German Shepherd Dog

Boxer Health Concerns


Boxers, as with other breeds, are susceptible to some health problems, some of a genetic nature, others viral. The following is a listing of some of the more common health issues that can be found in the Boxer breed.



Acepromazine, a tranquilizer, that is often used as a pre-anasthetic agent, should not be used for the Boxer.

In the Boxer, a problem known as first degree heart block, a potentially serious arrythmia of the heart, has been shown to be caused by Acepromazine. In addition, Acepromazine also causes a severe lowering of blood pressure in many Boxers.

In Boxers, adverse reactions from this tranquilizer include: collapse, respiratory arrest, and a slow heart rate (less than 60 beats per minute) — This was published on the Veterinary Information Network, entitled “Acepromazine and Boxers”. The announcements suggested that Acepromazine should nob be used in dogs of the Boxer breed because of a breed-related sensitivity to the drug.



Aortic Stenosis is a narrowing of the outflow channel between the left ventricle and the main artery of the body, the aorta. This can occur at the level of the aortic valve (valvular); above the aortic valve, in the aorta (supravalvular); or below the aortic valve, in the ventricle (subvalvular) – this is the most common. The cause of Aortic Stenosis is believed to be genetically inherited.

Symptoms can vary from no signs at all to sudden death. Dogs with mild stenosis will generally show no clinical effects and have a normal life expectancy. In most cases, an abnormal sound of the heart (a systolic murmur), detected by stethoscope, is the only finding. With moderate to severe stenosis, signs may vary. Some dogs may show signs of exercise intolerance or fainting. As the condition progresses, symptoms may include difficulty in breathing, coughing, abnormal heart rythms, and sudden death.

Congenital aortic stenosis is one of the most common heart defects seen in large breed dogs. Newfoundland dogs have the highest risk for this disorder. It is also important in the Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, and Boxer. There is also an increased risk in the German Shepherd, German Short-Haired Pointed, Great Dane, Samoyed, and Bulldog.



This condition is caused by a twisting of the stomach and thus trapping the stomach contents and gases resulting in a rapid swelling of the abdomen accompanied by pain and eventual death if untreated. It is a true emergency, requiring immediate veterinary action. This condition is most often found in large deep chested breeds. Anyone owning a deep chested breed, susceptible to Bloat should be prepared to handle the emergency procedures necessary, including having readily available the name and phone number of emergency clinics and/or who to call after hours.

Symptoms can be subtle. You should learn to recognize them:

  • Continuous pacing and/or lying down in odd places
  • Salivating, panting, whining
  • Unable to get comfortable
  • Acting agitated
  • Unproductive vomiting or retching (may produce frothy foamy vomit in small quantities)
  • Excessive drooling, usually accompanied by retching noises
  • Swelling in abdominal area (may or may not be noticeable)

If ANY combination of these symptoms are noticed, CALL YOUR VET and get the dog there as fast as possible. Bloat is LIFE-THREATENING.

For more information on what you can do in the case of a Bloat emergency, see First Aid for Bloat in the Health & Nutrition section of the Canada’s Guide to Dogs website.



Cardiomyopathy refers to a disease of the heart muscle without malformation of the heart or its valves. A breed predisposition to Dilated Cardiomyopathy exists in giant breeds, Doberman Pinschers and Boxers.

This type of Cardiomyopathy is the most common in dogs. There is dilation of the chambers of the ventricles of the heart with some increase (hypertrophy) in the heart muscle mass, and a loss of the normal contracting abilities of the ventricles. In order to compensate for the loss of contractility, the heart works harder, eventually leading to congestive heart failure. The abnormalities in the heart muscle cells give rise to irregular heart rhythms which may cause sudden death.

In the Boxer breed there are three distinct stages of Cardiomyopathy:

  1. An irregular heart rhythm is discovered but the dog shows no clinical signs of illness.
  2. Clinical signs include intermittent episodes of collapse or weakness. On examination, an abnormal heart rhythm (generally originating in the ventricles) is found.
  3. Affected dogs show signs of heart failure which may include weakness, depression, exercise intolerance, a soft cough, a loss of appetite, weight loss which may be dramatic, and fainting or collapse.

Episodes of fainting, collapse, or weakness are usually due to abnormal rhythms in the heart, because of the damaged heart muscle. Dogs in either of the first stages may develop heart failure at any time.

For all affected dogs, the arrhythmias that can cause fainting or collapse can also cause sudden death. Up to 50% of affected dogs die suddenly, often without having shown any other signs of the disorder. Once dogs with Cardiomyopathy develop congestive heart failure, the prognosis is poor.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy is seen in other breeds of dogs; however the arrythmias without heart failure is unique in Boxer Cardiomyopathy.



Corneal Dystrophy is an inherited abnormality that affects one or more layers of the cornea. Both eyes are usually affected, although not necessarily symmetrically. Chronic or recurring shallow ulcers may result, depending on the corneal layers affected.

Boxers 7 to 8 years of age and older can be affected by Epithelial Dystrophy which causes shallow painful erosions/ulcerations in the cornea. These ulcers are painful and hard to clear up, and they often recur.

The mode of inheritance in the Boxer breed has not been identified.



Note: This section is intended as a source of information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional care. Always consult with your Veterinarian about health related matters. The information provided here is a brief outline of some of the health issues which may be of concern for the Boxer breed and should in no way to be considered as a complete listing.

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