Cancer is the most common disease in canines, and boxer dogs are particularly susceptible. Being able to recognise the symptoms are crucial to early diagnosis of cancer. The earlier the diagnosis is made, the more hope there is of combating the potentially fatal condition.
At the turn of the 21st century, boxers, as a breed, were the most likely to be diagnosed with cancer. However, since then, golden retrievers, rottweilers and Bernese mountain dogs have been found to have high rates of the condition as well. According to Doctor Ruthanne Chun, assistant professor of clinical sciences at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, family tree studies of these dogs have suggested that they have a genetic predisposition to cancer.
Boxers are most prone to mast cell cancer (benign tumours in the skin that become aggressive), lymphoma (malignant lymph tissue), lymphosarcoma (solid tumours of lymphoid cells), meningioma (tumours around the brain and spinal cord) and hemangiosarcoma (cancer of the blood). Of boxers with cancer, mast cell affects 25 per cent, lymphoma 17 per cent, lymphosarcoma 10 per cent, meningioma 7 per cent and hermangiosarcoma 5 per cent. Other types of cancer found in boxers are Oligdendroglioma, adenosquamous carcinoma, thyroid carcinoma and spindle cell sarcoma.
Elements in the environment can cause a higher risk of cancer in boxer dogs. Spaying or neutering the animal early on helps protect against testicular cancer and mammary carcinoma. As in humans, the sun poses risks for dogs; however, that only applies for areas of their body without hair or pigmentation. Since dogs sniff the air frequently, they are at risk for nasal sinus cancer, which can be contracted from elements such as herbicides, pesticides and pollution. They can also develop cancer at the site of an injury or injection.
Noticing symptoms as early as possible is key to preventing further complications. Frequent symptoms of cancer include weight loss, diarrhoea, vomiting, problems with urination, decreased appetite, general sense of lethargy and listlessness, trouble with breathing and swallowing, random or excessive bleeding or discharge, seizures, infections that will reappear or will not heal, lameness, wounds on the skin, localised pain and enlarged lymph nodes. Swelling or lumps, particularly around the testicles in males and the breasts in females, are telltale signs as well.
Often, the same drugs used for human treatment are used for the treatment of these animals. However, the dosage varies, and medication should never be administered to an animal unless a veterinarian has been consulted. Chemotherapy is another method used, and veterinarians have designed the process so as to eliminate as much of the pain, discomfort, vomiting, diarrhoea and drop in blood counts as possible. While chemotherapy may cause the dog's hair to fall out, it is not that common.