Boxer Dog Skin Allergies: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

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September 19, 2022 / Dog Health / By: Melanie Evans

Young boxer puppy dog with cherry eye and sad looking

Boxer dogs are usually goofy, happy-go-lucky pups - at any age - who love to play and love to be the center of attention. So when they become distracted and seem to be constantly licking and scratching at their skin, or when red patches, blotches and even new bald patches are marring their otherwise beautiful coats, it can be very alarming for their pet parents.

Many of these signs point towards a boxer suffering from skin allergies, but what can be done to help them?

If skin allergies seem to be plaguing your boxer pup, you - and they - are not alone. Skin allergies are one of the most common reasons that pet parents seek advice from their fur kid's vet. Skin allergies can look scary, and knowing where to even begin to deal with them and help your pup can be daunting.

That's why here we are going to take a closer look at boxer skin allergies, what causes them and how to treat them.

Are Boxer Dogs Susceptible To Allergies?

Any dog can develop allergies to all kinds of things, caused by both environmental and dietary factors.

While not a lot of research is available on the subject, anecdotal evidence suggests that boxers are genetically predisposed to developing skin allergies.

As a very short haired breed, the fact that their skin is far more exposed than a longer haired pup certainly won't help either!

What Coat Colors and Markings Do Boxers Come In?

Boxer Dogs

With the breed dating back - according to the American Kennel Club - to the late 1800s, when the boxer was bred from German hunting dogs - boxers have a long history as show dogs, and as such the breed does have breed standard colors: brindle, fawn and white.

Fawn is the deep reddish brown coloring that you might be most familiar with seeing in boxers. Brindle is a coloring that is almost striped in appearance, and in boxers is usually black stripes over that fawn coloring. And white boxers are white (and very beautiful.)

Hair Loss in Boxers

Boxers don't have a lot of fur, so any hair loss is quite noticeable. While hair loss may be caused by allergies - more on that in a moment, - boxer dogs are also particularly prone to a skin condition called flank alopecia, a condition that, while it can affect any pup, is so common in boxers it is sometimes specifically called boxer flank alopecia in veterinary medicine texts.

Take Note

Boxer flank alopecia - also sometimes called seasonal alopecia - is marked by large, irregularly shaped bald primarily on the flanks that detract from the coat's appearance.

The problem is cyclical, with hair growing back spontaneously before falling out the next year. The cause is yet to be clearly understood.

This condition is, however, really a cosmetic issue and has no effective treatment. Skin allergies in boxers are different, and often do need treatment. Skin allergies often result in flaking skin, apparent extreme itchiness, redness, rashes and more. They may also lead to patchy hair loss, but not for the same reasons.

Boxer Dog Skin Problems

So what causes the skin allergies that can affect so many boxer pups?

Food can be a trigger, and often is, but it is not the only cause. As their coat is not thick, allergies to things like plastics and fabrics can occur more easily, and reactions to various plants that cause what looks like a skin allergy are more apparent too.

Skin allergies in boxers can visually manifest themselves in many ways, with some looking very scary indeed:

Sometimes these allergies can be treated via elimination, and/or prescription or OTC creams and salves. In some extreme cases, when nothing else seems to be helping, steroids may be prescribed to address the problem.

Seeing your vet can be an excellent first step in addressing boxer skin allergies, as not only can they provide you with reassurance and guidance, but they can help differentiate between skin allergies and the boxer flank alopecia we mentioned earlier.

Best Dog Food for Boxers With Skin Allergies

The food they eat is often the culprit when it comes to boxer skin allergies, but figuring out just which foods are the problem can be a lengthy process.

The most common way vets suggest determining if your pup has a food allergy is via a hypoallergenic diet treatment, one that can last for between eight and twelve weeks. As there is no reliable food allergy testing available for pets (yet) having the patience to follow this process is currently the only real way to determine food allergies in boxers.

What is a hypoallergenic diet?

It involves feeding either a limited ingredient food with an unusual protein source, or one that has been processed in a specific manner - known as hydrolyzed - that is designed to be far less likely to cause allergies. The idea behind this is that a pup cannot be allergic to a food he hasn't eaten before.

Do these diets work? 

In many cases yes, and, once they have the right food, your boxer will likely not suffer from the effects of skin allergies anymore. If they don't help, then other allergy causes can be investigated. There are reasonably accurate allergy tests for dogs that can determine if non-food allergies are present, to things like pollen, certain fabrics and materials and more.

If you are working with a vet on an elimination diet, they may have a specific food they prescribe to be used as a part of it. There are some 'over the counter' dog foods that can be helpful too, though. 

Brands like Zignature,  OrijenAcana, and Canidae offer limited ingredient diets favoring “fresh and wholesome” ingredients for complete and balanced nutrition tailored for dogs with skin allergies.

When you are looking for these, you should look for limited ingredient offerings that contain as few additives as possible. Sometimes it's the dyes and additives in commercial dog foods, rather than the basic ingredients themselves, that pups are allergic to. At the same time, it is also crucial that whatever food you choose still provides the nutrition your boxer needs, especially if he is still growing, which boxers can do for up to 18 months after birth.

Ollie Fresh Dog Food

Ollie Lamb Recipe

Ollie Lamb Recipe is made with lamb, chickpeas, butternut squash, cranberries, kale and rutabaga.

One of the easiest ways to do all of this is to opt to feed a fresh dog food that features the limited ingredients you need to feed your boxer, but also still keeps them healthy and well-fed. If you can then get said food delivered right to your door, it's even better, which is why we love the Ollie dog food brand.

Ollie offers several fresh food formulas that address a range of canine feeding concerns, including food allergies. The food is made using fresh, natural ingredients and uses minimal additives, making it as close as you can get to home cooked dog food in a commercial formula. (home cooking your pup his food is another option, but that's too expensive and time-consuming for most busy pet parents.)

The best flavor choice for boxers with skin allergies may be the Ollie lamb formula (Get 50% OFF your first box). Not only is lamb one of those 'less usual' proteins, but it's also a lean, vitamin packed choice. The recipe also contains kale, a dark green vegetable that offers high levels of beta carotene, which in itself helps with fur and skin health. 

It also features:

  • chickpeasa rich source of protein and fiber,
  • butternut squashsource of beta-carotene, antioxidants, vitamin A and potassium,
  • cranberries: source of vitamins E and C, great for reducing urinary tract infection, 
  • rutabaga: a great source of B vitamins and fiber.

The meals are delivered to your door too, which makes following the elimination diet process easier.

This is a screenshot from their website. You can view the four recipes (Turkey, Lamb, Chicken and Beef) they offer and each one provides an in-depth description of the full-list of ingredients used, it’s nutritional info, and other valid points.

Ollie Fresh Dog Food

Best Shampoo For Boxers With Skin Allergies

If food allergies are ruled out, and it seems that environmental pollutants are to blame, bathing and grooming your dog can be helpful in removing pollutants from their skin and fur and improving their coat in general.

Boxers should not be bathed too often, as this can result in dry skin. And when you do give your boxer a bath, opting for a gentle, hypoallergenic shampoo is a good idea.

A shampoo like Burt's Bees for Dogs Hypoallergenic Dog Shampoo with Shea Butter & Honey is an excellent choice, as it nourishes the skin as it cleans it, contains the all natural ingredients Burt's Bees is renowned for and is not tested on animals. It also smells wonderful!

Best Dog Brush For Boxers

Boxers don't need much brushing, but when you do brush your pup, you'll need a brush that won't damage his skin. You'll also want to find one that can smooth any stray hairs and help your boxer's coat shine the way it should.

Often the best choice is a natural bristle brush, as these brushes are firm, but not too firm, and do help tame frizzy hair and leave it looking smoother (just as they do for human hair BTW.)

We particularly like the ConairPRO Pet-It Boar Bristle Brush, as it does a great job on a boxer's shorter coat and is easy to grip, a real plus when trying to groom an always active boxer dog!

Owners Also Ask

How Much Do Boxers Shed? Are they Hypoallergenic?

Boxers really don't shed a lot as their coat is so short and smooth, and they have no 'undercoat'. You may find the occasional stray hairs, but a once weekly brushing, along with the occasional bath, should keep bothersome dander to a minimum.

That being said, boxers are not 'hypoallergenic'. If you are allergic to dog fur, then they may still cause an allergic reaction, but it will be far less problematic than if you were around longer haired pups who shed more prolifically.

Why Are My Boxers Eyes Red?

There are a number of things that can cause red eyes in boxers, ranging from an allergic reaction to an environmental irritant to an injury to a more serious eye ailment like cherry eye. If the red eyes persist for more than a day or so, you should not assume it's normal, and consult with your vet to determine the cause.

Some eye conditions can lead to permanent vision damage, so they should never be ignored.

What is a Brindle Boxer?

A brindle boxer is one of the three 'official' boxer colorations accepted as breed standard by the AKC. The classic boxer fawn colored coat is overlaid with black stripes, resulting in a look that some people do indeed call 'tiger stripes'.

The coat, while it appears wirier than a fawn boxer's, is just as smooth, and will shine well when groomed with a bristle brush.

Are White Boxers More Prone to Health Problems?

The idea that white boxers are more prone to health problems is an old wives tale, and there is no clinical evidence to back this idea up in any way. Some statistics show that white boxers may be slightly more prone to deafness than their darker boxer peers, but those numbers are very low. When fed the right food and treated with love and care, a white boxer is usually as healthy and happy as any other dog.

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Melanie Evans

Melanie Evans is a professional freelance writer based in Scranton, PA, who, enjoys sharing her lifelong knowledge about dogs. When not working, Melanie enjoys playing a wide variety of sports, traveling and hanging out with her energetic boxer dog Bruce.

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