Boxers are known for their personalities and abundance of energy. But like all breeds they do have certain health risks that other breeds don't. Of all tumours, brain tumours are the most prominent type of tumour found in dogs. Dog breeds such as the boxer tend to have the highest incidence rate among dog breeds. The other brachycephalic breeds are also considered to have a high risk of developing brain tumours. These breeds are characterised by their short noses and include the Boston terrier and the English bulldog.
The most common brain tumours found in boxers are gliomas. These start in the glial cells of the brain. As they grow, they cause compression on the brain tissues. The brain tissues die from this compression. Some gliomas are benign and some are more aggressive. You can also have tumours that have spread from tumours in other parts of the body through metastasis. These types of tumours have a poor prognosis.
Signs of brain tumours in boxers can vary depending on the size and location of the mass. Typical signs of a brain tumour affecting the frontal area of the brain are seizures, behaviour changes, circling and general clumsiness. A tumour located on the brainstem can cause behaviours such as head tilt, rapid eye flickering, difficulty swallowing and an unsteady walk. If you notice any of these signs please speak to your veterinarian immediately.
Your veterinarian will make an assessment of your dog and report her findings. If she suspects a brain tumour she may refer you to a veterinarian neurologist for further evaluation. A CAT scan or MRI may be ordered to find the location of the tumour. A biopsy will also be performed to identify the tumour type. Your vet may also order an ultrasound of the abdomen in order to make sure the tumour hasn't already spread.
If during the biopsy and CT the tumour is considered accessible, it will be removed. If it can't be removed there are other options such as radiation. This is usually done in 30-minute doses under anaesthesia. Sometimes medication can improve the symptoms and reduce the suffering. Anti-epileptic medication can be prescribed to help alleviate seizures. Prednisone can also be prescribed to reduce the fluid around the tumour, which can improve symptoms.
Finding out that your boxer has a brain tumour can certainly be devastating news. However, there are options available to give your boxer a chance at recovery. Outcomes vary based on the severity and size of the tumour, but being armed with information can help to calm you during the storm. If you see signs of what you believe could be a brain tumour, make an immediate appointment with your veterinarian. The sooner the tumour is found, the sooner treatment can begin.
- Nicole Long