Genetic Health in Our Boxers
for the ABC Board
Audrey G. Schnell, PAX BOXERS
beginnings, the ShowBoxer-L Mailing List has been a prime forum for Boxer people. One of
its recurring topics has been the genetic health of our Boxers and the means that we can
or should take to ensure it. Members of the list have proposed varying safeguards.
It has not always been recognized
that we have a tailor made dog that deviates in many ways (notably in its head) from the
more successful (genetically) canids, and that while we have concentrated its genes to
bring about our most perfect, true to Standard, Boxer, we've also doubled up on some
undesirable factors. It could even be that were the healthiest possible dog our aim, we
would be compelled to return to the wild canid and abandon any effort to produce what we
know as purebred dogs. I don't think any of us would want to do this, but if good health
were our only goal, that might be the most realistic way to achieve it. Trying to weed out
bad genes by eliminating ancestors that might have contributed them might mean removing
the most illustrious Boxers and their descendants from our gene pool...and I dont
think anyone would want to do that, either, even if it were possible.
SB-L members, going from the most
Draconian to the do-nothing cure have proposed many solutions. In the past, the American
Boxer Club has not provided much in the way of guidelines, but this may be changing.
Recently, I sent some material to
Dr. Bob Oliver, President of the American Boxer Club, and he replied that, at the board
meeting in November 1998, an ABC committee was formed to address this need. It is the ABC
Membership Education Committee, chaired by James Eden of 11245 Ramrod Drive, Woodbridge,
VA 22192, Tel. 703-680-2712. This new committee is charged with developing such
information, getting it to members and involving member Clubs in this effort. Mr. Eden
would probably welcome input from Boxer people. I think that establishing health standards
for our breeding stock could be one of the most useful functions of the American Boxer
The material that I sent to Dr.
Oliver included a list of a number of specific defects, or problems, that have been
affecting our Boxers. In an attempt to be inclusive, I may have verged on the trivial, but
I believe that we may be obliged to consider these problems, since some of the more
volatile members of our fancy have come close to recommendations that would send the baby
out with its bath water (such as the recent statement that NO boxer that had ever had a
case of localized demodectic mange should be used for breeding!). I also suggested that
the Board establish two sets of criteria, one of minimal standards to be met by Boxers
before they are bred, and one of desirable norms that should be met.
Here they are, including possible
scales of ratings:
Bloat (Gastric dilatation and/or torsion): Range from irrelevant, no history in either
Boxer, to no history in grandparents.
Blood clotting disorders (Hemophilia, Von Willebrand's Disease): Range from no
history, or manifestation, in either Boxer to none in its ancestors and blood clotting
Brucellosis: Range from required serum screening to AGID test (Cornell based).
Cancer, all types: Range from none and no history in either Boxer, to requiring no
disease in ancestors.
Cardiac and Vascular Problems:
Cardiomyopathies. (Diseases of the heart muscle).
Sub-aortic stenosis. (Narrowing of the main artery, the aorta.)
Valvular abnormalities & persistent fetal openings.
Range from no obvious disease, with terrific exercise tolerance, to auscultation by a
veterinarian with further investigation if indicated, to auscultation by a veterinary
cardiologist, to mandatory electrocardiography (EKG) by a veterinarian to same by a
veterinary cardiologist, to Holter monitoring (24hr EKG). Additional requirements might be
doppler studies, echocardiography, sonogram chest studies, etc., or requiring a certain
longevity in three to four generations, no manifest vascular disease in ancestors, or
Demodectic mange: Range from no infection known, trivial puppy sites, generalized
infection, trivial to generalized infection in siblings or ancestors, to discarding any
that were ever affected.
Elbow dysplasia: Range from no obvious disease to veterinary examination to elbow
Hip dysplasia: Range from no obvious disease, to required OFA or Penn-Hip
certification to same requirements for ancestors, to 3rd or 4th generation.
Immunizations: Range from certificates of specific immunizations to titre
assessments of current immune status.
Leptospirosis: Range from no recommendation other than certificate, to Weil test
(to detect previous infection and carrier state) to liver and kidney function studies.
Ophthalmic disease: Range from no obvious disease to veterinarian clearance, to
veterinary ophthalmologist clearance.
Parasites: Range from no fleas or ticks on examination, to fecal exams for hook,
round, whip & tapeworms, to toxoplasmosis (public health hazard) studies.
Thyroid dysfunctions, including thyrotoxicosis (hyperactive gland), hypothyroid
(under-active gland): Range from visual exam by veterinarian to hormone assays &
basal metabolic studies.
Temperament: Range from happily slurping stranger, to approaching stranger, to
warily approaching stranger, to fleeing from stranger, to snarling at or biting stranger.
Unpigmented haws: Range from none in either Boxer to none in their ancestors to the
3rd & 4th generation.
I believe that the ABC Board can
greatly assist us Boxer breeders and exhibitors by incorporating recommendations on the
need for health clearances for breeding animals into the ABC Code of Ethics. Just as
importantly, I believe we can help them by offering our input. Although I am sure there
will never be complete unanimity on the subject of recommended health clearances, I
believe that modern medical research has given us enough information to set standards for
many of the most important health problems that affect our beloved breed.