"The chase" Photo by: Padraicyclops
The following provides an explanation of genetic disease and descriptions of those diseases prevalent in boxers.
A genetic disorder is one in which an abnormality in the genetic make-up (the genome) of the individual plays a significant role in
causing a disease or condition. While some disorders can occur as the result of spontaneous mutation, most genetic disorders are inherited.
These diseases are heart-breaking because they can impact severely on the quality and length of life of the affected dog - who is
generally a well-loved family member by the time the condition is apparent.
Genetically inheritable diseases prevalent in boxers
stenosis/sub-aortic stenosis (AS/SAS) is one of the most common heart defects occurring in boxers. Stenosis is narrowing of the aorta,
right below the aortic valve, which forces the heart to work harder to supply blood. Reduced blood flow can result in fainting and
even sudden death. The disease is inherited but its mode of transmission is not known at this time. Diagnosis must be made by a veterinary
cardiologist, after detection of a heart murmur. Breeding dogs must be properly screened for this disease and affected dogs must not
be bred from.
- Boxer cardiomyopathy is an electrical conduction disorder which causes the heart to beat erratically (to have an arrhythmia)
some of the time and can result in weakness, collapse or sudden death. These arrhythmias are difficult to detect with any certainty
by listening to the heart with a stethoscope, unless they are very frequent thus the first sign of the disease may be fatal. Cardiomyopathy
is a genetically inheritable condition with devastating results. Because a dog cannot be cleared of cardiomyopathy by a routine veterinary
examination and the disease may not show itself until after a dog reaches breeding age, it is important that all breeding stock are
properly screened for this disease.
Boxer cardiomyopathy is a distinct disease from the dilated cardiomyopathy common in some other
breeds. Other names for BCM are Boxer Arrythmic Cardiomyopathy (BAC), Familial Ventricular Arrhythmia (FVA) and Arrhythmogenic Right
Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC).
- Hip dysplasia is an inheritable malformation of the hip joint leading to osteoarthritis. The
hip joint is a ball and socket joint, where the top of the thigh bone (femur) fits into a socket in the pelvis. The bones are held
in place by ligaments. Hip dysplasia occurs when the socket is poorly formed or the ligaments are loose, enabling the ball of the
femur to subluxate – to slide part way out of its socket. Over time this causes degeneration of the joint (osteoarthritis) and the
dog suffers pain and becomes weak and lame in the hind end. Hip dysplasia is a progressive disease, meaning that it becomes worse
Hip dysplasia has polygenic inheritance, meaning it is caused by the inheritance of multiple genes. It is not yet known
how many, or which genes are involved. Factors that can make the disease worse include excess weight, excess or prolonged exercise
before maturity, a fast growth rate, and high-calorie or supplemented diets.
Hypothyroidism describes an inactive thyroid gland which
can be responsible for such conditions as epilepsy, alopecia or hair loss, obesity, lethargy, hyperpigmentation, pyoderma and other
skin conditions. While not considered life threatening, the quality of life for a dog suffering from hypothyroidism is much reduced.
- 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.
mange. The demodex mite lives on the skin of all dogs, and is passed to puppies by their dam. In healthy dogs, this mite causes no
problems. However, demodectic mange can occur when a dog has a weakened or compromised immune system. The American Academy of Veterinary
Dermatology passed a resolution in 1983 suggesting that all dogs that develop generalised demodex should be neutered or spayed as
there is a genetic link to the development of generalised demodectic mange.
Demodectic mange can occur in localised form, which
is characterised by a few spots that do not itch. These patchs usually appear on head, neck and fore limbs. Ninety percent of those
puppies that develop localised demodex will heal on their own. Ten percent of those puppies will go on to have generalised demodex.
- Cancer.Boxers are particularly prone to the development of mast cell tumours, lymphoma and brain tumours. White boxers, and coloured boxers
with white markings should be protected from the sun as they are liable to develop skin cancer if allowed to burn.
- Allergies. Boxers
are rather prone to allergies, which can be environmental or food related. These often translate into itchy, scaly and sometimes infected
skin. Boxers do not tend to do well on foods that have a high grain content, particularly those including corn, wheat or beet pulp.
- Deafness. About 20% of white boxers are deaf, due to their lack of pigmentation and suppression of blood supply to the cochlea (inner
ear). White boxers should not be bred since the genes responsible for deafness in whites are inheritable. Breeding dogs that carry
the extreme white spotting gene (white boxers have two copies of this gene, see http://www.boxerworld.com/forums/view_boxer-coat-colour.htm)
will cause pigment dilution in all offspring and increase the incidence of deafness throughout the breed.
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