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At the Heart of the Matter: Boxer Cardiomyopathy

Last week we received sad news from the Vay family who lost their beloved dog, Mosley. Mosley’s heart stopped suddenly and without warning. Hoping to help Boxer moms and dads everywhere, the family made a special request—to share important information about cardiomyopathy arrhythmia. We are more than happy to honor that request for Mosley and his family.

What is Boxer Cardiomyopathy?

Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy or “Boxer Cardiomyopathy” is a heart disease primarily of Boxer dogs that results in fainting, heart failure, and possible sudden death. When fibrous or fatty tissue replaces normal heart muscle tissue, the heart’s electrical system is disturbed. This causes an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia. If the heart disease progresses, the arrhythmia can become extremely rapid and dangerous, resulting in fainting and even sudden death. In most cases, cardiomyopathy will occur in dogs between 4 and 10 years the age. Puppies are rarely affected.

What are the symptoms?

Sadly, one of the first signs of ARVC is sudden death. The most frequent initial sign, however, is collapse – called syncope. Dogs may appear to faint; they may become suddenly weak and wobbly, or lose consciousness altogether. Signs to be alert for include:

  • Weakness

  • Lack of energy

  • Rapid, shallow breathing

  • Fainting

  • Coughing

Are there early warning signs?

In many cases, there will not be early warning signs. Symptoms may be so subtle that owners do not take notice. Abnormal heart rhythms are often picked up as an incidental finding on routine health exams when no signs of illness are present.

What preventive measures can I take?

Once your Boxer is one year old, he or she should be checked for an irregular heartbeat during regular vet visits.

Weight control also plays an important role because carrying extra weight puts a strain on the circulatory system. Many other factors are outside your control, but you can be vigilant for signs of breathing difficulties and lethargy, because early diagnosis can make all the difference.

What happens if the vet finds my Boxer has an irregular heartbeat?

If your dog’s veterinarian determines that your Boxer may have cardiomyopathy, the next step is to perform a 24-hour ECG on the dog to confirm the possibility. By taking the time to monitor the dog for a full 24 hours, it will show if your dog has infrequent skips and how often this occurs.

Does an Irregular Heartbeat Mean it is Cardiomyopathy?

No. Some Boxer dogs will have a disease that causes an irregular heartbeat. This can happen with some very serious infections and with certain types of cancer. Once that disease is under control, the heart will go back to beating normally. When the irregular heartbeats in a Boxer happen to an otherwise perfectly healthy dog, it is then that cardiomyopathy is suspected.

Is This Treatable?

Yes. If an underlying problem such as an underactive thyroid is diagnosed, the best therapy is to treat this disease — then the arrhythmia should correct itself.

If the heart itself is the problem, your veterinarian will prescribe medications to regulate the heartbeat in your dog, such as beta-blockers, digitalis or modern drugs such as pimobendin. If your pet is having trouble breathing, he may need hospitalization for oxygen therapy and strict rest.

We hope you found this information illuminating and helpful. We are all here to serve and love these beautiful Boxer dogs. We are lucky to have them in our lives.

Sending our love and support to Mosley’s family.

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