Boxer Lumps, Bumps And Other Skin Problems (And Solutions)

Boxers can suffer from a variety of skin problems, most of which can be traced to shortcomings in the diet and general care.

Skin conditions in Boxer dogs range from skin tags, dryness and rashes to cysts, mange and mast cell tumors.

Identifying irregularities in your Boxer’s coat is an important part of taking care of your Boxer’s skin, as is understanding the likely cause and how to fix it.

I am not a vet. This article is intended for general educational and informational purposes. I encourage readers to view my full disclaimer. Boxer Dog Diaries is reader supported. I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase via links I share.

Are Boxers Prone To Skin Conditions?

A healthy Boxer will have a glossy, smooth coat and healthy, hydrated skin.

Boxers are often regarded as being prone to skin problems, with owners frequently having vets check their dogs over for various lumps and bumps — the greatest fear being mast cell tumors.

However, most of these skin issues arise in kibble-fed Boxers, and in Boxers subjected to other practices like chemical deworming, flea and tick treatments and overvaccination.

Another cause of skin issues like itching in Boxers, is an overzealous bathing schedule — a bath four times a year is plenty.

(Overwashing your Boxer will strip oils from the coat, leaving the skin prone to microfissures or tiny cracks that create itch.)

All of which means that the Boxer’s reputation for being predisposed to skin problems needn’t necessarily apply to your Boxer — if you raise him right.

We shall address the common skin complaints in Boxers before talking about the number one underlying cause and how to resolve it so your Boxer can enjoy the skin he’s in.

Why Does My Boxer Dog Have Bumps All Over?

Boxer dog skin bumps which come up suddenly are usually hives.

Hives are a rash of raised welts caused by some kind of toxic exposure.

While hives and facial swelling are the classic signs of bee sting in Boxers, there are a range of other causes of hives that owners frequently overlook.

Hives may occur in reaction to:

  • Vaccines
  • Kibble
  • Flea and tick pills
  • Chemical dewormers

It also happens as a result of indoor air pollution.

In other words, your Boxer may have inhaled any number of household chemicals such as:

  • Cleaning sprays
  • Scented plugins
  • Fabric deodorizers
  • Aerosolarized personal care products e.g. hair spray, perfume

Boxer Dog Lumps

Boxers may also get lumps that come up more slowly, present as singular swellings and grow larger.

These lumps are worth getting checked by a vet, ideally one experienced with Boxers.

If there’s any doubt, a fine needle biopsy may be done to examine the cells under a microscope and rule out anything sinister that requires excision.

Lumps look frightening but can have simple explanations including:

  • Swollen salivary glands which can cause lumps in the cheek and jaw region
  • Benign fatty skin tumors called lipomas which can occur anywhere throughout the body

Boxer Dog Cysts

Cysts are swellings that frequently present between a Boxer’s toes or on the paw pads (but can occur anywhere).

Most cysts are benign and will clear on their own, without intervention, in a relatively short space of time.

One way of understanding benign cysts is as pockets of waste that the body hives off in one spot when it’s dealing with a high toxic load, parking noxious substances in one place to spare the rest of the bodily environment.

This is why cysts frequently arise when the body is detoxing after a course of medication, or when the diet is changed from kibble to raw.

The lightened toxic load and improved internal conditions trigger the body to mobilize a backlog of wastes that have been stored in fatty tissue.

This influx of toxins can overwhelm the capacity of the liver’s detoxification pathways.

In response, the body creates a cyst to take the wastes out of circulation until such time as the body can process them.

Eventually the cysts go down as the wastes are gradually processed.

Alternatively, cysts of this kind may break open to the surface, expelling their contents.

Here is a description of a paw cyst in a Boxer dog which arose after a course of prednisone and antibiotics and cleared without veterinary intervention.

Boxer Dog Skin Tags

Skin tags in Boxers are small flaps of skin, usually no more than a few millimeters.

These growths may look unsightly but pose no threat, other than possibly catching on things.

When contemplating surgery for benign skin lumps, it’s always worth balancing the risk inherent in anesthesia and the stress of the procedure against the need for the intervention and the benefit that will flow to your Boxer.

Owners of senior Boxers must consider whether they are putting their dog under the knife for purely asthetic reasons that have no bearing on quality of life.

Opt for a local anesthetic wherever possible and remember no Boxer should ever receive the common veterinary sedative Acepromazine as a pre-anesthetic agent.

Boxer Dog Skin Allergies

Skin allergies in Boxers are a diagnosis du jour to explain symptoms like itchy skin.

However, from a holistic perspective “allergies” often amount to a misdiagnosis of what is really something called toxic accumulation.

Toxic accumulation producing “allergies” can be caused by kibble feeding, chemical ingestion or even something as seemingly minor as fat overconsumption/overfeeding.

Every kibble-fed dog will be eating more fat than is optimal.

Dogs are evolutionarily adapted to eating lean game meats, not farmed livestock that are deliberately fattened for slaughter.

There is no biological precedent for the current level of fat consumption in the average pet Boxer.

As well as itching, other signs of fat overconsumption include:

For a more fulsome exploration of how so-called “allergies” in Boxers arise, hit the button below.

Food Allergies

Many Boxer owners have been told their dog has a food allergy — or often multiple allergies to the point that they can scarcely find a single protein the dog is clear to eat.

And so the hunt for “novel” proteins and the wild goose chase of “elimination diets” begins.

Often it culminates in medicating the dog for the rest of its natural life, at great expense.

In reality, true food allergies are rare in dogs.

The Allergy Industry

Allergy testing — often through the mail using saliva and hair sample — is a lucrative industry.

Then there is the pharmaceutical bonanza that is the prescription of various drugs to treat canine allergies.

Since its launch in 2014 as the latest anti-allergy med, Apoquel has surpassed flea and tick drugs to become the top-selling product in the US animal health industry.

So, allergies are big business.

There are a lot of powerful interests invested in your Boxer receiving a diagnosis of “allergies”.

The third element of this trio of forces pushing the allergy bandwagon is the speciality of veterinary dermatology.

Vet dermatologists are enjoying a boom not unlike that delivered to veterinary dentists by owners failing to feed their dogs raw meaty bones.

The allergy train keeps Boxers and their owners stuck on a constant medicated merry-go-round of Benadryl, Cytopoint shots, Apoquel pills and prednisone with a cascading series of drug side effects that often turn out to be much more serious than the original reason for which the medication was begun.

Owners typically see temporary symptom suppression but then a return of itching.

There is never any identification of, or resolution, of the true underlying problem staring them in the face.

The good news is it’s within their power to fix — without paying a single vet bill.

The solution?

A proper canine diet and optimisation of basic care, as explained later in this article.

Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies are another common red herring.

Don’t accept a diagnosis of seasonal allergies or grass allergies until you have optimized the diet and care as described later in this article.

Only then will you see whether you really have a problem.

Your Boxer may very well be having a normal reaction to:

  • Inappropriate diet
  • Ingestion of substances that don’t belong in a dog’s body

Boxer Dog Skin Rash

Occasionally Boxers will get minor, passing rashes as a result of contact with an irritant such as some scratchy grass or a dog bed washed using fragranced laundry chemicals.

This may be the likeliest explanation if your Boxer has a red rash on his belly.

More persistent redness and inflammation may tie in to the skin’s role in detox, as outlined in the previous section on allergies.

Boxer Dog Red Chin

A red and irritated chin with bumps, sometimes containing pus, is usually a case of Boxer dog acne.

In some Boxers redness around the mouth may be due to irritation from plastic bowls.

However, the cause is more often systemic i.e. look at what’s going in the bowl and you’ll find it’s something processed, or something containing too much fat, or just plain too much food (overfeeding).

Again, a properly composed fresh, raw diet clears the problem right up.

Boxer Dog Skin Irritation

Skin irritation in Boxers can be due to yeast overgrowth.

Yeast is another complaint frequently tackled by conventional vets too late in the causal chain.

The typical response is to dose with an antifungal (either topical or systemic) to kill the yeast — rather than identifying the cause and resolving the problem at its source.

What is the cause?

Yeast feeds on what’s on the skin i.e. excreted metabolic wastes, oils etc.

This single celled fungus occurs in small amounts on healthy skin.

Like any organism, it can only overgrow when there is an excess of food to sustain i.e. metabolic waste, as seen when an overloaded body is using the skin to push out toxins.

Whenever the body has gone out of balance, diet and other inputs are both the cause and the solution.

Note, yeast is responsible for that other common Boxer dog complaint: paws that smell like corn chips.

Boxer Dog Mast Cell Tumors

Boxers are said to have a genetic predisposition for developing mast cell tumors, though the genes involved are unknown.

MCTs are cancers of the immune system that can cause damage by the release of biologically active chemicals called histamines.

Mast cell tumors can be benign or aggressively malignant, spreading to other parts of the body.

While most Boxer owners know about MCTs and the need to have strange lumps checked in a timely fashion, few are aware that mast cell tumors are among the diseases made more common by neutering/spaying a Boxer.

Boxer Dog Histiocytoma

Histiocytomas are an unsightly but relatively benign skin masses or tumors that the Boxer breed can be prone to.

Histiocytomas are generally:

  • Seen in young dogs, usually less than six years but as young as eight weeks
  • Fast growing
  • Solitary
  • “Button-like” in appearance
  • Hairless lumps
  • Prone to ulceration and bleeding
  • Found on the head, neck, ears or limbs (but can occur on any body part)
  • Spontaneously resolving within two to three months

Note that histiocytomas are different to a range of other much more serious disorders that can affect these skin cells called histiocytes, such as malignant histiocytosis and histiocytic sarcoma.

Why Does My Boxer Puppy Have Bald Spots?

Hair loss in Boxers, if it occurs in patches on the flanks, may be a condition called seasonal flank alopecia.

Mange (see below) is another problem that can cause bald spots, particularly in pups.

Skin Discoloration

Alopecia is sometimes accompanied by a skin color change or darkening.

A blackening of the skin may also occur as part of a skin condition called calcinosis.

Calcinosis cutis, and the related but slightly different form of the disease called calcinosis circumscripta, are known to be among the many devastating side effects caused by the immunosuppressant drug prednisone.

Here is what an 11-month course of prednisone did the body of an 18-month-old Boxer.

Calcinosis involves the laying down of calcium phosphate in the skin and subcutaneous tissue, with lesions and distinctive chalky discharge.

In calcinosis cutis, the lesions typically begin on the back of the neck and spread down the back.

In calcinosis circumscripta, the calcium phosphate is laid down in lumps on “bony prominences” like the shoulders, elbows and tail but the tongue is another classic site for these lesions to appear.

Here is a documented case, with pictures, of iatrogenic (drug caused) calcinosis circumscripta in a young Boxer.

Why Does My Boxer Have Dry Skin?

Dry skin in Boxers will ordinarily not occur if the diet is right.

Raw diets are super hydrating, and will support skin health.

Dry cracked noses in Boxers usually reflect the diet and can be resolved by proper feeding, without the need for nose butters and other creams which are invariably licked off and consumed.

Boxer Dog Ingrown Hair

Ingrown hairs can lead to swelling of the hair follicle and pus formation.

It is often possible to free the hair with some tweezers, allowing the wound to dry out and heal.

Boxer Dog Mange

Boxers, like any dog breed, can suffer from a skin mite infection called mange, which causes intense itching.

Mange comes in several different forms, of varying severity.

Demodectic Mange

Demodectic mange typically develops in puppies with deficient immune systems.

All dogs host a small population of Demodex mites that live in their hair follicles and cause no problems.

Only in individuals with disordered or suppressed immune systems does the mite population explode, resulting in demodectic mange.

Symptoms may include:

  • Itching
  • Hair loss
  • Bald spots
  • Scabbing
  • Skin sores

Mange is often localized to the face and the lesions usually clear up on their own as the pup’s immune system rights itself.

There are two other forms of demodectic mange — generalized and pododermatitis, which affects the feet.

These are tougher to resolve.

Sarcoptic Mange

There’s yet another kind of mange called sarcoptic mange, caused by the scabies mite.

The scabies mite prefers hairless skin so you may see it first on your Boxer’s elbows, armpits, ears, chest, belly or groin.

Unlike demodectic mange, sarcoptic mange is highly contagious — including to humans.

Note that conventional treatments for mange involve dipping the dog’s whole body in a powerful chemical pesticide with the risk of serious side effects including tremors.

Holistic vets may be able to offer less toxic alternatives.

Dermatitis In Boxers

Boxer dog skin issues are sometimes broadly referred to as dermatitis or atopy.

It’s not just the diet of the dog in question that influences the likelihood of developing skin problems.

Diet’s effect is so powerful as to be intergenerational.

The main finding of a Swedish study focussed on Boxers, Bull Terriers and West Highland White Terriers was that feeding a noncommercial, home prepared diet to a mother dog during lactation had a protective effect on the pups’, reducing their risk of developing atopic dermatitis.

Researchers found the odds of developing skin problems were twice as high among offspring from dogs eating processed, commercial diets.

Boxer Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is something to guard against in white Boxers or Boxers with white markings, particularly on the face.

Avoiding exposure to harsh sun is the best prevention.

Management and supervision is recommended over application of sun screens as they usually only end up ingested by the dog.

Toxic Accumulation: The Real Cause Your Boxer’s Skin Problems

Toxins accumulate in the body via a stacking effect.

A healthy dog can tolerate one or two or three, but will begin to show symptoms when the toxic load becomes too heavy.

A properly fed Boxer, with a chemical-free body is able to effectively process and excrete toxins encountered via incidental exposures like weedkiller on grass they sniff (and roll on at the park and absorb through their paw pads) or chemicals sprayed in the home.

Consider, however, the situation of a Boxer that receives:

  • A daily influx of toxins via contaminants in kibble
  • Monthly doses of dewormer chemicals
  • Monthly flea and tick treatments
  • A regular schedule of vaccines and booster shots (despite well-established evidence a single puppy shot provides life long immunity and the ability to titer test to prove it)

For a toxed up Boxer like this, any additional toxic exposure is liable to tip the system over the edge.

The skin — including the paws, ears and eyes — is typically the first place where a toxic overburden shows up.

That’s because the body enlists the skin to rapidly expel toxins and acidic metabolic wastes, which irritate the dermis and the hair follicles.

UTI-like symptoms, diarrhea and mucus in a Boxer’s poop are other common signs of a major detox effort, as toxins inflame the tissues of the urinary tract and the bowels on their way out of the body.

How To Treat Skin Problems In Boxer Dogs

Successful resolution of skin problems in Boxers is often more a matter of what you remove than what you add.

Optimizing the diet and other aspects of care is the absolute first step.

If done properly, as described below, this will usually resolve the problem and avoid the need for medication.

Boxer Dog Skin Care

You can set your Boxer up for good skin health by:

  • Feeding a fresh, natural raw meaty bone-based diet
  • Using natural parasite control instead of chemical wormers and flea/tick treatments
  • Fasting your Boxer to support the liver’s detoxification function
  • Avoiding medicating your Boxer unless all other avenues have been tried and failed
  • Following an appropriate vaccine protocol for Boxers that is tailored to your individual dog’s needs including the risk of actual exposure to the viruses being vaccinated against and makes use of titers

Give Your Dog a Bone: The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs for a Long Healthy Life by Australian vet and raw feeding pioneer Dr Ian Billinghurst is a great read for understanding the power of feeding a fresh, natural canine diet.

Remember that skincare in Boxers takes in the paws, ears and eyes which are the canaries in the coal mine in terms of being the body parts that show the first signs that something in your Boxer’s care needs improving.

Here is some more information about general Boxer dog coat care.

Conclusion

Keeping your Boxer’s skin in top condition comes down to feeding your Boxer his natural, raw and biologically appropriate diet and avoiding all possible chemical exposures.

A truly holistic vet will be best placed to make the necessary connections between these aspects of care and the state of your Boxer’s skin.

Regardless of your Boxer’s skin ailment, take a moment to consider what the symptoms are telling you instead of simply medicating to suppress those symptoms.

Popping a pill or giving your Boxer a shot may seem like a quick fix, but It’s both unnecessary and liable to unleash a cascade of unintended side effects and further health problems.

Get the basics right and your Boxer’s skin will take care of itself.

References

Becker, Karen, DVM, These Invisible Critters Can Make Your Dog Insanely Itchy, Mercola Healthy Pets, 2021

Burns, Katie, More itchy pets? No problem, JAVMA News, January 29 2020

Nodtvedt, Ane et al, A case-control study of risk factors for canine atopic dermatitis among boxer, bullterrier and West Highland white terrier dogs in Sweden, Veterinary Dermatology, 2007

Palermo, Shannon, VMD et al, Chronic Pruritis in a Boxer, Clinician’s Brief, 2017

Rest, Joan, Cutaneous Histiocytoma in Dogs, VCA Hospitals, Retrieved from website October 2021

Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, Boxer Mast Cell Tumour, Genetic Welfare Problems of Companion Animals, 2016