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Cancer in Boxer Dogs


Unfortunately, cancer in Boxer dogs is the #1 health issue with this breed. According to an extensive 20-year study by the University of Georgia, 44.3% of Boxers died from some form of cancer. 

The UK Kennel Club estimates that 38.5% of Boxers will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. 

Brain tumors and mast cell tumors are more common in the Boxer breed than any other purebred dog breed.

In regard to brain cancer, if this type were to occur in a Boxer it usually develops after the age of 8. 

Therefore, while it can occur at any age, most owners need to keep an eye out for possible early warning signs once the dog has entered the later adult years. 
Skin cancer is less common, but does occur more often with white Boxers or those with large areas of white on the coat....Sun screen protection cream can help to prevent this issue. 
young adolescent Boxer dog


  • This can be genetic (passed on through genes and the Boxer breed is genetically prone to brain tumors)
  • Environmental (outside elements such as 2nd hand smoke)
  • Random mutation of the cells may occur with no known explanation
  • Injuries that may happen as a puppy can then lead to bone cancer as an adult dog - Many bone cancer cases occur at the site where a dog injured or broke a bone as a puppy.
  • Nasal cancer runs much higher in dogs than in humans - it is theorized that this is because dogs frequently sniff the ground - which can contain chemicals that are then transported to the dog's sinus cavities. More studies do need to be done on this.


Symptoms of cancer in Boxers are many and vary depending on the type of cancer that a Boxer dog has. 

Any of the below symptoms are red flag warning signs:
  • Bumps or lumps - Bumps or lumps that you can feel under the dog's skin that you never noticed before - the dog may show a sensitivity when these are touched. It is recommended to routinely check for this...And this is best done after or during a bath when fur is wet and you can more easily slide your fingers around the body to check.
  • Rapid weight loss - Visible weight loss will usually first be noticed around the Boxer dog's rib area...If your dog was of a normal weight and then suddenly you are noticing that the rib cage is noticeable, this is the time to take action and have him or her tested for any potential issues that may or may not be related to cancer.
  • Change in elimination habits - A Boxer dog may have decreased or increased bowel movements or continual diarrhea. While you do not need to inspect every bowel movement, it is recommended to take note at least once a week - Not just for this issue, but for possible worms, undigested food that will let you know that food is not being absorbed as it should, etc... Feces should be of a soft consistency, not runny and not dry/cracked. It can let you know that your dog is eating well balanced meals.
  • Decreased energy level - A Boxer dog will become tired and weak. He or she will not want to exercise or play as usual. A dog may be reluctant to take his normally scheduled walk. He or she may retreat more often to their bed to rest or to sleep.
  • Cold-like symptoms - such as sneezing, coughing and/or nasal discharge.
  • Changes in the shape, texture or size of a mole that the dog has always had - Usually noticed on the Boxer dog's stomach.
  • Swelling around a tooth can be a sign of canine mouth cancer - This can cause a dog to show discomfort when eating....and/or have the need to chew on something that relieves the pain.
  • With brain tumors (the Boxer dog is more prone to this than any other dog breed) will be often be symptoms of: difficulty walking, facial paralysis and/or impaired sight 


In many cases, it is genetics that will play the role in a dog getting cancer, though environmental issues play a role as well. As a loving owner, you can take steps to help prevent this frightening health issue.
  • Keep your Boxer away from 2nd hand smoke - this plays a very big role. Any smokers in the home should do so outside or at the very least in a sectioned off room such as a garage or sun porch. This is also good advice to help prevent possible allergy issues which can occur from the inhalation of smoke.
  • For white Boxer dogs or Boxer dogs with large white patches, use sunscreen (this can be misted on the coat for skin protection). For all Boxers, apply nose balm if the Boxer is outside a lot in the summer or will be outside in the sun for more than 2 hours.
  • Spaying or neutering your Boxer dog can help. Spaying a female Boxer dog greatly reduces the chances of mammary or ovarian cancer and the sooner you have this done, the better. Dogs that are spayed before their first heat cycle have their risk reduced in 1/2. Spaying after the 5th heat cycle may be too late to make a difference.
  • Always keep an eye on an energetic puppy to reduce the chances of the dog becoming injured or breaking a limb. Many bone cancer cases occur at the site where a dog injured or broke a bone as a puppy.
  • Make sure that your Boxer lives a healthy lifestyle. This includes a clean diet (high quality food, no chemicals such as artificial coloring and preservatives) and regular exercise (daily walks and some cardio sessions).
  • Do not give your Boxer unfiltered tap water as this contains a slew of cancer-causing agents. Drinking unfiltered tap water over the course of years no doubt causes health issues including cancer. Use a filter on your kitchen tap or use a canine water fountain that employs a filter. 
  • While giving baths and grooming, move your hands along the entire body to check for any lumps.  If you do find something suspicious, bring this to the attention of your dog's veterinarian right away.  Many times, cancerous lumps can be caught before they metastasizes to other areas of the body. Early detection is extremely important and will play a huge role in the chances of recovery.


There is help for Boxer dog cancer. Luckily, a dog can be treated just as a person can and treatment will vary depending on what type your dog is diagnosed with. 

The same medicines, chemotherapy and radiation is used. So, while this breed is predisposed to this disease, treatment can be successful in extending life span and quality of life.

Dogs handle these treatments well. 95% of Boxer dog do not suffer through severe nausea, diarrhea or a drop in blood counts that must lead to a hospital stay. If nausea does occur, medications can be given to help control this so that the dog receives proper nutrition.

In over 90% of Boxer dogs, fur loss will not occur. If the dog's fur does fall out, it will grow back once treatment is done.

Again, if caught early, chances of survival are greater. It is suggested to check for lumps once a week and vital to keep regular checkups with the veterinarian.
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