Boxers are frequently lumbered with a reputation for being “allergy prone”.
As a result they limp along through life with persistent symptoms.
Their owners are led to believe there is nothing they can do.
They’re told this is an in-built problem with the breed… despite the evidence that many other breeds are experiencing the same thing.
Desperate owners resort to medicating their dogs with an escalating roster of antihistamines such as Benadryl, steroids, Cytopoint shots and drugs like Apoquel.
The dog, sometimes still a puppy, seems destined to spend the term of his natural life on medication.. which vets and pharmaceutical companies readily supply.
However, many symptoms that get labelled as “allergies” are not true allergic responses and actually have other causes — causes that are easily removable.
Once the real culprit is identified and withdrawn, the so-called allergies disappear, without the use of drugs.
I am not a vet. This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. I encourage readers to see my full disclaimer here.
Symptoms Of Allergies In Boxer Dogs
Symptoms frequently diagnosed as “allergies” in Boxers run the gamut and include:
- itchy skin and constant scratching
- red, scaly or flaky skin
- dry, cracked or crusty nose
- “Boxer acne” or irritated, bleeding chins
- hair loss
- itchy or gunky ears
- red eyes, eye discharge and tear stains
- paw licking and chewing
- paw cysts
- blocked anal glands and “scooting”
- recurrent UTIs
- vomiting and other digestive upset
These conditions extend all the way up to:
- “autoimmune” disorders
- inflammatory conditions
- acid refux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- “Boxer colitis”
- irritable bowel disease or IBD
In many cases these diseases are life threatening.
Conventionally-trained vets simply don’t know what has caused the issue.
For lack of a better explanation, it’s put down to a defect in the dog’s constitution.
More integrative practitioners understand these “allergic” and inflammatory symptoms as something else.
What Are Boxer Dogs Allergic To?
A true allergy is defined as when the immune system identifies a harmless substance as “foreign” and overreacts to it.
Things that get blamed for apparent allergies in Boxers include:
- food — chicken cops a bad rap
- pollen and “seasonal allergies”
Holistic approaches take a different view.
What is more likely going on is not an immune system malfunction, but something more akin to poisoning, through a process known as toxic accumulation.
The Cause Of “Allergies” In Boxer Dogs
Dogs are exposed to countless toxins in their daily lives, including:
- pollution (indoor and atmospheric)
- household chemicals including cleaning sprays, floor polish, deodorizers, scented candles, hairsprays, washing powders on bedding
- lawn chemicals and weed killers including Glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup)
- vaccines which contain preservatives and adjuvants like mercury, aluminium, MSG and formaldehyde
- chemical worming products
- flea and tick treatments (topical and internal)
- tap water
- kibble and other commercial dog food products which contain industrial chemical residues, genetically modified ingredients, traces of pesticides, mycotoxins produced by mold growth and other chemicals
These chemicals build up in the your dog’s system, in the same way that ocean pollutants including industrial waste accumulate in the tissues of fish and are passed up the food chain.
The canine body, like the human body, is equipped to deal with low-level toxic exposures.
The liver, kidneys and lymphatic system all exist to filter impurities and waste, excreting it as pee and poop.
However, when the toxic load becomes too great, these detoxification pathways are overwhelmed and the problem erupts as symptoms.
Frequently these symptoms show up in the skin, eyes, ears and paws, as the body enlists these secondary avenues as a kind of pressure-release valve, in an attempt to eject the toxic wastes, and keep the internal environment as clean as possible.
Skin irritation. Eye discharge. Ear gunk or “infections”. Paw gnawing. These are the “allergies” your vet diagnoses.
If the toxicity goes on unrelieved, the final result is even more serious disease.
Food Allergies In Boxers
Many owners have been told their dogs are allergic to chicken.
Yet, many of those same owners feed chicken with no problems whatsoever once they feed it fresh and raw, as opposed to in kibble containing “poultry meal”.
So what could be going on here?
For a start, the “poultry meal” in kibble and other highly processed dog foods is low quality meat.
Factory-farmed chooks are notoriously pumped full of growth hormones, vaccinations and antibiotics.
Before buying into the idea that your dog is allergic to chicken, try feeding human-grade, free-range and ideally organic chicken.
Feed it in the form dogs are built to consume ie. raw.
This grain frequently gets blamed as a trigger for food “allergies”.
Dogs have no biological requirement for grains and these ingredients are used in commercial dog food because they are cheap fillers.
However, a food intolerance or a reaction to the corn itself is only one possible explanation for why dogs have problems when they consume foods containing corn.
There are a couple of other factors at play when it comes to ingredients like corn.
Mold And Mycotoxins
All grains are susceptible to mold growth during storage.
So is kibble.
In his book See Spot Live Longer, Steve Brown explains that mold begins to grow in dry dog food after just four days above 12 per cent moisture.
These molds produce mycotoxins.
Brown says dogs are particularly sensitive to these toxins, which suppress the immune system and create disease in all organs of the body.
Brown spent many years working as a formulator in the pet food industry but now recommends the feeding of fresh, whole foods.
The corn in dog food is also almost always genetically modified. In fact 88 per cent of US corn crops are GMO.
The full consequences of consuming GMO foods are not known but skin and food “allergies” are on the long list of problems that studies have linked with the consumption of GMO foods.
This study, published in 2009, found toxicity in the liver and kidneys after feeding GMO corn to rats for 90 days. They also noted effects in other organs including the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and blood cells.
Further reading: What Every Boxer Owner Should Know About Food Allergies
Vaccines contain chemicals that wouldn’t otherwise be in a dog’s body.
Some of these chemicals are preservatives.
Others are “adjuvants”, added to deliberately “irritate” the immune system in order to stimulate a response. This mechanism is at the heart of how vaccines achieve their effect.
These adjuvants have been linked to autoimmune disorders and allergies as well as many other health problems.
There is increasing awareness of the phenomenon of “vaccinosis”.
North Carolina-based veterinarian Dr Charles Loops practiced for a decade using western medical approaches before concentrating on homeopathy for the past two decades.
He describes vaccinosis this way:
“Vaccinosis is a disease syndrome caused by a weakness that is precipitated by vaccination.
“It is becoming rampant in the dog and cat population.
“Examples of vaccinosis include autoimmune diseases, such as irritable bowel disorders, lupus and pemphigus; hypothyroidism in dogs; eosinophilic skin disorders, hyperthyroidism and asthma in cats; and chronic skin disease or allergic dermatitis in dogs and cats.”
By definition kibble is highly processed.
Feeding kibble inflicts on dogs all the problems you’d expect to see in humans eating diets completely devoid of fresh, whole foods.
Many vets, including the Manitoba-based Dr Lea Stogdale and Dr Garcea Diehl, cure chronic digestive, allergic and metabolic problems including diarrhea, bladder stones and persistent ear infections by simply cutting out commercial dog food and instead feeding a fresh, biologically appropriate canine diet i.e. a raw meaty bone based diet.
See also: Read This Before You Feed Kibble
Almost all commercial dog foods – including pre-made raw grinds — contain more fat than is optimal for a dog
This is the case despite deceptive labelling practices that suggest otherwise by expressing fat content as percentage by weight instead of percentage by calorie.
Dogs evolved eating lean game meats.
By contrast, the products of human agriculture are deliberately fattened for slaughter.
Too much fat is received in a dog’s body in much the same manner as toxins: it creates excess waste that overburdens the eliminative organs.
The other problem with eating too much fat is that animals store toxins in their fatty tissue.
So your dog is inadvertently exposed to toxic residues from the various wormers, vaccines, weed-treated grass and other chemicals that have been consumed by the cattle, chicken or sheep etc.
Feeding organic meats can help mitigate this problem.
Itching, scooting and paw gnawing are all signs of fat overconsumption that can easily be misdiagnosed as “allergies”.
Gas is a sign of overfeeding. Try smaller meals.
Tap water is an often overlooked source of toxins.
If you are filling your dog’s bowl from the faucet he is potentially consuming, on a daily basis, more than 90 contaminants that are known and regulated by the Environmental Protection Authority.
These residues range from pesticides and industrial run-off to the disinfectants used in the water treatment process.
There is a strong case for giving your Boxer only properly filtered or spring water.
See also: Should Boxers Drink Tap Water?
Some chemical exposures are unavoidable, like the pollution in the air you and your dog breathe.
However, you can absolutely avoid having your dog ingest chemicals in the name of parasite prevention.
Chemical Wormers And Flea And Tick Treatments
Educate yourself on how these parasites are contracted.
Heartworm, for instance, is caught from the bite of an infected mosquito and the life cycle of the larvae is interrupted by cold temperatures.
Right away you see that year-round heartworm prevention is not necessary in most climates.
When it comes to external parasites, fleas and ticks don’t affect many apartment-living dogs.
Vigilance will quickly detect ticks and fleas.
Ticks can be removed simply using this technique.
Fleas are killed by a bath because the soap disrupts the exoskeleton and they drown.
Backyards can be treated without chemicals using beneficial nematodes.
Latest research recommends against automatically worming your Boxer every month, to eradicate all intestinal worms.
Wild dogs likely live with a small “worm burden” without it causing any problems.
In fact, there is evidence that intestinal parasites have a protective effect on the host, helping to regulate the immune system and prevent allergies and chronic inflammatory disorders.
Rather than automatically have your dog ingest chemical products that have caused adverse reactions, as 19 000 members of this Facebook group can attest, realistically assess your dog’s exposure to the various parasites.
If you feel parasite prevention is necessary, there are natural alternatives.
The best defence is always a fresh, raw diet and the natural resistance it creates.
In The Home
Indoor pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be reduced by using air purifiers.
Household chemicals can be replaced with non-toxic cleaners like homemade vinegar and citrus solutions.
Fragranced products, air deodorizers, fabric sprays and carpet and floor cleaners can be avoided.
In the yard, never use weedkillers and be careful with fertilizers.
Be mindful that publicly maintained parks, sports fields and roadside verges, will almost always expose your dog to these chemicals.
Allergy Testing, Elimination Diets Etc
There are all manner of expensive allergy tests available to cater to this epidemic of disease in pet dogs.
Some require you to have your dog chew on a rope and then mail it in so they can supposedly analyze the saliva.
Others get you to send your dog’s hair.
In return they come up with a list of allergens your dog should avoid.
At best these services are a wild goose chase. At worst they are complete scams.
All are a waste of time and money.
Elimination diets that seek to identify a problem protein are also barking up the wrong tree.
You do not need to avoid chicken, feed “novel proteins”, “single protein diets” or “hypoallergenic” formulas.
Nor do you have to keep your Boxer in a bubble so he doesn’t break out in hives by breathing the air.
You just need to eliminate his chemical exposures. Once you do, none of these supposed triggers will be a problem.
Focus on avoiding kibble, chemical wormers, flea and tick treatments, vaccines and medications.
Feed a fresh, species appropriate raw diet.
How Not To Treat Allergies In Your Boxer
Conventional veterinary responses to “allergies” include:
- Cytopoint shots
- steroids, oral or injected
- Benadyrl and other antihistamines
- fish oil and other supplements
- topical creams
- frequent baths
These measures do initially appear to give relief, so much so that many owners sing their praises and regard them as “miracle cures”.
The problem is these approaches “work” by suppressing symptoms (and the entire immune system in the case of steroids and Apoquel) …without addressing the cause.
And so, after a while, the drugs inevitably stop working and more and more aggressive approaches are required i.e. stronger and stronger drugs.
Worse, the drugs themselves contribute to the toxic load on the body, adding yet more chemicals that must be metabolized and hopefully excreted.
If they can’t be completely excreted, the residue accumulates in your Boxer’s body.
These drugs are heavy duty and — make no mistake — will lead to a cascade of other problems down the line.
The term “side effects” suggests the problems caused by drugs are minor niggles.
In fact, drugs like steroids and Apoquel are known to be very damaging to your dog’s body.
Many of the impacts are long lasting and difficult to overcome — frequently more problematic than the original condition for which your dog went on the drugs in the first place.
So, these medications are not to be given lightly.
Far better to understand the cause of your dog’s problems and remove it, rather than add more complications.
It’s human nature to want to add things to “treat” problems.
This is the mainstream medical model.
But, there is no quick fix.
The real solution lies not in adding drugs to mask symptoms, but in taking away the cause.
Once you do that, all that’s required is to get out of the body’s way and allow it time to recover.
Bathing Too Often
Owners of itchy dogs tend to end up bathing them more often, thinking it soothes the skin.
The trouble with this approach is that bathing a dog strips essential oils from their skin and coat.
This leaves the skin prone to small cracks, or microfissures, which only leads to more discomfort.
The ingredients in pet shampoos and conditioners can also be a source of irritation.
A Boxer should only be washed four times a year.
In between times, try to rinse your dog with water only — not soaps and shampoos.
Choose a very simple shampoo and make sure you understand the ingredient list.
Avoid fragranced products, which tend to please the owner but do nothing for your dog, except put more chemicals in contact with his skin.
Before you conclude your dog has “allergies”, evaluate his exposure to toxins and remove all possible chemicals from his life.
Keep in mind if your dog has been on drugs, heavily vaccinated, wormed or misfed for many years, it will take time for his body to detox.
All the junk that’s gone in cannot come out in just a few days or weeks.
During this period it’s common to see an exacerbation of symptoms as long-stored toxins are finally mobilized and exit the body through the skin, eyes, ears and paws ..as well as the gut and kidneys.
Owners observe that detox from drugs like Apoquel can be particularly nasty.
Take heart that as long as you are no longer putting the toxins into your dog’s body, the backlog will slowly clear.