Much as we might like to pretend our Boxers will always be with us, these beautiful creatures grow up, flourish and age in the seeming blink of an eye.
Ideally, the diet and lifestyle provided since puppyhood has set your Boxer up for a healthy old age defined by a gradual slowing down.
Regardless of what’s come before, there is a lot that can be done to make a senior Boxer more comfortable.
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When Does A Boxer Become A Senior?
A Boxer might be considered to have entered his senior years from about the age of seven or eight, based on a typical lifespan of 10 to 12 years.
A lot depends on the individual’s condition and health — there is as much variation between dogs as between humans of the same age.
Even the sprightliest Boxers, though, would surely qualify as seniors from about nine onwards.
Senior Boxer Care Needs
As your Boxer gets on in years, he may have good, and not so hot, days.
Of course, the older a Boxer is, the more chance he has of encountering one of the diseases that affect the breed.
Even if your Boxer is doing great, some changes will be necessary.
Arthritis / Joint Pain
Joint pain and arthritis can make old age painful for dogs, just as it can for people.
If your Boxer is showing signs of joint pain (having trouble getting up, stiffness, reluctance to move), consider:
- Massage and range of motion exercises
- Low impact exercise like swimming to keep blood flowing, joints mobile and body flexible
- Softer surfaces for exercise e.g. sand/beach, or at least grass, rather than cement sidewalks
- Orthopedic beds to provide better support to aching joints
- CBD oil for pain relief in preference to pharmaceutical drugs
- More frequent nail care/trimming to account for less natural wearing down of the nails (nails can quickly overgrow when a dog is bedridden or significantly less active and long nails cause discomfort, pain and interfere with posture and gait, as well as being more susceptible to catching on things and splitting)
Sore joints and degenerative conditions can restrict a Boxer’s movement in old age, but there are adaptations you can make to create a senior-friendly house.
Ramps may be easier for an unstable or achy Boxer to navigate than stairs.
In a multilevel home it may be necessary to change where your dog sleeps — especially if you’re unable to carry him upstairs at night and down again in the morning.
You can get dog steps like the Villa 3 Step by Majestic Pet to help a Boxer climb onto beds and couches that used to be just an effortless jump away.
There’s also the Royal Ramps indoor ramp from Pet Pro Supply, with or without landing.
There are plenty of different styles, including this wooden bedside ramp by Solvit.
It’s worth making these efforts so that your senior can continue sleeping in his favorite spots.
He may also need to be lifted in and out of the car.
There, too, ramps are an option, such as the PetSafe Happy Ride folding ramp, which is lightweight and high traction for your pup’s secure footing.
When the park is too far away, it might be time to drive the few blocks so he can save his energy for the good part.
Or there are canine strollers like the Pet Rover from Muttropolis so that your guy can still get out to soak up the sights and sounds, even when walking is too much.
Outings may become less “walks” and more “sniffing tours” or “let’s sit on a bench and watch the world go by”.
Boxers are great observers and getting out and about for a change of scenery will still do a senior Boxer a world of mental good.
For dogs without the use of their rear legs, as in late-stage degenerative myelopathy or DM, canine wheelchairs can preserve mobility.
Your Boxer won’t stop being a Boxer and you’ll likely still see the occasional zoomie.
But a senior’s stamina will be significantly lower than you’re used to.
Adapt your Boxer’s exercise routine, by:
- Choosing less vigorous forms of exercise e.g. walking not running
- Favouring low impact activities e.g. swimming is gentle on the joints
- Having shorter play sessions
- Driving partway to locations instead of walking the whole distance
- Being flexible — adjust to how your dog feels on the day
- Paying attention to your dog’s cues — let him determine how much or how little he does
The selective hearing your Boxer has suffered from since puppyhood may become more widespread.
Your once hair-trigger watch dog may be less responsive to sounds including his name.
He may appear to get a shock when patted.
It can help to approach within your dog’s field of vision.
With more pronounced hearing loss, you may find it useful to flicker the lights on and off to get your dog’s attention or to make him aware of your comings and goings.
Loss Of Companion Dogs In The Household
A senior Boxer will often live through the loss of a companion dog — or human to whom he was strongly bonded.
He may cope well or you may observe a distinct grieving period or depression.
At the time, do what you can to give your Boxer the opportunity to witness what’s happened and grasp that death has occurred.
As he adjusts to life without his loved one:
- He will feed off your mood, so try to be upbeat
- Maintain a routine
- Give your Boxer as much attention as ever
- Prioritize his favorite things like raw meaty bones and time at the beach, ear rubs (!)
Love, and time, is the answer.
Changes Of Routine
It’s best to avoid drastic changes to a senior Boxer’s routine.
Moving house, bringing home a new puppy (or baby) or suddenly be left alone for long hours every day will all be more stressful for an older dog.
If you must make changes, do so as gradually as you can and while maintaining as many other aspects of your Boxer’s life as possible.
Introduction Of Puppies Into The Household
Owners often choose the end of one dog’s life to bring a new puppy into the household.
This can be both a source of companionship for the old dog and a source of stress.
Consider your individual Boxer’s personality when making the decision.
Make sure your senior gets ample time to himself and is always able to opt out of the puppy chaos.
Anesthetic can be problematic for Boxers at the best of times.
The risk of a general anesthetic, and the stress of medical procedures, should be avoided in a Boxer’s senior years unless absolutely necessary.
By the time your Boxer reaches his senior years it should have been a long time since he was vaccinated.
There is an established body of scientific evidence that annual “boosters” are not necessary and that a single, well-timed puppy vaccine is capable of providing life long protection.
The adjuvants and other toxins contained in vaccines, and the immune irritation they create is all risk and no reward for an already-immune dog.
Titer test first if you’re concerned about your dog’s exposure to infectious disease or need to satisfy authorities of your dog’s vaccination status.
Just because your Boxer is less physically active, doesn’t mean his brain has stopped ticking over.
Be sure to keep your Boxer’s life interesting and provide plenty of mental stimulation in the form of:
- Slow walks or “sniffing tours”
- Puzzle toys
- Games like “Find it”
If your senior Boxer is showing signs of mental confusion, keep in mind dogs can experience cognitive issues similar to dementia, known as “canine cognitive dysfunction”.
For an older dog, it can help to keep a predictable routine and to avoid rearranging furniture (especially if your Boxer has impaired vision).
With a more sedentary lifestyle, a dog is more prone to obesity.
A senior Boxer may naturally moderate his caloric intake by eating less.
If not, adjust how much you feed to match your dog’s activity levels.
Best Food For Senior Boxer Dogs
As your Boxer matures and ages, it’s important to continue to feed a fresh, natural canine diet based around raw meaty bones.
If your Boxer has been kibble fed, consider optimizing the diet.
Switching an older Boxer to a raw diet is always worthwhile and will likely give your senior immediate relief on multiple fronts.
Fasting as part of a dog’s feeding routine is enormously beneficial, known to:
- Mirror the way dogs eat in the wild
- Counter ageing
- Have powerful anti-inflammatory effects
- Help prevent disease
- Support the liver’s detoxification pathways
- Trigger cellular repair and regeneration
Consider supplementing your senior Boxer’s diet, if you aren’t already, with whole foods rich in beneficial nutrients.
Fresh, raw eggs including the membrane from inside the shell are a great addition because an egg’s shell membrane contains:
- Chondroitin sulfate
- Hyaluronic acid
Synthetic versions of these naturally-occurring compounds are sold as supplements for the relief of joint and soft tissue pain.
Apples, with the skin on, are a rich source of the plant compound quercetin — called “Nature’s Benadryl” on account of its antihistamine properties.
If your Boxer has eaten a raw meaty bone-based diet throughout his life, his teeth are probably in pretty good shape.
If not, it’s never too late to start feeding raw meaty bones (chicken frames/carcasses and lamb necks both make great soft, edible bone for Boxers).
If your senior Boxer has zero teeth at all, you can grind his bones to make sure he is still getting the nutrition provided by this crucial component of the raw diet.
Avoid the temptation to elevate food bowls for senior Boxers, thinking it’s easier than bending to the floor.
Raised bowls are associated with an increased risk of bloat, which Boxers, as a deep chested breed, are already prone to.
If you notice a clouding in your Boxer’s eyes, it may be cataracts which tend to be progressive and can lead to blindness.
Visually impaired or blind dogs do surprisingly well, equipped as they are with a powerful sense of smell and as long as they’re kept in familiar surroundings.
Your senior Boxer will naturally sleep more including more naps during the day.
Make sure his routine is adjusted to match his energy levels.
Let him do as he pleases.
You might notice some subtle changes in mood as your Boxer ages.
Your older Boxer might have a little tolerance for younger dogs and a little less patience with children, so protect him from being hassled.
Make sure your senior always has a quiet place he can retreat to and not be bothered — somewhere where he can still keep an eye on the household but where he’s not underfoot.
Heat And Cold
Your senior Boxer may show even more sensitivity to heat and to cold temperatures and snow.
You may need to provide a coat for warmth in winter.
Monitor the need for air conditioning or wetting down of the coat in the hot and humid months and exercise your Boxer in the cool of the morning and evening.
Female Boxers that have been spayed frequently suffer from “spay incontinence”.
This is due to a loss of muscle tone without the influence of the hormones ordinarily produced by the ovaries.
“Leakage” can begin in young dogs, but the older your Boxer ,the more chance of problems.
Diapers specially designed for dogs, known as bitch’s britches, can help protect bedding and furniture.
Even without spay incontinence, your older Boxer may not be able to make it outside as quickly as he s/he once could.
Pee pads can come into their own towards the end of a Boxer’s life, just as they prevented accidents during puppyhood.
There are some innovative and much more attractive products on the market now including DoggieLawn, made from real grass and Bark Potty made from bark and said to last as long as 60 traditional pee pads.
When To Say Goodbye
In a perfect world your senior Boxer will pass peacefully at home after a minimum of discomfort.
If there’s a high level of pain and no prospect of recovery, you may have to intervene.
Depending on your dog’s health situation, if you have not tried fasting as a therapeutic modality, now may be the time.
Many owners find an extended fast breathes new life into a dog where all else has failed.
Fasting is what a dog does naturally in the wild in response to sickness.
When the time eventually comes, consider a home visit vet so your Boxer can remain in his own environment, without any fuss.
Your Boxer’s senior years are a time to enjoy, albeit a little more sedately.
There may be health challenges to manage and some of these have likely been set in train long ago.
Whatever the state of your senior Boxer’s health, high quality nutrition in the form of of a properly prepared raw diet combined with a few modifications to your dog’s care, will go a long way.