If boxers aren't in line to get evaluated, I'd like to put them there... No hurry. :)
Ah, Boxers. Clowning cancer factories. They’re such an interesting breed and frequent visitors to the vet clinic. They’re also one of the addictive breeds, meaning that despite their flaws there are a lot of people that once they own one, are never without one ever again. You might want to sit down and have a cup of tea.
Disclaimer: These posts are about the breed from a veterinary viewpoint as
seen in clinical practice, i.e. the problems we are faced with. It’s not
the be-all and end-all of the breed and is not to make a judgement
about whether the breed is right for you. If you are asking for an
opinion about these animals in a veterinary setting, that is what you
will get. It’s not going to be all sunshine and cupcakes, and is not
intended as a personal insult against your favorite breed. This is
general advice for what is common, often with a scientific consensus but
sometimes based on personal experiences, and is not a guarantee of what
your dog is going to encounter in their life.
So, the number one thing that Boxers as a breed are known for in veterinary medicine, if there one one solitary defining feature that was the reason most veterinary professionals decide against owning a boxer, a breed they would otherwise like, then at the risk of being insensitive, (since you like sparkly gifs) its…
Boxers are prone to cancer like no other breed I know, closely followed by Golden Retrievers. They develop all sorts with great ease, at unfortunately young ages with great regularity.
Mast Cell Tumors are the bane of the boxer breed. These tumors can
develop anywhere on the body, including in organs like the spleen, and
in any layer of the skin. These tumors are sometimes called the Great
Pretenders because they can look like lots of different things. They’re
easily mistaken for benign lipomas by feel, and can be misdiagnosed if
they’re growing under a lipoma by FNA as it’s easy to miss a small lump
with a small needle.
While a low grade MCT has a chance to be cured with surgery of detected
early, a high grade one is all kinds of trouble even with modern
chemotherapy options. It’s fear of these tumors that cause many vets,
including myself, to be highly suspicious of every single lump on a
boxer or boxer cross.
Boxers also seem highly prone to other cancers too, lymphoma being high
on the list. Individuals with a white belly also get squamous cell
carcinomas and cutaneous haemangiomas.
They are one of the very few breeds known to develop malignant histiocytomas, which is especially unfortunate considering that in most dogs a histiocytoma goes away all on its own in a few months, but in Boxers it will potentially kill them.
So while any lump on any dog can be a malignant cancer, Boxer’s have the added ‘fun’ of developing lumps that probably would have been fine on an other dog and look benign but sometimes actually aren’t. Can you understand my paranoia?
Boxers are a brachycephalic breed, meaning they have shortened muzzles and flattened faces. There is significant individual variation within this breed, but more extreme individuals do suffer from Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BAS)
Their facial conformation leaves their eyes prone to numerous Eye Conditions, including but not limited to cherry eye, entropion, exposure keratopathy and corneal ulcers. They also get a particularly difficult to treat eye ulcer called ‘indolent ulcers’ which are sometimes just called ‘Boxer dog ulcers’. They also get progressive retinal atrophy which is probably more genetic than anything else.
Speaking of diseases that are names after the breed (rarely a good sign), this breed also gets an unusual gastrointestinal disease called Histiocytic Ulcerative Collitis, which is also called Boxer Dog Collitis. For brevity’s sake, think of it a bit like a type of IBD of Chron’s disease.
And while we’re still on the topic of diseases named after this breed, Boxer Cardiomyopathy, which is really a
arrhythmogenic right ventricular
cardiomyopathy that’s primarily identified in boxers, also afflicts this breed. It’s not their only heart condition though, Dilated cardiomyopathy, atrial-septal defect, subaortic stenosis and sick sinus syndrome also occur.
This is turning into a long post, isn’t it. Do you want a break? How about another gif?
Okay, let’s talk some more about Boxers from a veterinary standpoint.
Boxers are prone to a couple of neurological disorders, Wobbler Syndrome is more common in larger males but degenerative myelopathy can occur in any boxer, is they live long enough to get it.
Younger boxers may develop demodex, if they’re juvenile when they do so it’s likely due to a funky immune system, which might explain a lot about this breed. Boxers that are predominantly white may also be deaf in one of both ears. It’s claimed that white boxers are more prone to cancer too, and for skin cancers this is true, but all boxers are prone to cancer. Hence the sparkly gif.
Possibly related to an interesting immune system, the breed is prone to allergies and atopy. This is a day to day annoyance on top of he life threatening/shortening conditions this breed is likely to develop.
Speaking of life threatening, the boxer dog is certainly deep chested enough to develop Gastric Dilatation Volvulus and need a trip to the emergency clinic.
And possibly the least interesting thing on this list the breed is seen relatively frequently for in the veterinary clinic is hip dysplasia.
Gosh, a long list never looks good, especially when three conditions are named after the breed.
Boxer’s also have a reputation for anaesthetic sensitivity. This is often exaggerated in breed circles, assuming the boxer in question doesn’t have one of the aforementioned heart conditions, but because they are brachephalic they have a higher vagal tone and are more sensitive to the common sedative acepromazine.
This doesn’t mean you can’t use acepromazine in boxers, only that you have to be careful with it. I will often use it at a tenth to a quarter the dose in young, nutty individuals before surgery, but some vets wont use it at all.
Can you see how living with one of these dogs would drive me nuts from a medical paranoia standpoint?
First, nice emoticon Anon, second please note the disclaimer.
General Disclaimer: These posts are about the breed from a veterinary viewpoint as seen in clinical practice, i.e. the problems we are faced with. It’s not the be-all and end-all of the breed and is not to make a judgement about whether the breed is right for you. If you are asking for an opinion about these animals in a veterinary setting, that is what you will get. It’s not going to be all sunshine and cupcakes, and is not intended as a personal insult against your favorite breed. This is general advice for what is common, often with a scientific consensus but sometimes based on personal experiences, and is not a guarantee of what your dog is going to encounter in their life.
They are certainly a distinctive breed and are generally charismatic but they are fairly rare in my area. While the breed has a devoted fan base they’re not super popular like some other large dog breeds, so if someone does intend to get one they’ve generally had a serious think about the breed and it’s requirements. They may be more common than they appear to be because they are one of those breeds with owners that are more likely to pick their vet based on a breeder’s recommendation than proximity, so as far as I could tell most of them were going to the same practice.
They are big dogs and their coat takes maintenance, they need a lot of exercise and an astute owner. They’re also unfortunately shorter lived on average than other breeds of similar size.
The breed suffers from higher than average incidence of elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, and osteochondrosis dissicans of the shoulder. They are one of the breeds with the highest incidences of elbow dysplasia and while I see them very rarely in general practice I saw one every few weeks in ICU taking care of them after a specialist orthopedic procedure. Moslty this was related to elbows.
And I don’t mean these dogs had conditions that would ‘make them arthritic when they’re old’, I mean some of them had conditions that were going to severely limit their mobility by 3-4 years of age. These dogs end up costing a lot of money.
They’re deep chested enough to be vulnerable to gastric dilatation volvulus and many owners sought prophylactic gastropexy for this reason.
Bernese mountain dogs, or Berners, are a very cancer prone breed. While lymphoma is very common in them, it’s malignant histiocytosis that is particularly notorious in this breed. It’s estimated than 20-25% of Bernese mountain dogs will develop this specific cancer.
Histiocytomas, sometimes called ‘dog spots’, are rapidly growing lumps on dogs that look a lot like cancers, but generally go away on their own over about 3 months. For a likely genetic reason in this breed this particular cell type spreads around the body and kills the dog instead of sorting itself out and quietly going away after a few months. Instead of irritating but harmless histiocytomas, they get malignant histiocytosis, and systemic histiocytosis, and histiocytic sarcomas. The breed is sometimes used as a model for studying the disease it humans, but that’s little comfort for you if your dog happens to get it.
The predisposition to malignant histiocytosis appears to be a polygenetic trait. So far various Bernese mountain dog clubs have been fairly pro-active about genetic testing, and I’m hopeful that with further study they might be able to reduce incidence in the breed.
It’s really interesting, but unfortunate, that the breed has such an apparent oddity in this one particular cell type, so If I see any skin lump on these dogs I jump straight to surgical removal and biopsy, because I can’t assume they’ll be benign.
This is a photograph of a fine needle aspirate taken from a round, red, hairless mass on the paw of a dog. The round cells with stippled purple nuclei are histiocytes. There are also two neutrophils with segemented nuclei present in the mix. A histiocytoma is a benign mass that usually goes away on its own but can be surgically removed if it bothers the dog (or the owner).
Gawd writing an essay is harder than i thought. Been trying to write one for a whole week. Its the research thats killing me! I thought i did enough, then when i went to write it I realised I hadn’t. Ah well. I still got 2 weeks.
Life is going good at the moment. A few little kinks in the road, but all in all things are working out! Bout time ey!
So writing an essay, learning teeline, learning italian, money is better, bout to pick the witchcraft back up; i miss it, learning alot in this unit. Yay!
Down side, chev has a tumour. Histiocytoma…or something like that. Been to vets. Will keep u updated.
This is a photomicrograph of cells taken from a red, raised nodule on the top of a dog’s head. There is a basophilic background and several greyish looking cells that are red blood cells. A single neutrophil is located in the left hand side. Just to the right of the neutrophil is the nuclear remnants of a cell that popped, probably from too much pressure when I made the slide. The round purple cells are histiocytes which are a type of dendritic cell, that makes this mass a histiocytoma which is a benign type of tumor that usually goes away on its own.