediately before of after meals (a 30- minute resting period is advised).

Types of Tumours In Boxer Dogs

There are two types of tumour that boxers are particularly prone to. The first type are known as Mast Cell Tumours (MCT), and can be fatal if not treated quickly. They present themselves as hard, raised lumps that can appear singularly or in groups anywhere on the body and can range from one to 10 cm in diameter. These are extremely common, and the aggressiveness of the tumour varies greatly - some can be no risk at all, whereas others pose a threat to the animal's life - the vet will be able to determine the seriousness of the tumour(s) relatively quickly, but will almost always suggest removal.

These lumps can change size daily - shrinking as well as growing. If you notice the tumour has shrunk, it does not mean it is getting better and a check-up is still needed.

The second kind of tumour is known as histiocytoma. These are benign, although ironically, they look scarier than MCT, which are the more dangerous form of tumour. They appear as hairless, raised, red lumps that appear suddenly - usually around the head, ears and limbs. These are not painful or uncomfortable for the animal, but it is best to have them removed to prevent them growing as they can become quite large or become infected.


Epulis is a condition seen often in boxers where the gum grows over the tooth, which causes a lot of discomfort during meal times. Sometimes a fleshy lump in the mouth appears, known as a 'peduncle', and this needs to be removed as soon as possible to prevent infection.

Fortunately this is a relatively fast, easy procedure to carry out and your dog will usually be able to go home with you that same day. Warning signs of Epulis include bleeding gums and bad breath. Boxers, of all the dog breeds, are amongst the biggest sufferers of allergies.

Food Allergies and Sensitivity in Dogs

Food allergies usually manifest themselves as colitis or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, whereas other allergies can result in itchiness, sore ears, lesions, red or 'angry' skin and swelling. A vet can determine what it is that your dog is allergic to and prescribe medication to help. Sometimes allergies get better over time, without the need for medication.

Boxers Suffer Heatstroke Easily!

One last thing for Boxer owners to be aware of, is that bracecyphalic dogs such as boxers (dogs that have shorter noses and extra flesh in their mouths and throats), are particularly susceptible to overheating and conditions such as heat stroke.

Therefore it is vital to avoid intense exercise with your boxer in hot weather and try to engage in water play with them - by providing a kiddies paddling pool in the garden, you can prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke which can be extremely dangerous. If your boxer is digging in the ground and it is a particularly hot day, this is one of the first signs of heat stress and it is important to get the dog to a cool place and ensure they drink plenty of water.


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