It goes without saying that Boxers should not eat processed foods like sweets, fast food or other junk food designed for human consumption.
But there are a host of other inappropriate foods that threaten to do more than upset your Boxer’s stomach and which can result in a veterinary emergency or sow the seeds of disease if fed repeatedly over time.
Topping the list of unhealthy or dangerous foods that every Boxer owner should avoid are:
- Cooked bones
- Chocolate (especially dark chocolate, cocoa powder and cooking chocolate)
- Grapes (including dried forms like raisins, currants and sultanas)
- Fatty foods
- Tap water (Not a food but a daily part of your Boxer’s diet that can have a big impact on health if it’s laden with contaminants, as tap water is)
I am not a vet. This post is intended for general informational and educational purposes only. I encourage readers to view my full disclaimer.
1. Cooked Bones
The risks posed by cooked bones are essentially two-fold:
- When cooked, bones become brittle, splintering and running the high risk of perforating the gut
- Whereas raw bones are broken down by a dog’s stomach acid, cooking changes the chemical composition of bones, making them hard and indigestible. This creates the danger that they will cause intestinal blockages
Dogs frequently require surgery to remove blockages and repair perforations — surgery that dogs don’t always survive.
Far too many owners have stories of dogs dying due to some combination of the above.
What makes these deaths so much more heartbreaking is that cooked bones are devoid of nutrition, making them pointless to feed: all risk with no value as food.
What To Feed Instead Of Cooked Bones:
Raw bones are wonderful, essential food for dogs — and the basis of a fresh, natural canine diet.
Raw meaty bones:
- Provide complete nutrition with calcium and phosphorus in perfect balance
- Clean the teeth, shown to reduce dental calculus by 80 per cent in the space of a few weeks
- Offer deep psychological satisfaction to a carnivore, the act of crunching on bone soothing and relaxing, leading to an all-round happier dog with flow-on effects for mood and behavior
- Serve the same role as plant-based fiber in the human diet, replenishing beneficial microbes in the gut and boosting overall health and vitality
When selecting raw meaty bones for your Boxer, choose bones that are:
- Non-weight bearing (necks and tails not legs, as they’re softer and less fatty)
- From young animals (Softer and contain fewer accumulated toxins in the tissues to pass up the food chain to your dog)
A Boxer dog’s diet should contain two types of bone:
- Edible bone as part of every raw meal — this bone is entirely consumed e.g. chicken carcasses/frames, necks, wings etc or whole rabbit
- “Recreational” bone given mostly as a chew, once or twice a week at least — This bone is given less for nutrition and more for its teeth cleaning and mental health benefits. Having said that, your Boxer will likely consume almost the entire recreational bone, so it also provides nutrition. Lamb necks (with the fat sheath removed) make ideal recreational bones.
Here is more information on why and how to feed raw meaty bones to your Boxer dog.
Chocolate is a treat for humans, but for our Boxers it can be downright dangerous.
No Boxer dog should ever eat any kind of chocolate, but if it happens by accident, the following information may help you know what symptoms to expect and to assess whether an emergency vet visit is necessary.
There are two things to consider:
- What kind of chocolate your Boxer got into — milk, dark, white or cooking chocolate?
- How much chocolate your Boxer consumed
If your Boxer ate a square or two of milk or white chocolate, he’s likely to be fine.
It’s potentially more serious if your dog has consumed a large quantity of dark chocolate, cocoa powder or cooking chocolate.
What makes chocolate dangerous for dogs are stimulants known as methylxanthines.
Chocolate contains two of them: theobromine and caffeine.
Theobromine is the most toxic of the two.
It comes from the beans of the cacao tree, which are used to make chocolate and cocoa.
Theobromine is metabolised much more slowly by dogs than humans, causing it to hang around in your Boxer’s body for up to three times as long.
In a dog, theobromine’s half life is 17.5 hours, meaning that’s how long it takes for the substance to reduce to half its original level.
Because different types of chocolate contain different amounts of theobromine and caffeine, the most important factor is what kind of chocolate your Boxer has eaten.
According to one veterinary toxicity calculator provided by Mosman Veterinary Practice and Hospital, if my 31kg Boxer ate less than 24 ounces (690 grams) of milk chocolate, he would be unlikely to have any reaction, and if he did, it would be minimal.
However, as little as 2 ounces (60g) of cocoa powder could cause a moderate to severe reaction including:
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Potential collapse
According to Mosman Vet, the least toxic chocolate for dogs is white chocolate and then milk chocolate.
Dark chocolate is worse, with dry cocoa powder and unsweetened baker’s chocolate (cooking chocolate) the most toxic of all.
This is a guide only.
Reactions will vary between dogs based on:
- The dog’s size (Small dogs are more likely to experience toxicity)
- How much food was in the dog’s stomach at the time
- The individual dog’s sensitivity to the toxins
Take special care if your dog is already on steroids like prednisone because corticosteroids (and the antibiotic erythromycin) are contraindicated in the treatment of chocolate poisoning.
Note: sweets like ice cream may not cause a toxic reaction on a par with chocolate, but confectionery of any kind is inappropriate for your Boxer.
What To Feed Instead Of Chocolate
Most owners don’t feed their dogs chocolate on purpose — it’s usually an accident.
However, if you’re looking for a sweet treat to feed your Boxer, go for fruit instead.
Fruit is a natural secondary food for dogs, and something they eat in the wild when prey is unavailable.
When feeding fruit, remember to feed it:
- Ripe to overripe
- Separately to meat (It digests much faster and feeding combined with meat can cause digestive conflict)
- With pips and skin removed where they pose a choking hazard (e.g. leave apple skin on because it’s rich in the compound quercetin, known as “Nature’s Benadryl” on account of its antihistamine properties but remove banana skin as it’s too fibrous to digest well, and remove mango seeds, and both the seed and the skin of avocados)
- Feed melons alone, separately to other fruits (They digest super fast)
Grapes are one of the few fruits you should never offer your Boxer.
Some dogs eat grapes without any adverse effects.
The fact remains, though, that grapes have been associated with kidney failure and death.
The exact mechanism by which they cause problems is unknown.
Seeded and seedless varieties have both been implicated.
One theory is that pesticides could be responsible — grapes are the sixth most pesticide-contaminated fruit according to United States Department of Agriculture data.
However, some grapes that have caused acute renal failure in dogs have tested negative for pesticides, heavy metals and mycotoxins.
Note that raisins, currants and sultanas are all made from dried grapes and therefore should also be regarded as toxic to your Boxer.
Learn more about grapes and your Boxer dog.
What To Feed Instead Of Grapes
There is no need to risk feeding grapes when you have so many other kinds of fruit to choose from.
Fruits suitable for your Boxer include:
- Fresh, pitted dates
- Watermelon (Feed it alone, not combined with other fruit)
- Avocados (Only the flesh)
- Cucumber (Feed as you would melon)
- Stone fruits like plums and nectaries
4. Kibble And Other Processed Dog Food
This may come as a surprise inclusion in the list of things Boxer dogs cannot eat.
Though very effectively marketed to dog owners as “complete and balanced” and recommended by vets, kibble and other highly processed dog food is far from an optimal diet for a Boxer.
Kibble bears little resemblance to a dog’s natural diet which consists of fresh, raw muscle meat, raw meaty bones and a little offal.
The health problems plaguing the kibble-fed dog population make more sense once you understand what is in kibble, and how it’s made.
Dry dog food you pour out of packet is convenient and relatively cheap — although less so when you consider the health problems that can result from feeding it day in, day out.
Unfortunately, the downsides of kibble are significant, and include:
- 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 — cooked food is entirely unnatural for dogs
- 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
- High fat content
To learn more about how these aspects of kibble can cause problems for your Boxer, checked out Should Boxers Eat Kibble?
What To Feed Your Boxer Instead Of Kibble
A healthy diet for your Boxer follows the same principles as a healthy diet for yourself: avoiding highly processed foods and eating plenty of fresh, raw food.
5. Too Much Fat
Fatty meals are blamed for outbreaks of pancreatitis in dogs, but most of the problems fat causes for dogs are much more insidious.
Fat overconsumption is problematic for Boxer dogs in two main ways:
- There is no biological precedent for the amount of fat in the average modern pet dog’s diet, so when that much fat is consumed, it creates problems
- Fat is where the body stores toxins, so high fat consumption subjects dogs to the toxicity that passes up the food chain
No Biological Precedent For High Fat
Dogs evolved eating lean game meats like fawn, or baby deer.
As a result, there is no biological precedent for the high levels of fat consumption that define the diet of the average modern pet dog, fed largely on factory farmed beef and chicken.
The products of human agriculture like cattle, sheep and chicken are deliberately fattened for slaughter.
Compare, for instance the fat on a wild rabbit to the fat on a farmed chicken — even a free range, organic chook.
There is no comparison.
As a result of eating lean diets throughout a million years of evolution, dogs’ bodies don’t require high fat consumption.
Too much fat saps a dog’s energy, because fat requires the most energy of all macronutrients to digest and creates an excess of nutrition, leading to an excess of waste that must be processed.
Fat Contains Toxins
All animals park toxins in adipose (fat) tissue.
So, whatever toxins the chicken that your dog eats has been exposed to — antibiotics, hormones, pesticides and herbicides in grain — will leave residues in the chook’s fat.
The more fat your Boxer eats, the more toxins he’ll get along with it.
It’s the same process responsible for toxins acquired by fish from polluted oceans passing up the marine food chain, leading to the recommendation that people constrain their tuna consumption because this large, long-lived fish at the top of the food chain contains heavy metals like mercury.
Signs Of Fat Overconsumption In Boxers
Your Boxer may be consuming too much fat if he:
- Scoots his butt on the ground (Often misinterpreted as “worms” or anal gland impaction)
- Has foul-smelling gas
- Itches including licking and gnawing paws
- Has outbreaks of chin acne
What To Feed Your Boxer Instead Of Fatty Foods
You can reduce the harmful impact of diets too high in fat by:
- Feeding your Boxer meats from younger animals like lamb that have had less time to accumulate toxins
- Buying organic where you can so the animals have been exposed to, and incorporated into their tissues, fewer toxins
- Trimming fat from farmed meats to return the fat:muscle:bone ratio closer to what occurs naturally in game meats
- Sourcing game meats like rabbit, deer, kangaroo etc where possible
- Raising your own broiler chickens if you live rurally and have the option
- Including fruit days and fast days in your dog’s routine to mirror how dogs eat in the wild, support detoxification pathways in the liver and reduce the overall fat content of the diet
- Avoiding commercially manufactured dog food including pre-made grinds and butchers’ grinds (These will inevitably have the fat ground in, not removed, leading to an unnatural amount of fat consumption for your Boxer. Beware that dog food companies engage in deceptive labelling practices, expressing fat content as fat percentage by weight in order to get a lower number than if they expressed fat percentage in the way that matters to the body — by calorie.)
6. Tap Water
Not a food but water is something your Boxer drinks every day.
The US Environmental Protection Agency regulated more than 90 known contaminants in tap water.
These impurities include:
- Traces of pesticides
- Industrial run-off
- Disinfectants added during the water treatment process
..and scores of other contaminants that are legally allowed in small amounts but known to cause cancer and many other health problems affecting just about every organ in the body.
Even fluoride, deliberately added to water supplies, is associated with osteosarcoma, the leading cause of bone tumors in dogs and one of the cancers Boxers are considered prone to.
What To Give Your Boxer Instead Of Tap Water
You can filter your home water supplies by installing a reputable filtration system.
Alternatively you can give reputably sourced spring water, but beware water stored in plastic due to leaching.
Read this article for more detailed information on tap water and your Boxer’s health.
One of the many advantages of feeding a properly composed fresh, raw diet is that your Boxer will drink much less water because his food contains so much natural hydration.
Most owners know grapes, chocolate and cooked bones can be toxic to their dogs.
Fewer are aware that kibble, fatty foods and even tap water are unhealthy choices for Boxer dogs.
This list is by no means exhaustive.
Berry Important? Wolf Provisions Pups with Berries in Northern Minnesota, Austin T Homkes et al, Wildlife Society Bulletin, 11 February 2020
Chocolate Toxicity Calculator, Mosman Veterinary Practice and Hospital, August 2020
EWG Science Team, Environmental Working Group’s 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, March 17 2021
Reddy, Bhavanam Sudhakara et al, Chocolate Poisoning In A Dog, International Journal of Veterinary Health Science and Research, November 2013