The Boerboel still counts as a fairly healthy breed, since this is a breed selected for performance rather than just looks (colour or confirmation merits). However, not all breeders will select their breeding stock while having the breed as a working breed in mind and every breed has some more or less typical health issues which you should be aware of. As puppy buyer you should not settle with less than healthy and tested parents of your puppy in order for you get a puppy that is as healthy as possible and that will bring you joy for a long time to come. Below, we have listed some more or less common health issues that can be found within the breed.
Common Health issues
Hip Dysplasia is a defect where the hip joint has developed incorrectly, which means that the hip socket is too shallow. This can cause cartilage damage and bone burdening (arthritis). The joint becomes unsteady which can lead to limping and pain and the symptoms can get worse with age. In severe cases the joint is completly deformed and often euthanasia is the only option left regardless of the age of the dog. The hip status is determined through x-ray by a vetenarian. Depending on where you live eather your vetenarian or the kennel club will then read the x-ray and grade the hips.
Hip dysplasia is a defect that has both genetical and enviromental causes. This means that both the breeding and selection of the breeding stock but also the dog’s upbringing will have an effect on the development of the hip joints. The defect is inherited through polygen genes, wich means that many differend genes will work together in order to create an attitude in a lower or higher grade. Every gene for itself will have little effect, but a combination will cause a defect. That means that in rare and unfortunate cases an entire litter can be affected by a defect even though the parents and their ancestors show no sign of that defect. The risk for an affected puppy will increase significantly if one or both parents have hip dysplasia. It is very important that you x-ray your dog some time between the age of 12 – 18 months and tell your breeder about the result. Dogs who leave defect puppies should be taken out of the breeding program. Therefore the breeder needs to know the hip status for the enire litter in order to be able to evaluate their breeding program. In addition to the ordinary HD x-ray you should also do a PennHip x-ray. This can be done as early as an age of 16 weeks. However, we do recommend to do this at the same time as the HD x-ray is done. In a PennHip x-ray it is measured how loose the hip joint is fitted and one can determind how high the risk is that the dog later on may develop arthritis. These x-rays are sent to an institute in the USA for evaluation and only vetenarians authorised by that institue may take those x-rays. [Here] you can locate a PennHip vet close to you.
The enviromental factor, that means the non-inherital factor that causes the defect is the uppbringing during the dog’s first 1,5 years. There is a lot that one has to think about to minimise the risk for the dog to develop HD. The puppy must get a dog food meant for puppies and later on for young dogs, Boerboel should get dog food suited for large breeds. If you chose to make your own dog food, you should know what a growing puppy needs – the need differs from the nutritions needed by aduld dogs. We usually give glukosamin and high doses of vitamin C as dietary supplements. Remeber, no research has been done that shows that those supplements have positive effects on the hip joints developmenty. However, poitive effects have been reported. The puppy should also stay slender during the entire growth period. Already a little extra weight increases the risk for the puppy to develop HD. Also the amound and type of excercise will affect the development of the puppy’s hip joints. Untill the age of 18 months all strength- and cardio excercises should be avoided (e.g. cykling, weight pull, drag weight, carrying bags, jogging, etc). Also playing with large and/or rough dogs and throwing sticks and/or balls should be avoided due to the stress that is put on the joints. However, you should not keep your dog from moving around naturally. All every day situations which the dog later on will have to handle (going up and down [some!] stairs, going on and off the leash, playing, jumping in and out of the car, etc) the dog already should do as a puppy. It is very importand that the dog may use it’s joints and bones naturally during it’s enire upbringing in it’s own pace without any compulsion. Please do keep in mind that the the Boerboel is a heavy breed and therefore monotone and long lasting work outs will stress the joints more than with light weight breeds. Wear damage or dysplasia are often connected with pain for the dog!
Only buy a puppy from parents with free hip joints (HD A or B, alt. 0 or 1). Preferably both HD and PennHip x-rays should have been done, the PennHip result should not be higher than 0,5. Demand to see the copies of the x-ray results! Do not buy a puppy from a breeder who refuses to show those papers. Be careful with food, nutrition and exercise during the puppy’s upbringing.
Ellbowdysplasia means that the ellbow joint has developed incorrectly. Over time this defect leads to arthrosis. The reason for the incorrectly developed joint can be inherited and/or be the result of enviromental factors during the dog’s upbringing as decribed avbove in the HD section. ED can also be caused by cartilage defects, incongruity in the joint or one of the deseases fragmented processus coronoideus (FPC), osteochondrosis dissecans (OD) or ununited processus anconeus (UPC). The status of the ellbow is determined by x-ray. Depending on where you live eather the vetenarian or the kennel club will grade the ellbows. It is very important that you x-ray your dog some time between the age of 12 – 18 months and tell your breeder about the result. Dogs who leave defect puppies should be taken out of the breeding program. Therefore the breeder needs to know the ellbow status for the enire litter in order to be able to evaluate their breeding program. Preferably the x-rays on hips and ellbows are taken at the same time.
Only buy a puppy from parents with free ellbow joints (ED: 0). Demand to see the copies of the x-ray results! Do not buy a puppy from a breeder who refuses to show those papers. Be careful with food, nutrition and exercise during the puppy’s upbringing.
Entropion/Ectropion means that the lower eyelid eather turns inwards and starts chafing against the eye or turns out and causes increased tear flow. This defect is considered inheritable and affected dog’s should be taken out of the breeding program. Contact your breeder if your puppy has been diagnosed with entropion/ectropion.
Only buy a puppy from parents that are tested free from that defect. Demand to see the copies of the eye examination! Do not buy a puppy from a breeder who refuses to show those papers.
Vaginal Hyperplasia means that the tissue in the vagina reacts strongly to the estrogen during the heat of the female. The vagina will swell and can emerge from the vulva, wich looks lika a tongue. For that reason vaginal hyperplasia is also called prolapse by some breeders. Vaginal hyperplasia is considered inheritable and affected dog’s should be taken out of the breeding program.
Only buy a puppy were the mother of the litter is tested free from that defect. Demand to see the copies of the veterinary examination! Do not buy a puppy from a breeder who refuses to show those papers.
More uncommon health issues
Demodicosis is a disese caused by mites called demodex. A little sloppy sometimes the desease itself is called demodex. Those mites are found on every dog, but they start causing trouble if the dog has a compromised immune systhem is is unable “to deal” with the mites. In that case the mites will muliply unhindered. Demodicosis is categorized in two forms, a local and a general. The first one occures mostly in young dogs below the age of one year and will usually disappear again. It will appear as some bold spots on the front legs and in the face and usually doesn’t cause any itching. The other form can affect both young and older dogs and usually covers larger areas on the body.
As already mentioned the symptoms for this disease are bold spots and itching, sometimes very severe. In some cases this disease can get so severe and painful that the dog has to be euthanased. This was very common before. Today about 90% av all affected dogs can become symptom free again. Still, demodicosis is one of the most difficult to treat skin conditions in dogs and the symptoms are often very agonizing for the affected dog. Keep in mind that demodicosis cannot affect humans or healthy animals. A dog can be declared healthy if two negative tests are taken with a 4 week interval.
Demodicosis is tested by a veterinarian through skin scraping. The disease is inheratable and will be inherited recessive. This means that both parents have to be at least carrier of the gene in order for one or several puppies in one litter to become affected. Dogs that are affected or produced affected litters or have affected sibblings should be taken out of the breeding program.
When looking at parents to a litter be attentive fo any symptoms. Do not buy a puppy from a litter if you know about or suspect demodicosis in one or both of the parents or their siblings.
Differend kinds of allergies can occur within the breed, but that is quite uncommon. Allergies can range from food allergies (mostly grains or beef) to allergies against differend types of mites and pollen. Allergies can have a large variety of symptoms like itching, bold spots in the fur, fungus, digesting problems as diarrhea and vomiting, etc. Usually, symptoms occur after the age of one year, but sometimes the symptoms won’t show untill the dog reaches a higher age.
Kennel clubs and vetenarians recommend to exclude dogs from the breeding program that are allergic, have allergic siblings or have produced allergic litters. Allergies are regarded inheritable, but even two healthy parents can produce affected puppies.
Allergies are determined by blood samples and skin scrapings by a vetenarian. Usually, Boerboel are not tested for allergies prior to breeding, but only if allergies are suspected. It is always important that you contact your breeder if your puppy is diagnosed with allergies. The breeder needs that information to evaluate his breeding plan and can contact other puppy buyers from that litter. Please do keep in mind that food allergies can be caused by enviromental factors, too. If you have a puppy falling ill with bad diarrhea, any food given to him, the puppy later can become allergic to. Contact a vetenarian immideatly instead of trying to cure the condition yourself. The puppy should also be fasting untill the diarrhea has gone back.
If looking at parents to a litter be attentive for any symptoms. Do not buy a puppy from a litter if you know about or suspect allergies in the parents or their siblings.
Sometimes the patella can be incorrectly developed and can then eather move inwards or out. The patella i examinated by a vetenarian and this examination should be done prior to breeding. Dogs who have an incorrectly developed patella should be excluded from the breeding program. Patella luxation can have differend causes and sometimes a dog is without any symptoms. In more severe cases this defect causes limping. It is not determined yet hoe patella luxation is inherited and mostly small breeds are affected. It is uncommon to test Boerboel for patella luxation prior to breeding.
Osteochondrosis is an inherited but non congential proliferative disorder that occures during the time the puppy grows the fastest, wich means between the age of 4 – 6 months. The defect worsens by wrong feeding or excercise (as decribed in the section about HD). Contact your breeder if you suspect or if your puppy has been diagnosed with osteochondrosis.
Molossers in general are quite likealy to develop heart disease. Heart disease occures rarely within the breed, however recently more and more Boerboel are diagnosed with differend types of heart disease. A serious breeder tests their breeding stock prior to breeding, since heart disease is considered to be inheritable.
Other Eye diseases
Apart from entropion/ectropion eye diseases do not occur often within the breed. However, a serious breeder should test his breeding stock once a year, as recommended. If you own your Boebroel as a pet, you should examine the eyes of your Boerboel twice. One time when the dog is about 18 months old and once when your dog has turned 6 – 7 years old. This way possible eye deseases as e.g. cataract can be diagnosed and treated from an early stage on.
Cancer can occur, but is not very common and in most cases cancer occures when the dog is old.