Frequently Asked Questions

Deafness and Health Issues

Won’t we increase deafness and other health problems by using whites?

Are white Boxers less healthy?

Breeders are understandably concerned about adding or increasing health issues in a breed that is far from free of problems. Genetically, the only known potential health issue related to the white marking gene is deafness. Overall, white Boxers experience similar health and longevity as their fawn and brindle counterparts.

At its 2022 annual meeting, the American Boxer Club Health and Research Committee unanimously agreed on their position statement:

In response to the majority vote in 2019, the H & R Committee believes and recommends that a health cleared (ARVC, DM, SAS) white Boxer may be bred to a genetically plain Boxer.

Questions and Answers


White Boxers are often deaf, though, right?

A higher percentage of white Boxers are deaf than fawn or brindle Boxers, but “often” isn’t really accurate. We don’t have statistics specifically on the incidence of deafness in white Boxers, because no one has ever studied it. We can make some logical extrapolations from the scientific data we do have on the incidence of deafness in breeds with the same white marking gene as Boxers. The closest example is Bull Terriers, because they breed both white and colored dogs. Research has consistently found that deafness occurs in fewer than 2% of  colored dogs, and in about 18-20% of white dogs. Most of those are unilaterally deaf, meaning they can hear out of one ear; only around 4% of white Bull Terriers are bilaterally deaf. Anecdotal surveys of Boxer owners correlate with the 18-20% deafness incidence, although rescue groups, unsurprisingly, see a higher percentage.


What about blindness?

While both deafness and blindness can be problems in dogs that are white due to the merle gene, there has been no research to support a link between blindness and the white marking gene found in Boxers. The Blue Book, published by the genetics committee of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, only lists cataracts (not juvenile) as a potential cause of blindness in Boxers. OFA statistics show that about 2% of Boxers have some type of cataract; this is out of only 457 dogs tested, which implies that owners are not often seeking information on eye problems in their dogs.


How is deafness inherited?

We don’t exactly know, yet. Studies have proven a link between two copies of the white marking gene and congenital sensorineural deafness, but there are other factors at play, and the specific gene responsible for deafness is as yet unknown. In Bull Terriers and Dalmatians, patches of color on the body have been associated with a decreased incidence of deafness; this makes sense when we consider deafness is caused by a lack of pigment cells in the inner ear, and dogs with patches have more pigment cells, in general. (Please note that pigmentation on the outer ear does not necessarily correlate to pigmentation on the inner ear; some white dogs with colored ears are still deaf.)


Are there health problems other than deafness associated with the white marking gene?

It’s unlikely. There’s no published research linking any other health condition with the white marking pattern, and even anecdotal evidence hasn’t shown a correlation. White Boxers have the same incidence of ARVC, AS, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, DM, cancer as fawn and brindle Boxers. They have the same average lifespan, they participate in the same sports and activities, and they make their families just as happy. Yes, some white Boxers will die early from cancer or other health issues — but so will some fawn Boxers and some brindle Boxers.


White Boxers get their health genes from the same place as their fawn and brindle littermates. If a breeding produces extremely unhealthy white puppies, it is likely to produce extremely unhealthy fawn and brindle puppies, too.