Common health problems with Boxers

1 July 2024 - 4 min read
Image of a reddish-brown Boxer with its tongue out and eyes closed

Originally bred as hunting and working dogs, Boxers are energetic, friendly pups with a distinct appearance. They're known for their kindhearted nature and enthusiasm, and it's easy to see why they're so popular.

But like any pedigree, they're prone to certain health issues. Below, we discuss the most common health problems with Boxers, how vets diagnose them and how to care for one.

Most common Boxer health conditions

Image of a brown Boxer sat down and looking into the camera

Hip dysplasia

Dysplasia is very common in dogs, and hip dysplasia is one of the big Boxer health issues. It happens when some of the tissues around the hip joint loosen. This changes how the hip fits into the joint, leading to pain, inflammation and eventually arthritis.

There are a few ways to lower the risk, like avoiding obesity and overexercising, but the disorder is genetic in nature - sometimes, it's hard to avoid it, even with perfect conditions.

Symptoms begin between six months and a year old, with a mix of:

  • Hindlimb lameness

  • Stiffness

  • Problems jumping

  • Issues climbing stairs

Vets will usually prescribe a mix of anti-inflammatories, hydrotherapy and physiotherapy. But your Boxer may need surgery, like a total hip replacement.

Idiopathic epilepsy

Idiopathic epilepsy means epilepsy with no known cause. It commonly occurs in Boxers between six months and six years. Seizures are caused by abnormal activity in the brain and symptoms include:

  • Collapse

  • Tremors

  • Rigid or paddling limbs

  • Excessive salivation

  • Passing urine or faeces

Seizures can last seconds to several minutes.

Usually, dogs behave normally between seizures. Vets diagnose what causes the seizures by excluding causes like intracranial issues, toxicity and metabolic disorders.

Treatment is always lifelong and can involve one or more medications depending on the severity of a dog’s symptoms.

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)

BOAS tends to happen with dogs that have a short skull and noses, like Boxers. The small space leads to narrow nostrils, a long, narrow palate, and excessive tissue at the back of the throat, which all mix to lead to breathing problems.

BOAS causes noisy breathing or ‘snoring’ often exacerbated by exercise, difficulty exercising in hot weather, vomiting and regurgitation. In severe cases, it leads to collapse.

You can manage some symptoms, but many dogs will need surgery to help widen nostrils, shorten the palate and other fixes.

Boxers suffer from BOAS in varying degrees, depending on the conformation of the parents - but symptoms are not usually as severe as in other flat-faced breeds. Any dog with severe symptoms or who requires surgery shouldn't be bred.

You can prevent acute or sudden breathing difficulties by avoiding exercising your dog in hot weather and preventing them from becoming over-excited or stressed.

Skin fold dermatitis

Excessive skin can lead to a condition called skin fold dermatitis. As the name suggests, it's caused by skin folds.

The skin in the folds doesn't get much airflow, meaning it's harder for dogs to keep clean. It causes a build-up of moisture, then bacteria and eventually an infection.

Symptoms include a nasty smell and red, oozy skin. Treatment is thankfully simply with topical antibiotics, assuming the infection stays mild.

Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC)

Boxers can suffer from a genetically inherited heart condition called ARVC, sometimes just known as ‘Boxer Cardiomyopathy’. It's when fatty heart muscle leads to arrhythmia (an abnormal heart rhythm). Some dogs have no symptoms, whilst others have severe signs.

Symptoms include:

  • Exercise intolerance

  • Fainting

  • Coughing

  • Lethargy

  • Breathing difficulties

Vets usually diagnose it via clinical examination, blood tests, ultrasound and ECG. The condition will need ongoing treatment to stabilise the irregular heart rhythm.

How to care for a Boxer

Close-up of a young Boxer dog looking upwards

Health screening

Some health issues in Boxers are inherited and can be screened for. There are specific screening schemes for the breed such as the Kennel Club and BVA Hip Scoring scheme, which assesses the hips of any breeding adult to assess their risk of passing on problems to their young. Registered breeders must comply with this scheme.

Typically, due to their genetic component, adult dogs shouldn't be bred if they suffer from:

  • ARVC

  • Elbow or hip dysplasia

  • Epilepsy

  • Other genetic illnesses

Careful breeding

Due to the conditions that are screened for above, picking a responsible breeder is one of the most important things you can do.

Our guide on choosing a responsible breeder can help you avoid some Boxer health concerns.

Regular grooming

Skin fold dermatitis can be prevented by looking after your dog's skin. Regularly wiping the skin folds with a suitable antiseptic helps prevent the overgrowth of bacteria and the build-up of discharge. Regular bathing will also keep the skin and coat healthy.

All in all, we recommend a regular grooming routine for your Boxer.


It’s sensible to give all large-breed dogs a joint supplement to support their joint function and slow the progression of osteoarthritis.

Careful exercise when they're young

You should also be very careful when your Boxer puppy is growing - they shouldn't climb stairs or jump into the car when their bones are developing, and walks should be kept short. 

How dog insurance helps

Boxer insurance has all you need to stay prepared for the unexpected and protect your pet.

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After graduating from the University of Nottingham, Holly spent two years as a farm animal vet. She then travelled and volunteered in India, working at neutering clinics and with injured street dogs. Holly now works in small animal practice, balancing this with writing and volunteering with the comms team at Vet Sustain. She's also a marine mammal medic!