Boxers can have very delicate tummies, and most of their admirers accept that about them. They should be fed a consistent diet on a regular schedule. In general, there is some evidence to suggest that some stomach disturbances may be the result of elevated autoimmune antibodies. The full Michigan Statue University thyroid panel, normally performed to detect thyroid problems, can detect those elevated levels.
If you have a picky eater whose back is frequently hunched up like a horseshoe, you probably have a boxer with colitis. This disorder is so common in boxers that vets tend to refer to it as boxer colitis. Symptoms can vary from an occasionally upset stomach, which you can manage by not changing foods on your boxer and feeding at precisely the same time each day, to constant bloody diarrhea and vomiting. If your boxer's stomach upsets are boxer colitis, keeping to a set schedule along with bland foods and digestive enzymes will probably solve your (and his!) problems.
Pancreatic Exocrine Insufficiency
If the stomach upsets come with great hunger, your boxer has full-blown pancreatic exocrine insufficiency (PEI), the inability to produce sufficient digestive enzymes.
In some cases, this appears to be an inherited condition. Signs of PEI include chronic diarrhea and weight loss despite a good, even ravenous appetite. The hearty appetite is due to the fact that nutrients are poorly absorbed. The appetite center in the brain is never really satisfied, leaving the dog chronically hungry. These dogs may also experience malabsorption problems, inflammatory bowel disease, or colitis, worsened by the presence of undigested foods.
Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include diarrhea and roaching (back hunched up like a horseshoe). Pancreatitis is the result of inflammation of the pancreas due to overwork or irritation. The adrenal glands may release cortisol to help reduce the inflammation. If this does not solve the problem, the tissues of the pancreas swell and obstruct the pancreatic duct. The pancreas produces enzymes that aid in the digestion of food. If these enzymes become active while still in the pancreas, the boxer's body literally begins to digest itself. Scarring and further inflammation are the results.
Pancreatic inflammation can result in varying degrees of pain. This can range from mild discomfort to severe enough pain to require a pain medication. Because digestive enzymes cannot reach the small intestine, foods are poorly digested. The dog's body may begin to consider these incompletely digested molecules to be toxins or irritants, which can initiate an immune system response.
When inflammation of the pancreas occurs gradually and over time, it is termed chronic. This is the most common form of pancreatitis in boxers. Many with this form can go for years at a time without an episode of sudden and severe pancreas inflammation. Sudden and severe inflammation of the pancreas is acute pancreatitis, which does not last as long as chronic pancreatitis. This is the form that is most commonly found in dogs that have been given large amounts of cooked fats, such as during Thanksgiving.
Digestion of dietary fats (lipids) can be particularly compromised in cases of pancreatitis. The close proximity of the pancreas to the liver can result in inflammation of the liver and the bile duct. This can interfere with both formation and secretion of bile. If this happens, then the lipids will be insufficiently digested, and the boxer absorbs the undigested lipids into the lymphatic system, which will also set off an immune response. The body will try to rid itself of these irritants by vomiting or diarrhea. In severe cases, the boxer will develop inflammatory bowel disease or malabsorption conditions in conjunction with bouts of pancreatitis.
Many proponents of raw-food feel that feeding a dog with a compromised digestive system a raw food diet is an obvious choice, since the raw food contains enzymes and is easier to digest. Boxers with chronic pancreatitis and mild boxer colitis and inflammatory bowel disease have done very well on a raw diet.
Complications of chronic or acute pancreatitis can include liver problems leading to a serious blood-clotting abnormality. Inflammation can compromise the liver's ability to process bilirubin, which results in jaundice.
To fully diagnose your boxer's condition, there are several blood tests that veterinarians use. These tests generally measure levels of enzymes present in the bloodstream, which will determine the exact type of problem he has.