Boxer ARVC

Boxer ARVC or Boxer arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy is a breed specific disease affecting the heart muscles on the right side of the heart.  The result of the disease is an irregular heart rate, fainting spells (syncope), and eventually, sudden death.  Breeds such as the Doberman Pincher, Collie, St. Bernard and many others are also susceptible to heart disease, but it will more commonly start on the left side.  Dr. Kate Meurs has a wonderful lecture on YouTube discussing Boxer ARVC ( for those interested in the scientific part of it, otherwise I will try to summerize the most commonly asked questions.

How is a dog sreened for ARVC?

The best screening for ARVC curently is the Holter monitor.  This device is strapped to the dogs chest where it monitors continuual heart rythm in a 24 hour period.  However, because ARVC is an adult onset disease, typically at 6-8 years, if a dogs Holter reading comes back normal at the age of 4 DOES NOT mean that dog does not have ARVC.  This is why breeders Holter their breeding dogs yearly. 

In 2009 a DNA test for the ARVC gene became available to breeders and owners.  Unfortunately, only a few months later it was found that there was something flawed with this radical discovery thought to be the end to Boxer ARVC.  Homozygous negative dogs were being diagnosed by cardiologists as having ARVC and homozygous positive dogs were living long and healthy lives.   In the May 2010 issue of the Purina Boxer Update (Vol. 9, No. 1), Dr Meurs wrote, “…While our test is a valuable tool, it is clearly not predictive in all Boxer populations.”

My veterinarian listens to my dogs heart when he gets his check up, shouldn't this determine if my dog has ARVC?

Not necessarily.  A normal dog has, on average, 100,000 beats per day.  So  your veterinarian may catch 200 of this heart beats, but  chances are, the VPCs are in the other 99, 800 beats.  Thsi is why holters are placed on a dog for a 24 hour period.

 Can I avoid purchasing a puppy that may develop ARVC?

No.  The reality is, if ARVC shows up in a dog at the age of 6, she may have already had 2 litters. While responsible breeders do all they can to minimize heart disease in their line, currently there is no way to offer a 100% guarantee that a puppy will not eventually end up with the disease.  Hopefully in time, reasearch will find a definitive gene marker for ARVC that allows breeders to breed away from the disease.  Currently, however, this does not exist.

What are VPC's?

Ventricular Premature Complexes (VPC's) are  contractions shown on an ECG due to an abnormal position in the ventricular myocardium of the heart.  An animal with the number of VPCs greater than 300 is likely affected.  It is worthy to note however that the presence of VPCs does not mean a dog has ARVC.  There is the chance that the animal may have a tumor or virus that is causing the abnormal contractions in the same way ARVC does.





Dena and Todd Scott

Carvel, Alberta, Canada.


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