Despite the popularity of convenience foods like kibble, Boxer puppies do best on a fresh, natural canine diet.
The essential components of an optimal diet for a Boxer puppy are:
- edible raw, meaty bones (chicken wings, necks, carcasses)
- lean muscle meat (beef, chicken, rabbit, kangaroo, venison, goat etc)
- offal (secreting organs like liver, kidney, pancreas)
Feeding raw, whole foods avoids numerous problems associated with the consumption of highly processed commercially-manufactured dog food.
As the breeder ChicagoLand Boxers aptly puts it, “There is nothing packaged in a bag that can match what Mother Nature intended dogs to eat.”
“When you continue to feed diets that are economical, and commercial, you compromise the health of your dog.
“Over time these cost-saving practices mount up to weakening Boxer genetics, leading the breed to become cancer-prone, with premature death rates and a host of disorders which our kennel has eradicated over generations with good feeding practices.”
Weaning A Boxer Puppy
Boxers can, and should, be weaned directly from mother’s milk onto a raw meaty bone-based diet.
In Nature, there is no such thing as “puppy food”, distinct from what the adults eat.
This is a marketing gimmick, designed to sell dog food.
In a natural setting, pups eat what the pack eats.
The closest thing to a “puppy formula” is food regurgitated by the mother.
You can recreate this for a litter of Boxer puppies by at first grinding or mincing the meat and bones.
Raw feeding pioneer and veterinarian Dr Ian Billinghurst, who has also bred Rottweilers and Great Danes, says minced chicken wings and necks are a perfect first food for a five or six-week-old puppy.
Dr Billinghurst says within about 10 days, pups are devouring whole chicken wings and necks with no further need for grinding.
A dog’s gastric juices are highly acidic and chicken bones are soft and highly digestible.
Kibble For Boxer Puppies?
New Boxer owners often wonder what is the best brand of kibble to feed their puppy.
But should a Boxer puppy eat kibble at all?
Kibble feeding carries significant downsides, including:
- low quality ingredients
- biologically-inappropriate fillers
- additives, artificial colorings, flavorings and “palatability enhancers”
- preservatives including antimicrobials
- mycotoxins produced by mold growth
- infestation by storage mites
- contaminants including weed killer and flame retardant
- degraded nutrients
- excesses of vitamins and minerals
- rancid fats
- low moisture content
- cooked multiple times at very high temperatures
- synthetic vitamins and minerals added
- genetically modified ingredients
- no raw meaty bones
- increased risk of bloat
- increased incidence of disease
- poor dental health
- anal sac problems
Each of these issues are explored in more detail in this article about Kibble and Boxers.
Why Do Many Vets Support Kibble Feeding?
From its invention 160 years ago, by American electrician James Spratt, kibble and other highly processed dog food has served the convenience of owners, not the health of dogs.
That so many conventionally-trained vets are on board with this inappropriate feeding is a result of the kind of education veterinarians receive on dog nutrition.
Canine nutrition makes up the tiniest slither of the veterinary curriculum.
At Cornell University’s prestigious College of Veterinary Medicine, for instance, vet students can graduate without ever taking a single subject on canine nutrition.
The four-year degree offers a single, optional subject covering basic nutritional concepts in dogs, cats and horses.
As American vet Dr Andrea Tasi told the LA Times in 2017, in a conversation about cats:
“I think you have to go back to the basics and ask what veterinarians are taught in school about animal nutrition. And the answer is next to nothing.
“Most vets believe that pet food companies make good products and have pet health at interest.
“They’ve done the research, they know what to do and they know what’s best. And I bought it hook, line and sinker. I no longer believe that.
“Why? I’ve fed my cats exactly as I was taught. Now, mind you, I’m not doing scientific research here. But, over the years when I’ve fed my cats processed foods, every single cat I owned developed some sort of chronic illness. And these cats, they’re all unrelated. So what’s the common denominator? What I’m feeding them.”
Compounding the problem of too little information, is the source of that information.
The British-trained vet Dr Tom Lonsdale has been outspoken about the damage done by the close relationship the dog food industry cultivates with veterinary schools.
As part of a sponsorship arrangement, staff from dog food companies are given access to vet students and even allowed to lecture them on dog nutrition, shaping students’ views on how dogs should be fed.
Raw Feeding Vets
Vets’ attitudes to raw feeding are slowly changing as more practitioners discover the superior health enjoyed by their raw fed patients.
The Raw Feeding Veterinary Society is a resource for vets, vet nurses and vet techs wanting to educate themselves about the natural canine diet.
The 2016 documentary Pet Fooled takes in-depth look at the pet food industry including the total lack of oversight, and examines what nutritional requirements dogs and cats have, compared to what they’re being served.
However, many Boxer owners are still unaware of the health consequences of feeding kibble.
Boxer Owners And Kibble
As long ago as 1964, the pet food lobby was spending $50 million a year in advertising aimed at convincing dog owners to feed their dogs nothing but packaged dog food.
This ad campaign has been enormously successful, leaving owners hopelessly misinformed.
In his book Give Your Dog a Bone, Australian vet Dr Ian Billinghurst explains how an uptick in disease in the pet dog population coincided with the widespread adoption of kibble feeding by the 1930s in the United States, and by the sixties in countries like Australia.
The speciality of veterinary dentistry in particular owes much of its existence to the failure of most modern dog owners to feed their dogs what has always been the central element of the canine diet: raw meaty bones.
Boxers as a breed fare particularly badly when fed processed, preservative-laden dog food.
Generations of chronic misfeeding are part of the reason it can seem as though “sensitive stomachs”, “allergies”, lumps and bumps and early death from cancer are an inevitable part of being a Boxer.
If you do one thing for your Boxer, make the connection between what you put into his bowl on a daily basis and what health outcomes he will experience, throughout his life.
Dogs are carnivores, and their bodies are designed to consume raw meat, bones and organs.
As normalized as it has become, cooked food is unnatural, biologically-inappropriate food for dogs.
Highly-processed, cooked products like kibble and canned dog food are a step even further down the wrong path.
Dogs fed this way frequently develop health problems — if not immediately, later in life.
There are exceptions, Boxers that live to a ripe old age fed nothing but kibble — just as there are people who can smoke a pack a day and never get lung cancer.
It doesn’t change the fact that cigarettes up your odds of disease and early death.
Boxer Puppy Food
Maybe you are lucky enough to have gotten your Boxer puppy from a breeder who is educated on the benefits of raw feeding.
These puppies have a huge headstart in life, having come from a raw-fed mother.
However, kibble is cheaper (particularly if you won’t be the one to foot the vet bills that come from prolonged misfeeding) and many breeders unfortunately still use it.
If your pup comes from a kibble-fed mother and has been weaned onto kibble … don’t despair.
You can start properly feeding your Boxer as soon as he comes home.
How To Transition A Boxer Puppy From Kibble To Raw Food
It’s often said that you must change a dog’s food slowly.
Owners are sent home with food from the breeder and told to keep feeding it while their pup settles in.
Actually, there is no need to transition your pup slowly.
The sooner you put kibble in the rearview mirror, the better off your pup will be.
All you need to do is make sure all the kibble is out of your pup’s system before you feed his first fresh meat meal.
You can feed baked or mashed sweet potato (yams) as the first meal once your Boxer puppy comes home.
While wolves and other wild dogs don’t pop a tray of yams in the oven for dinner, they do eat fruit.
Cooking sweet potato converts its carbohydrates into simple sugars.
As a result, cooked sweet potato essentially resembles fruit, compositionally.
Dogs are “facultative” carnivores, which means meat is their preferred food, but they can sustain themselves on a secondary food (fruit) when prey is scarce.
Wolves studied by the Voyageurs Wolf Project in Northeastern Minnesota, for instance, eat a diet consisting of more than 80 per cent blueberries for an entire month at the height of summer.
You will know the kibble is out of your dog’s system when you see the orange sweet potato poop come through.
Once you see orange, you can start feeding raw meat.
Raw Feeding A Boxer Puppy
Since your pup has not been weaned onto raw food and has no experience yet with consuming bones, you might like to do as Dr Billinghurst does when weaning six-week-old pups: grind raw chicken wings or necks for the first week or so.
Remove the skin and all visible fat first.
(Don’t worry, your dog will still get plenty of fat.)
After about 10 days, you can start giving the wings and necks whole.
Then you can introduce other kinds of meat and add a little offal (organ meat) a few times a week.
Chicken frames (carcasses) or chicken backs also provide good, soft, edible bone for puppies.
Lean beef is a good muscle meat to offer.
Game animals like rabbit and venison are perfect meats for dogs, even better than beef and lamb.
The latter, as products of human agriculture, are deliberately fattened for slaughter and so have an unnatural ratio of fat compared to muscle and bone. (Hence why the trimming of visible fat.)
How do you know how much edible bone to feed compared to muscle meat and offal?
A general rule of thumb is to feed enough edible bone to produce firm poops.
If your pup’s poops are runny, up the bone content of his diet.
Usually this amounts to edible bone being about 60% of the meal.
The rest is lean muscle meat with about 10% offal a few times per week.
Heart makes great lean muscle meat but can be rich, so feed in smaller amounts.
Liver is the most readily available offal, but you can supplement it with other secreting organs like kidney and pancreas.
Green tripe, the unprocessed gut lining of ungulates like sheep and cows, is wonderfully nutritious food for dogs, in small amounts.
Raw eggs and fresh, whole sardines (raw, from the fishmonger, not canned, which are cooked) make great additions once or twice a week.
It’s best to feed eggs separately as a snack because a substance called avitin contained in the whites can interfere with the bioavailability of the vitamin biotin which is found not only in egg yolks but in liver and other meat.
Avoid eggs for very young puppies as the presence of an enzyme-inhibitor can make them hard to digest for some pups.
The Myth Of “Complete And Balanced”
Owners are often scared off from raw feeding their Boxers, particularly puppies, because they fear their dog will suffer from nutritional deficiencies or imbalances.
Here again, there is a lot of scaremongering done by dog food manufacturers who argue only their products can provide a puppy with complete nutrition.
Vets without experience in raw feeding often further this misinformation by discouraging owners from raw feeding their dogs.
Remember where their information on dog nutrition came from in the first place?
Many common concerns cited by opponents of raw feeding, including the risk of deficiencies and the presence of bacteria in raw meat) are debunked by the Raw Feeding Veterinary Society in its 2020 position statement which comes with a comprehensive reference list.
The notion that only a commercially-manufactured biscuit could meet a dog’s nutritional needs flies in the face of how dogs have eaten and raised healthy puppies throughout a million years of evolution.
How did dogs ever survive without dog food formulators and the AAFCO guidelines?
To think that each meal a dog consumes must contain every nutrient under the sun is to misunderstand canine nutrition.
Dogs don’t eat this way in nature.
Instead, they achieve balance over time, by consuming a varied diet of whole foods — namely the freshly killed bodies of other animals.
Do wolves get a perfectly measured and weighed dose of every vitamin and mineral in every bite?
No. But over the course of several weeks or a month, they get what they need.
And this is how you should feed your dog.
Give a variety of whole foods that emulate what dogs eat in the wild.
As Dr Billinghurst says, no dog fed a diet based on raw meaty bones will develop deficiencies or excesses.
Whole foods, eaten as part of a species-appropriate diet, don’t allow it.
The only way you can go seriously wrong when feeding a raw diet is to omit bones and only feed meat .. or to never give organs, for instance.
How Often To Feed A Boxer Puppy
Three or four times a day is a good starting point for an eight to ten week old Boxer puppy.
Start there and see how your pup goes, adjusting accordingly.
As he matures, you can move to feeding less often.
Dogs are feasters not grazing animals so you don’t want to free feed. This is also not possible when giving fresh, real food that will spoil if left out.
(Kibble is shelf stable because of the chemical preservatives it contains.)
It’s a good idea to feed an adult Boxer two smaller meals per day, because a single large meal has been associated with an increased risk of bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus, a life-threatening emergency affecting deep-chested breeds.
Use a slow feeder bowl to make sure your pup doesn’t eat too fast, as gulping also makes bloat more likely.
How Much To Feed A Boxer Puppy
As a guide, adult Boxers eat three to five per cent of their ideal body weight in raw food per day.
This is just a starting point, and varies according to the individual dog and his life stage and activity level.
Puppies have fast metabolisms and so usually eat more than dogs that have finished growing.
Experiment with amounts fed and see what works best for your pup.
Boxers are a late-maturing breed, not considered fully grown until two or even three years old.
Keep in mind Boxers are meant to be lean, muscular dogs with a defined waist and a hint of the last two ribs.
Boxers often go through a distinct skinny phase as they reach maturity.
It can begin anywhere from about 12 months old and last many months, persisting even until the dog is three or more years old.
A home-prepared, raw meaty bone-based diet represents optimal nutrition for a Boxer puppy and throughout his life.
You can start with minced chicken wings and necks but will only need to grind the bones for a week or so before your Boxer will crunch them up himself.
As long as your pup is receiving a mix of edible bone, lean muscle meat and a small amount of organ meat, you are on the right track.
What do I need to know to make my own cat food? Noelle Carter, LA Times, October 20, 2017
Give Your Dog A Bone, Dr Ian Billinghurst, 1993
Raw Meaty Bones Promote Health, Dr Tom Lonsdale, 2001