Common (Boxer) Health Information

Common Boxer Medical Information

This listing is to help the new Boxer owner with some terms that more experienced owners/breeders use and understand.     THIS PAGE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.  IF YOU SUSPECT ILLNESS, PLEASE HAVE YOUR DOG SEEN BY A LICENSED VETERINARIAN.

Normal temperature: Adults= 100-102.5° F, average being 101.3° F.

Pulse Rate: Adults 60-160 beats per minute; Puppies 220 beats per minute.

Respiration: 10-30 breaths per minute, resting.

Toenails: It is important to keep your dog's nails short. You can see from this illustration that the longer the nails become, the more pressure is exerted on the bones in the foot. This condition is painful and can lead to structural problems. Dogs must be taught that nail trimming is necessary and must be tolerated. My dogs & I prefer to use a nail grinder. I believe that the reason most dogs do not like getting their nails cut is caused by the pressure exerted by the clipper which is avoided when using a grinder. You can use a regular Dremel tool found at Walmart & other hardware stores.

Body Parts LabeledCLICK HERE to see what exactly we are talking about when we say "hock joint" or "croup".

Skeletal Structure: Same as above without skin & muscles - CLICK HERE.

ACEPROMAZINE: Acepromazine, a tranquilizer often used as a pre-anesthetic agent, should not be used in the Boxer. It tends to cause a problem called first degree heart block, a potentially serious arrhythmia of the heart. It also causes a profound hypotension (severe lowering of the blood pressure) in many Boxers that receive the drug.

This drug is the most commonly prescribed tranquilizer in veterinary medicine. It is also used orally and is prescribed for owners who want to tranquilize their dogs for air or car travel. I would strongly recommend that Boxer owners avoid the use of this drug, especially when the dog will be unattended and/or unable to receive emergency medical care if it is needed.

Wendy Wallner, DVM July, 1997

In the 1993 edition of "Handbook of Veterinary Drugs" (which every vet has) it says this about the drug:

"Prolonged effects of the drug may be seen in older animals. Giant breeds, as well as greyhounds, appear quite sensitive to the clinical effects of the drug, yet terrier breeds appear more resistant. Boxer dogs, on the other hand, are predisposed to hypotensive and bradycardic effects of the drug."

For safety's sake, we do not recommend using this drug on any boxer.

Brucellosis: This is disease of the dog is caused by a bacteria called Brucella canis. It is an important cause of reproductive failure in dogs. It is the leading cause of late abortions (45-55 days gestation) and may be the cause of stillborn or sickly puppies that die shortly after birth. Highly contagious through contact (with infected animal, items that animal has touched, bodily fluids-urine, drool or through sexual contact); causes sterility without any obvious signs of disease. Testing is available through your vet and should be done on all dogs before breeding. At present, there is no effective vaccine, treatment or cure.

Gestation:Normal gestation is counted from the first day bred. Averages about 59-66 days (63 day average). If you did not know this before coming here, please rethink the idea of breeding your dog. It is alot of work and there are more things to consider besides how much you will get for the puppies.

Tail Docking: This procedure, along with dewclaw removal, should be done before the pups are 1 week of age and only by a veterinarian.  For Boxers, tails should be docked leaving approximately 1/2" - 3/4" depending on the size of the puppy.

Elongated Palate: Breeds with "pushed-in" faces (like our beloved Boxers) frequently show some degree of airway obstruction manifested by mouth breathing, snorting and snoring. These difficulties are more pronounced during exercise and when the dog is hot. They tend to get worse as the dog gets older. In some cases the mouth breathing may be associated with collapsed nostrils. The problem with the Bulldog breeds is that the palate partially blocks the opening into the voice box.

Reverse Sneezing: This condition is a cause of some alarm because it sounds like the dog has something stuck in his throat. It is believed to be due to a temporary spasm of the throat muscles or an accumulation of mucus. During an attack, the dog violently pulls air in through the nose, producing a loud snorting noise as if something is caught in the nose and the dog is trying to draw it in. The dog is perfectly normal before and after the attacks. There is no treatment.

Mange: This condition is caused by the over abundance of the demodex mite (CLICK HERE FOR IMAGE)  that normally is found in small numbers on the dog's skin. There are 2 forms of Demodectic Mange. Localized-Is characterized by a moth-eaten look due to hair loss around the eyelids, mouth and front legs. Patches are about 1" in diameter, fewer than 5 in number. Occurs frequently in dogs & bitches less than one year old. Often does not need any treatment and clears up within 3 weeks. Generalized-Progression of the above. Numerous patches enlarge and coalesce. Severe skin problem complicated by pyoderma. Affects dogs af all ages. This one requires veterinarian treatment IMMEDIATELY! If left untreated, this could cause death.

Bile Attacks: Bile is the fluid that is constantly being produced by the liver. In some Boxers, as well as Great Danes & Dobermans, it is produced in excess at certain times--usually in the morning. Your dog will not eat anything except grass, loud stomach noises can be heard, and he will be in obvious discomfort until he finally vomits. (Vomitted bile is yellowish foamy stuff.) After that, your dog is back to norma!. It is a good idea to give him some yogurt after such an attack to replace the natural flora in the stomach. There is no cure or treatment (other than getting him out quickly!) and is usually outgrown.

Bloat: Also known as gastric dilation-torsion complex. This is an emergency and a life-threatening disease that usually affects dogs in the prime of thier lives. Mortality rates approach 50%. The term bloat refers to any of 3 conditions: acute gastric dilatation, torsion and volvulus.

Bloat, also known as the over-feeding (or over-eating) syndrome involves the swelling of the stomach from trapped gas, fluid, or both. Once distended, the stomach may twist abruptly--the amount of twist determines whether it is torsion or volvulus. Some interesting facts about bloat:

  • Dogs with bloat nearly always are between 4-7 years old; nearly 2/3 are males.

  • Usually affects dogs of the larger, deeper chested breeds and rarely occurs in small breeds.

  • Dogs who bloat tend to eat large amounts of dry kibble.

  • They exercise vigorously after eating, and tend to drink water in large amounts after meals.

  • They may have a history of digestive upsets (gastritis).

  • There may be a familial association with other dogs who have bloated.

Our advice to prevent this from happening to your dog is:

  • Feed your dog frequent small meals instead of one large one.

  • Raise both the food and water dishes.

  • Restrict activities right after eating (remember your mom's rule about swimming after you eat?)

  • If your dog is a vaccuum eater, try putting a tennis ball or a large stone in the food dish. He will have to try harder, routing around that ball to get to the food and won't be able to "suck" it down so quickly.

Internal Parasites: This link shows a picture of what some of the common internal parasites look like. These can easily be controlled or eliminated by routine fecal testing and deworming by your veterinarian. Wormers are poisons and the most effective and safe ones are only available through your veterinarian.

Hookworms: Appear as small white or reddish-brown segments less than an inch long. These worms "hook" onto a pet's intestinal lining and feed on their blood. They release eggs into the intestine, thena re passed through the feces. Hookworms cause blood loss, which can be fatal to puppies and kittens.

Roundworms: Almost all puppies are born with roundworms. They are exposed through mom's milk or contaminated soil. White or yellow-white strands approximately 2-7 inches long ("strings of spaghetti") can be observed in vomit or feces. Tell-tale signs of roundworm is rough coat, bloated belly, diarrhea and vomiting, most infections are not apparent.

Tapeworm: Seen most often in freshly passed stools; segments are white or pinkish-white and resemble grains of rice. Normally harmless, but annoying. Two types affect dogs in the US-the flea tapeworm is the most common. The other type involves the dog biting into a host animal such as a rabbit or mouse.

Ringworms:Ringworm is not a worm but a plantlike growth that lives on the surface of the skin. The majority of cases are caused by the fungus Microsporum canis. Ringworm is contagious and can be spread from dogs to humans with small children being most suseptible. Ringworm grows in circular patches 1/2" to 2" in size. Although simple ringworm is not an itchy condition, scabs and crusts can form leading to draining sores. Often times this is condition resembles demodectic mange or dry seborrhea. Simple skin scrapings are used to diagnosis this condition.

Transmission occurs by direct and indirect contact. Infected hair shafts break easily which causes the spores to be transmitted directly to other animals or people; or by indirect contact with infected hair and scale in the environment or by spores. Contact with infected bedding, cages and grooming equipment are the most common ways to become infected. The spores can remain viable on hairs for over a year at room temperature, become airborne and easily transported, with the average incubation period being 1-3 weeks, but as long as 6 weeks.

Contributing Factors:

    • Poor nutritional level-malnourished or Vitamin A deficiency

    • Age-Under 4 years of age are more susceptible due to naïve immune systems; geriatric pets whose bodies are less resistant to infections.

    • Pregnancy or Lactation- added stress on the female's body.

    • Depressed Immune System-ability to mount an inflammatory response.

    • Highly Stressful Environments-which can include overcrowding, poor ventilation, severe or frequent temperature changes and many more.

There are other skin diseases that can mimic Dermatophytosis, but the classic clinical signs are:

    • Lesions

    • Broken, brittle hairs

    • Alopecia (hair loss, usually with some scaling and/r crusting)

    • May resemble demodetic mange

    • Poor coat condition-hair deterioration

    • Bald patches on ears, around eyes and front legs.

Heartworm: Canine heartworm disease is so named because the adult worm live in the right side of the heart. It is a common problem spread by ordinary mosquitos and is found everywhere they are. It has been reported in other animals & humans. It is easily preventable. Yearly blood tests check for infestations and if your dog is clear, you can put them on a monthly heartworm preventative you can get from your veterinarian. Below is a picture of what heartworms do to your dog's heart.  Here is what an infected heart looks like.

Kennel Cough: Is highly contagious and so named because dogs often catch it while in a boarding situation where others have or are carriers of the disease. Several viruses and bacteria, alone or in combination, are the causative agents most common being canine adenovirus 2 ,(CAV 2), canine parainfluenza virus (CPI)and the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica. A harsh, dry, spastic cough is the characteristic sign of this illness. Otherwise, the dog looks bright and alert, eats well and seems to maintain an overall good condition. In puppies, kennel cough is a more serious illness. The narrow airways of youngsters are prone to obstruction and they may need help in improving breathing and preventing pneumonia. Dogs suspected should be isolated. Call your vet for treatment. Vaccinations are available for dogs who will be in highly social situations (ie dog shows, boarding, hunt trials) but the nature of the illness is such that vaccinating is no guarantee.

Parvovirus: A highly resistant virus that can withstand extreme temperature changes and exposure to most disinfectants. It can persist in the environment for months. Transmitted by feces and transported on the hair or feet of infected dogs. Attacks the intestinal tract, white blood cells, and heart muscle.


  • Severe diarrhea (often bloody)

  • Vomiting

  • Loss of appetite

  • Depression

  • High fever.

Infected pups may act depressed, collapse gasping for breath, and death may follow immediately. Pups that survive may have permanently damaged hearts. Death occurs within 48-72 hours after onset of symptoms. HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS.

Corona: Causes moderate to severe disease involving the stomach and intestines, most common in young pups. Corona can set dogs up for more severe cases of Parvo.

Leptospirosis: Infectious bacterial disease transmitted by contact with urine; infection occurs through oral mucous membranes, cornea. Can be spread to humans.


  • High fever

  • Depression

  • Jaundice

  • Internal bleeding (blood in stools)

  • Vomiting

  • Impaired vision

  • Convulsions

  • Severe thirst

  • Increased frequency of urination

Incubation period is 5-15 days, spread by rats.

Bordetellosis (Kennel Cough): Caused by the bacterium Bordetella Bronchiseptica, Adenovirus Types 1 & 2, and parainfluenza. A respiratory tract infection transmitted by nasal secretions.


  • Harsh, nonproductive, occasionally severe cough lasting 1-3 weeks.

  • Cough is stimulated by physical exertion or simply touching the throat area.

Self-limiting unless pneumonia develops.

Hepatitis(Andenovirus Type 1): A virus that attacks the liver. It is transmitted by contact with contaminated objects of urine, saliva and feces. It does not cause human hepatitis.


  • Occassional whiteness or cloudiness of the eye.

  • General illness

  • Lack of appetite

  • Pale gums

  • Vomit

  • Diarrhea

  • Fever

Another strain of the same virus causes respirator tract infections.

Parainfluenza (Adenovirus Type 2): Mild respirator tract infection transmitted through contact with nasal secretions.


  • Fever

  • Nasal discharge

  • Coughing

Mild and/or short duration (about 6 days); incubation period is approximately 9 days. Adenovirus Type 2 provides protection against canine infectious hepatitis caused by Canine Adenovirus Type 1 (CAV-1) without causing adverse reactions associated with CAV-1 (such as "blue eye").

Distemper: Transmitted by direct or indirect contact with discharges from an infected dog's eyes and nose. The virus can be carried by air currents and inanimate objects, as well as urine and fecal material. Seen most often in puppies 3-6 months old and is the primary killer of puppies. Early signs resemble a severe cold.

Other Symptoms:

  • Squinting

  • Congestion of the eyes

  • Eye discharges

  • Weight loss

  • Vomiting

  • Nasal discharge

  • Poor appetite

  • Diarrhea

  • Most dogs have a fever and stuffy head

Distemper can cause permanent damage to nervous system, sense of smell, hearing and sight. HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS.

by Dr. Jean Dodd

All of the 27 Vet Universities in the US have followed the immunization protocol as suggested by Dr. Dodd for years. All of these Hospitals will be changing their Vaccination Programs apparently. This is welcome news and you should print this out and take it with you to your Vet should you need reinforcement against over-vaccination.

VACCINE PROTOCOL I would like to make you aware that all 27 veterinary schools in North America are in the process of changing their protocols for vaccinating dogs and cats. Some of this information will present an ethical & economic challenge to Vets, and there will be skeptics. Some organizations have come up with a political compromise suggesting vaccinations every 3 years to appease those who fear loss of income vs. those concerned about potential side effects. Politics, traditions, or the doctors economic well-being should not be a factor in a medical decision.

Dogs and cats immune systems mature fully at 6 months. If a modified live virus vaccine is given after 6 months of age, it produces immunity, which is good for the life of the pet (i.e.: canine distemper, parvo, feline distemper). If another MLV vaccine is given a year later, the antibodies from the first vaccine neutralize the antigens of the second vaccine and there is little or no effect. The titer is not "boosted" nor are more memory cells induced. Not only are annual boosters for parvo and distemper unnecessary, they subject the pet to potential risks of allergic reactions and immune-mediated haemolytic anemia. There is no scientific documentation to back up label claims for annual administration of MLV vaccines. Puppies receive antibodies through their mothers milk. This natural protection can last 8 - 14 weeks. Puppies & kittens should NOT be vaccinated at LESS than 8 weeks. Maternal immunity will neutralize the vaccine and little protection (0-38%) will be produced. Vaccination at 6 weeks will, however, DELAY the timing of the first highly effective vaccine. Vaccinations given 2 weeks apart SUPPRESS rather than stimulate the immune system. A series of vaccinations is given starting at 8 weeks and given 3-4 weeks apart up to 16 weeks of age. Another vaccination given sometime after 6 months of age (usually at l year 4 mo) will provide LIFETIME IMMUNITY.

Giardia: Giardia is a one-celled microscopic parasite that infects the intestinal tract of animals and humans. It has been estimated that 36-50% of puppies, and 10% of well-treated adult dogs, and up to 100% of dogs in breeding kennels are infected (according to Ft. Dodge Animal Health).

Coccidiosis: Coccidosis is a protozoan-one-celled animal. It is not visible to the naked eye, but is visible under a microscope. It is easy to identify in fecal flotations. Coccidiosis usually produces infection in young kittens and puppies, but adults can be affected. Transmitted from animal to animal through feces that contain oocysts. Other animals can act as an intermediate or transport host. The entire life cycle lasts one week. Cocci can be found in the animals stools without causing any problems until a stress factor causes an outbreak.

Hypothyroidism: Is when the thyroid glands (located in the neck) do not produce enough thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism can affect most body systems. The most common clinical signs are:

  • lethargy

  • mental depression

  • either obesity or weight loss

  • heat seeking

  • low body temperature

  • hair loss

  • hyperpigmentation

  • seborrhea

  • ear infections

  • muscle and joint weakness

  • slow heart beat

  • infertility

  • and several eye conditions.

A simple blood test is required for diagnosis. Boxers being considered for breeding stock should be tested and certification is possible through OFA (Orthopedic Foudation for Animals).

Hip Dysplaysia: This is the most common cause of rear-end lameness in the dog. It occurs almost exclusively in the larger breeds-those weighing more than 35 lbs as adults. The problem lies in the structure of the hip joint. The head of the femur (thigh bone) should fit solidly in the acetabulum (cup). In dysplaysic dogs, loose ligaments allow the head to begin to work free. A shallow acetabulum also predisposes to joint laxity. Finally, the mass or tone of muscles around the joint socket is an important factor. Hip dysplaysia is a moderately heritable condition. It is twice as likely among littermates having a dysplastic parent.  Breeding stock is commonly x-rayed and certified by PennHip or OFA. Those with even mild dysplaysia should NOT be bred.

Orthopedic Foundation for Animals

Lumps & Bumps on or beneath the skin: This list is by no means all inclusive.

  • Papillomas & Warts: Grow out from the skin and look like warts or pieces of chewing gum stuck to the skin. Can occur in the mouth. Not painful.

  • Hematomas: Collections of blood beneath the skin, especially of the ears. Caused by trauma.

  • Tender Knots: Frequently found at the site of a shot or vaccination. Resolve spontaneously and are often painful.

  • Cysts: Smooth lumps beneath the skin. May grow slowly and can discharge cheesy material. Can become infected but are otherwise not painful.

  • When a Lump May Be Cancer: Rapid enlargement; appears hard and fixed to surrounding tissue; any lump growing from bone; a lump that starts to bleed; a mole that begins to spread and /or ulcerate; unexplained open sore that does not heal, especially on feet or legs; any lump in the breast. Note:Only way to tell for sure is to biopsy the lump.

Brain Tumors: These tumors are NOT common and occur mostly in dogs over 5 years old. the highest incident is found in short-nosed, large-domed breeds such as Boxers, bulldogs, and Boston Terriers. Signs are gradual and dependent on the location of the tumor and rate of growth. Diagnosis requires a neurologic exam and special studies. In some cases, surgery may be an option. Chemotherapy & radiation therapy have not proven to be efficacious in dogs.

Bone Spurs (Spondylosis): Osteoophytes are bone spurs that form around intervertebral discs in all breeds as a natural process of aging. Fusion of these osteophytes, called spondylosis deformans, restricts motion of the vertebral column and can cause pain. This condition is more pronounced in large breeds. In most dogs, this produces few if any symptoms. Dogs with pain and stiffness can be treated with analgesics.