Boxer dogs are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. Many dog lovers adore them for their good looks and sweet personality. They are very protective of their owners and can quickly turn against anyone who seems like a threat to their owners.
Their protective nature makes them ideal as guard dogs.
While life with a Boxer dog is mostly smooth and very enjoyable, it can easily be disrupted by an illness. Boxer dogs are prone to several illnesses including skin cancer, Boxer Cardiomyopathy, hyperthyroidism, and canine hip dysplasia.
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What is Canine Hip Dysplasia?
Canine hip dysplasia is an orthopedic condition that affects dogs’ hips. The condition is caused by a malformation in the ball and socket joint at the hips.
In a normal dog’s hip, the head of the femur (thigh bone) fits perfectly into the socket of the hip bone (pelvis). In a dog with hip dysplasia, the femur head fails to fit in this socket resulting in a disfigured hip joint.
Hip dysplasia is a very serious condition and should be treated as such. If not well treated and managed, it can become very painful for your dog. In its late stages, it can progress into arthritis and may even result in euthanization.
Why are Boxers Prone to Canine Hip Dysplasia?
Boxers are regarded as mid-sized dogs. One of the main risk factors for hip dysplasia is heavy body weight. This is because a heavy body puts excess pressure on the hip joints making them prone to joint problems.
In addition to their heavyweight, boxers are very active dogs. Too much exercise is also a risk factor for hip dysplasia. Boxers prefer to spend their time jumping and playing around rather than lying about.
The combination of high physical activity and a heavy body leaves Boxer dogs at very high risk for developing hip dysplasia.
Warning Signs of Hip Dysplasia in dogs
As an owner of a dog with a high risk for hip dysplasia, you have to be aware of the signs that could indicate hip dysplasia in your dog. Some of the signs you should look out for in your dog include:
- Limping or lameness while walking
- Swelling at the hips
- Bunny hopping gait. You may notice your boxer use more of her front legs giving her a bunny-like walk.
- Reduced muscle mass in the hind legs. Your dog’s hind legs may become visibly smaller as they are used less
- Low willingness to exercise
- Difficulty moving about for example climbing stairs or getting onto high surfaces
- A lazy or puppy sit
What causes Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?
Hip dysplasia is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Unfortunately, your dog’s chances of getting hip dysplasia may be high right from birth. Dogs of certain breeds are more prone to getting hip dysplasia. Other than Boxers, other breeds of dogs with a high risk of getting hip dysplasia include Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Pugs, and Bulldogs.
Dogs with parents with hip dysplasia have an even higher chance of getting the condition.
The environment a dog lives in can also influence her risk of getting hip dysplasia. Some of the non-genetic factors that influence the risk of CHD include:
- Too much exercise
- Physical injury
- Too little exercise
Prevention of Hip Dysplasia in Boxers
Even if your dog’s chances with CHD are very reliant on genetics, you can still play a large role in determining whether she gets the disease or not. Some of the ways you can help your dog avoid the disease include:
Pick a Responsible Breeder
Dogs with hip dysplasia are not bred. This is done by responsible breeders in an attempt to reduce the incidence of the disease in dogs.
Some breeders due to greed and sheer negligence do not adhere to this practice. This results in the breeding of puppies whose risk of getting CHD is very high.
Responsible breeders only breed dogs whose hips have been certified to be free of CHD. During hip certification, a dog’s hips are x rayed at around the age of 2. A special kind of x rays is used to determine if the dog will get CHD in the future.
If signs of developing CHD are identified, the dog is not allowed to breed.
A healthy diet is essential for the maintenance of a healthy body. To protect your dog from CHD and other diseases, feed her on high-quality food that is rich in nutrients.
Avoid overfeeding your dog to protect her from being overweight. Too much weight further increases the risk of CHD. Overweight dogs should be put on a low-calorie diet to promote weight loss.
Physica exercise can help lower your dog’s chances of getting hip dysplasia. Exercise not only promotes skeletal strength and flexibility but also helps maintain a healthy weight.
Encourage your Boxer to get a few minutes of exercise every day. It shouldn’t be hard to get your Boxer to exercise but it is still important to make sure just in case. Boxers do not like to go out so they may not get enough exercise if there isn’t enough space indoors.
Always put a stop to physical exercise if you think your Boxer is strained. You should also avoid very strenuous exercise and instead opt for low-intensity exercises like walks.
Start Natural and Hip Joint Supplements Early
Do not be like one of those people that think supplements are only for the sick. Supplements can be of great help to both ill and well dogs. Start your Boxer dog on the suitable supplements early enough.
Your dog can benefit from different types of supplements including natural, nutritive, and joint supplements. Nutritive supplements are great for providing nutrients that may be difficult to get from the diet alone. Such nutrients include vitamin D, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Natural supplements like turmeric have strong disease-fighting capabilities due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
To lower CHD risk, joint supplements are especially important. Joint supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM may lower your Boxer’s chances of getting hip dysplasia.
Treatment Options for Boxer Hip Dysplasia
Surgery is the most effective treatment for CHD. It is usually the last resort because of how invasive and expensive it is. Some dog owners especially those without pet insurance simply cannot afford to spend thousands of dollars on surgery.
Three types of hip surgeries have proven to be the most effective in the treatment of CHD:
Triple or Double Pelvic Osteotomy
During a pelvic osteotomy, the hip bone is cut and/or shaved. The procedure is done to improve the socket of the hip bone so it can fit the ball of the femur better. During a double osteotomy, two cuts are made on the pelvis and fused together while a triple osteotomy takes three cuts.
Pelvic osteotomies are usually performed on older dogs whose dogs are more developed.
Femoral Head Ostectomy
A femoral head osteotomy involves cutting the femoral head for it to fit the hip bone socket better. The procedure is usually performed on younger puppies. This procedure can cause lameness in a dog as a piece of the femur is cut off making one leg shorter than the other. The limp is often painless but you should watch your dog closely after the surgery nevertheless.
Total Hip Replacement
A total hip replacement is a surgical procedure where the entire hip joint is removed and replaced with an implant. A total hip replacement is the most effective surgery for hip dysplasia.
These surgeries can get pricey for some dog owners. It is advisable to get a good pet insurance plan especially if you have a high-risk dog like a boxer.
Boxer dogs with CHD can benefit from various forms of therapy particularly physical therapy. Physical therapy or physiotherapy involves the use of touch and/or movement to promote healing of the body.
There are many beneficial forms of physical therapy for example hydrotherapy which is basically physiotherapy performed underwater.
Body massage is also a form of physical therapy. A good massage can highly benefit your dog’s CHD.
The best thing about physical therapy is that you can do it yourself at home. It can save you some money and act as a bonding experience for you and your dog. It is, however, advisable to consult with an expert for some guidance.
Both natural supplements and nutritive supplements are great for hip dysplasia. Natural supplements include turmeric and ginger while nutritive supplements include calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.
Joint supplements are especially beneficial for dogs with CHD. Some of the common joint supplements on the market include:
- Glucosamine. Glucosamine is a sugar amine that is a major component of cartilage and connective tissue. Cartilage is a rubbery tissue the covers the bones at the joints to prevent them from rubbing against each other while connective tissue is a tissue that binds other organs and tissues together.
- Chondroitin. Chondroitin is a compound that serves a similar function to glucosamine as a component of cartilage and connective tissue.
- Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). MSM is a sulfur-containing compound that improves joint pain, swelling, and inflammation.
The good news is most joint supplements will contain all three of these compounds so you do not have to give them individually. Always get the highest quality supplements to ensure that your dog is getting the best.
If a Boxer with CHD is found to be overweight, one of the first forms of treatment should be weight loss. It is especially important to encourage weight loss if it is the cause of your dog’s dysplasia.
Overweight Boxers should be started on a low-calorie diet to promote weight loss. Consult a qualified nutrition expert or veterinarian on how best to control your dog’s calorie intake.
Physical exercise is also beneficial to the process of weight loss. Overweight dogs with CHD should be encouraged to take part in light to medium intensity exercises regularly.
Do not push your dog beyond her physical limit in an attempt to get her to lose weight as fast as possible. Too much exercise will do more harm than good to your dog’s hips.
Our Final Thoughts
Boxers have a relatively high risk of getting hip dysplasia. The risk can however be controlled by promoting a healthy lifestyle for your dog. A healthy lifestyle involves practices like a good diet, adequate exercise, and a good supplement regimen.
It is very important to watch your Boxer for any signs that may indicate hip dysplasia for example limping and lameness. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to increasing your dog’s chances against the disease.
For dogs that end up getting hip dysplasia, they can still be helped through a healthy lifestyle and therapies like physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, supplements, and weight loss. If need be, surgery may have to be performed to restore a Boxer’s hips to normal.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long can a Boxer live with hip dysplasia?
Boxers can live a full happy life with hip dysplasia if the condition is well managed and treated. However, the condition can shorten their lifespan to about 7 years.
How old are Boxers when they get hip dysplasia?
Boxers can get hip dysplasia at any age but it is more common in older dogs.
Can hip dysplasia be cured?
Yes, hip dysplasia can be cured. Surgery is the most effective means of curing hip dysplasia.
What does it look like when a dog has hip dysplasia?
A dog with hip dysplasia will display signs and symptoms like limping, bunny hopping gait, a lazy or puppy sit, loss of hind leg muscle, difficulty moving, and less willingness to exercise and play.