Investing in the Future & Welfare of Boxer Dogs in the UK
The Boxer is a descendant of the Bullenbeisser, a German breed which was used to hunt bear, boar and deer in the 19th Century. It is thought that this breed was crossed with the Bulldog and this provided the basis for the present day Boxer. The Boxer makes a lovely family companion for his intelligence and character, is an excellent guard dog and has proved his worth as a tracking dog and worked in the armed forces as a messenger and as a pack carrier. His clean outline, glossy coat and the nobility of his beautiful head and expression have brought the breed many admirers.
The Boxer is in the Working group of dogs They can be medium to large dogs, with the females generally being smaller than the males They have a short coat which can shed They generally live an average of 10 years Some breeds can have a natural Bobtail
Boxers are friendly, lively companions that are popular as family dogs. Their suspicion of strangers, alertness, agility, and strength make them formidable guard dogs. As puppies, Boxers demonstrate a fascinating combination of mood-mirroring expressions, energetic curiosity, flexible attention spans and charming characteristics. They sometimes appear at dog agility or dog obedience trials and flyball events. These strong and intelligent animals have also been used as service dogs, guide dogs for the blind, therapy dogs, police dogs in K9 units, and occasionally herding cattle or sheep. The versatility of Boxers was recognised early on by the military, which has used them as valuable messenger dogs, pack carriers, and attack and guard dogs in times of war.
There are many conflicting training techniques out there at the moment, we are facing a time of change and have learned so much through behavioural studies about our dog companions that has changed the way we train our dogs today based on these new understandings. There are still a lot of old trainers / old training styles out there and these are not the way to go. We would simply suggest to do your research on a good puppy socialisation class in your area to begin with - many vets will run these. Then find a good positive reinforcement trainer that is ABTC, IAABC accredited and members of ICAN, PPGuild, and has a diploma in Canine Behaviour - this way you know you are working with someone who will be teaching you safe techniques. Then when your puppy is old enough maybe look into some fun classes like agility or scent work as examples (although generally Boxers are not the best with scent work due to their short noses)! It's all about having fun. Find something you enjoy doing together, as a family with your dog and every day will be fun!
The Boxer needs plenty of exercise. They are a very bouncy, energetic breed and can be good at agility.
As an athletic breed, proper exercise and conditioning is important for the continued health and longevity of the Boxer. Care must be taken not to over-exercise young dogs, as this may damage growing bones; however, once mature, Boxers can be excellent jogging or running companions. Because of their brachycephalic head, they do not do well with high heat or humidity, and common sense should prevail when exercising a Boxer in these conditions.
If you are looking for enclosed safe areas to let your Boxer run off lead, there is a great site you can search for spaces in your area: https://www.dogwalkingfields.co.uk
FOOD & NUTRITION
Food and nutrition plays and important role too and we would suggest doing some research in this area. So many complete dog foods that are available are bad for dogs or not really much good at all, including some of the veterinary recommended ones! The best site for comparison and finding something that works for you and your dog is www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk.
Boxers are very energetic even at old ages. They need plenty of exercise which means their diet should be high in quality calories. The main source of these calories should be lean animal protein, which include lean chicken, turkey, lamb and fish. Boxers are also prone to dental problems, increasing their susceptibility for bad breath; dry dog food that is large and difficult for them to chew improves the likelihood for plaque removal. Plaque can also be removed by crude fiber in kibble, which has a flexible structure that increases chewing time. Polyphosphates are often coated on the outside of dry dog food, which further reduce plaque buildup by preventing calcium production in saliva. Odor production from the boxer's mouth is likely to be reduced if its teeth and oral cavity are kept in healthy conditions.
Boxer's, like many other dog breeds, can be prone to particular health issues. We have listed the more common issues here to help give insight into the types of health issues that Boxer's can suffer with. This is not meant as a guide instead of visiting your veterinary practice and we would always strongly urge you to book an appointment at your vet to discuss any issues that you may be concerned about in your Boxer and to obtain a professional diagnosis.
MAST CELL TUMOURS
Mast cell tumours are the most common skin cancer in dogs, affecting mainly older dogs. Surgery and local radiotherapy are a cure for 70% of tumours, but about 30% of the tumours spread and the dogs require chemotherapy. A study in 2004 of the incidence of mast cell tumours in dogs diagnosed at the AHT between 1997 and 1999 identified a high prevalence in Boxers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Weimaraners. At the present time, we have collected samples from 56 Boxers affected with mast cell tumours. However, we continue to need additional samples from Boxers with mast cell tumours, and in particular from dogs that were diagnosed with grade III ('high grade) mast cell tumours. The grade III tumours are the tumours that have a 90% chance of spreading ('metastasising'), and if we are able to collect a sufficient number of samples from Boxers that had grade III mast cell tumours we will be able to attempt to identify the inherited genetic defects that cause an increased risk of developing metastatic mast cell tumours.
Gliomas (also referred to as glial cell tumours) are the second most frequent brain tumour in dogs, and comprise different subtypes with a highly variable response to treatment. Most primary brain tumours develop in older dogs, and dog breeds with short, wide heads have a higher risk of developing gliomas. Clinicians in the AHT Neurology Unit have noted a disproportionately high incidence of Boxers with gliomas, suggesting that the breed carries genetic 'risk factors' for this cancer.
Lymphoma is the most frequent life-threatening cancer in dogs, accounting for up to 20% of all tumours and affecting as many as 24 out of every 100,000 dogs. In the most common form of the disease, cells ('Iymphocytes') derived from the bone marrow become cancerous in one or more lymph glands where they form tumours. Lymphoma may occur in dogs of any age, but is most common in dogs between 6-9 years old. If untreated, death can result within 8-12 weeks of diagnosis. Treatment is usually with chemotherapy, which can increase life expectancy often to about a year, with a small proportion of dogs surviving longer than 2 years. In 2003, the AHT examined the occurrence of lymphoma in 20 breeds within a UK population of 130,684 dogs, who were insured by a pet insurance company between June 1997 and May 1998. The investigation found that the incidence of lymphoma in Bullmastiffs, Bulldogs and Boxers was significantly higher than in other breeds, suggesting, that these breeds carry genetic risk factors.
Mammary tumours are one of the most common tumours to affect older female dogs. Around 60% of mammary tumours are benign, and therefore many dogs can have a good outcome if a tumour is treated with an adequate surgical procedure. Up to 50% of bitches may present with multiple tumours affecting different glands. An increased risk of developing malignant mammary tumours has been reported for several breeds, including Boxers, English Springer Spaniels, German Shepherd Dogs, and Cocker Spaniels, suggesting that these breeds carry genetic risk factors. Early spaying (before the second season) can decrease the risk of tumours developing, and so there are more bitches affected in countries where spaying is not common practice.
In the long term, it is hoped that the 4 research studies will lead to the development of tests to identify Boxers that carry the gene mutations conferring an increased risk of developing the cancer concerned. This information will be useful to vets as it will identify dogs that may benefit from careful monitoring for early detection of cancer, and thereby early treatment. These tests will also assist breeders to reduce the incidence of dogs affected with these cancers. The research will also increase understanding of how these tumours develop, ultimately assisting the development of new therapies.
JKD (JUVENILE KIDNEY DISEASE)
Kidney failure is common in dogs. Kidney damage and disease can be caused by exposure to noxious agents such as anti-freeze, systemic bacterial infections such as leptospirosis, tick borne diseases or even some parasites. The onset of kidney disease typically also occurs with increasing age. In addition these causes there are also several different inherited forms of kidney disease. The problem of inherited (familiar) kidney disease has been recognised in several different breeds of pedigree dogs and according to the knowledge at the time of the identification has been called by a variety of different names.
It has been recognised for at least a decade now that there is an inherited kidney disease in Boxers. There are several published papers from different parts of the world describing both the history, the clinical findings and the histopathology. One paper also shows a familial link between the affected individuals.
In the UK we use the simple non-specific name, Juvenile Kidney Disease, JKD, or Boxer JKD, as this has been used from its first recognition in the UK. The term, Juvenile Renal Dysplasia (JRD) and even Renal Dysplasia (RD) is used in Sweden and America. In Norway and Sweden it has also been calledProgressive Nephropathy.
Irrespective of the cause, kidney disease symptoms are unspecific and subtle such that in dogs, owners and the vets may have difficulty recognising the very first stages of the disease. Problems with house training of young puppies have often been claimed retrospectively as the first signs that something was wrong with a puppy, followed by the onset of urine tract infections (UTIs). With Boxer JKD, the abnormal kidney structure that is the cause of the reduced function is irreversible. The kidneys did not develop normally during gestation. The disease is usually progressive and can lead to fatal end-stage kidney disease. The age of onset and survival times can vary greatly. This is a reflection of the severity of the kidney abnormality in the individual. Kidney development is complicated and is not fully understood. At this time, there is no clearly-defined description of the process that causes the onset of symptoms or the progression of inherited kidney disease in any breed.
The above text has been reproduced with the kind permission of BoxerJKD.com and more information can be found on their site: Boxer JKD
BLOAT (GASTRIC DILATATION-VOLVULUS)
Bloat is a medical emergency and one of the most rapidly life-threatening conditions that vets treat in dogs. It involves the stomach but can quickly lead to life threatening shock if left untreated. But it is rare.
When bloat happens, the stomach fills with gas and often twists in a way that it cuts off the blood supply to the gut and stops gas and food from leaving. It can also make the spleen twist and lose circulation, and block vital veins in the back that transport blood to the heart. Bloat is immensely painful for dogs and it can kill in a matter of hours without veterinary intervention, so it’s important that pet owners know the signs and ways to help prevent it. The condition is also known, more scientifically, as gastric dilatation-volvulus.
An epulis is a tumor that grows in the mouths of some dogs. It typically forms in the gum tissue near the canine's teeth (incisors). Also known as gum boils, they originate in the tissue (connective ligaments) that connect the teeth to the bone of the jaw.
An epulis can be benign (i.e. non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). But it's a little bit more complicated than that. Even a benign epulis can cause a lot of trouble. This type of tumor can be “locally invasive,” which means that it can grow into the jaw bone and literally eat the bone away.
Boxers are prone to allergies, both environmental allergies and food-related allergies. If you notice that your Boxer has itchy, scaly skin, have him/her checked out by your vet.
Like in humans, epilepsy in dogs is a brain disorder that causes the pet to have sudden fits. It can be brought on by head traumas or brain tumours, but there is often no obvious cause for the condition. In this case it’s classed as idiopathic epilepsy, which can often be linked to genetics. Epilepsy is thought to affect about four in every 100 dogs, and most commonly starts in those between one and five years of age.
ANIMAL HEALTH TRUST
The Animal Health Trust is collecting samples for projects seeking to identify the inherited genetic mutations responsible for Boxers having an increased risk of developing gliomas, lymphoma, mammary tumours and mast cell tumours, respectively. The AHT is a member of a consortium of research groups that are conducting the mammary tumour project as part of the LUPA project, a 4 year initiative involving 20 veterinary schools from 12 European countries. In contrast, the studies ongliomas, lymphoma and mast cell tumours are AHT initiatives. With the support of The British Boxer Club, AHT applied to the Kennel Club Charitable Trust for funding for the study on mast cell tumours, and in September 2009 were awarded £64,000 for a 1 year project that began on 1st January 2010. AHT will continue to seek funding for studies on gliomas and lymphoma, respectively, once they have collected sufficient numbers of samples.
The Animal Health Trust Scientists and Clinicians are embarking on an exciting project to investigate the genetic basis of epilepsy in the Dog in their Canine Epilepsy Studies. By combining the expertise of the clinicians to diagnose dogs with idiopathic epilepsy and state of the art genetic research capability they hope to identify the genetic factors involved. If the research is successful the end product will be a DNA test that can identify the risk of developing the condition and passing it on to future generations.
At the moment they are in the initial stages and the project is likely to take several years to complete but the first, and arguably most important, step is DNA sample collection. Once sufficient samples have been collected they will analyse genetic markers distributed evenly across the dogs genome to identify those that are shared by all affected dogs and different from those carried by dogs that don't suffer from epilepsy. These markers will point them to the region(s) of the DNA that contains mutation(s) that are responsible for causing epilepsy. Once they have determined the region of DNA that contains the mutations they can undertake additional experiments to identify the mutations themselves.
If they are to be successful they need DNA samples from dogs affected with idiopathic epilepsy and their close relatives, and also from unaffected dogs. The DNA can be provided as a blood sample (if blood is being drawn from your dog for another purpose) or as a simple cheek swab. They would also appreciate a pedigree of all dogs that donate a sample so they can understand how the samples collected are related to one another. This will help them to understand the mode of inheritance of the condition and how many genes are involved.
All research is undertaken in complete confidence. The identity of all samples submitted to the research effort will be kept confidential and the results from individual dogs will only be shared with the dog's owner(s), once the research has been completed.