Boxer cardiomyopathy is still being studied. There are many things that we know about this health issue...And some that we are still trying to learn.
However, as this disease is currently understood it is a Boxer heart condition that consists mainly of an electrical conduction disorder. This means that it causes the heart of a Boxer dog to beat erratically.
This is also more commonly known as an arrhythmia. This can happen randomly with no way of knowing when or how long it will happen for. This is often confused with a simple murmur which sometimes can not be a serious issue.
In cases where this does happen randomly and not often, the dog will probably not have symptoms of heart disease. However, if the erratic beats occur in sequence this will cause weakness, collapse or sudden death.
For this reason, all owners should know about this.
Taking steps to keep your Boxer healthy can go a long way in extending your dog's life span....And knowing the early warning signs of this serious issue can help with obtaining early treatment which can save the life of your dog.
This breed is prone to cardiomyopathy and other Boxer heart conditions...but this does not mean that your dog is bound to have these problems.
What are the Symptoms?
In most cases, this will occur with dogs who are between the ages of 4 years old (2 years into the adult years) to the age of 10 years old (during the senior years)...Therefore puppies are rarely affected.
In many cases, there will not be early warning signs...or symptoms may be so subtle that owners do not take notice. Once this disease gets severe enough to cause noticeable symptoms that are very clear to see, your Boxer dog may have:
When blood is not pumped correctly, this can cause lapses where the dog is not receiving enough blood flow and the dog can faint.
The fainting will happen for a few seconds to a few minutes depending on how fast the dog’s heart corrects itself.
It should be noted, that for young puppies, particularly under the age of 6 months, fainting can be the sign of hypoglycemia...a rapid, dangerous drop in blood sugar levels (treated by rubbing Karo syrup directly onto the pup's gums for rapid transport into the bloodstream and then bringing him or her to the closest vet or animal hospital)....Therefore, any collapse or fainting must be treated immediately.
Coughing -Each case is different. However some Boxer dogs with cardiomyopathy will reach a point where the ventricles of the heart expand. This causes the walls of the heart to become too thin and the heart itself will decline in strength.
Coughing may occur at this point. Owners should not panic if coughing occurs, as it may be something as simple as allergies...However, it is important to have it checked out as soon as possible.
How is this Diagnosed?
How do you know if your Boxer has cardiomyopathy (arrhythmia)? This is a part of why this canine disease can be so tricky. There is usually no symptoms during early stages. This is usually found during a routine vet visit. For this reason, we strongly encourage all owners to keep up with regularly scheduled visits, even if your Boxer seems very healthy.
The heart arrhythmias are not always identified by using a stethoscope. It all depends on the actual frequency of the abnormal heart rhythm.
Usually, the cardiomyopathy will cause an extra heart beat or a skipped beat and it must occur without a corresponding pulse in order to be deemed cardiomyopathy arrhythmia. If the frequency is just right, a veterinarian will be able to detect this during a normal checkup.
As your Boxer grows older, he or she will reach an age of having geriatric visits...This means that the regular testing will change a bit...And part of this is to take more time to listen to the heart beat. Be sure to discuss this with your dog's veterinarian.
Normally, your dog’s veterinarian will use 1 hand to hold the stethoscope and 1 hand is put on the dog’s hind leg to feel their pulse. Why on the hind leg? This area contains a large femoral artery which vets find one of the best areas to properly feel a dog’s pulse.
What Happens if an Irregular Heart Beat is Found?
If your dog’s veterinarian determines that your Boxer may have cardiomyopathy, the next step is to perform an ECG on the dog to confirm the possibility.
The top way to assess a boxer for arrhythmia is to use a 24-hour ECG. While an ECG can pick up arrhythmias if they are very frequent. By taking the time to monitor the dog for a full 24 hours, it will show if your dog has infrequent skips and how often this occurs.
Is This Treatable?
Yes. If your Boxer dog is diagnosed with cardiomyopathy arrhythmia, he or she can be treated with anti-arrhythmic medication. If the case is not severe, medication can help a dog lead close to a normal life and even life span may not be decreased.
Is This Fatal?
Sadly, yes, it can be if the case is severe enough. If the Boxer keeps getting barraged with skipped beats this can cause the heart to enter an unstoppable uneven rhythm which is fatal. This happens when 100’s or even 1000’s of skips occur in a 24 hour time period...It just puts too much stress on the heart and the body just cannot keep up with the attacks.
Does an Irregular Heartbeat Mean it is Cardiomyopathy?
No. Some Boxer dogs will have a disease that causes an irregular heartbeat. This can happen with some very serious infections and with certain types of cancer. Once that disease is under control, the heart will go back to beating normally. When the irregular heartbeats in a Boxer happen to an otherwise perfectly healthy dog, it is then that cardiomyopathy is suspected.
What Can I Do to Prevent This Canine Health Issue?
Studies are underway to find out more about the element of L-Carenitine and if this has an affect on a dog’s chances of improving or controlling this disease before it becomes serious. These studies are not yet conclusive.
When your Boxer is 1 year old, your dog should be checked for an irregular heartbeat during regular visits. A dog should be checked for this before any breeding is done. More often than not, a Boxer that has Cardiomyopath arrthymia will show signs by the age of 5...but some can not show signs until much later....by the age of 10 years.