Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer in dogs. Here is what you need to know about osteosarcoma:
Osteosarcomas are an aggressive cancer that normally affects large and giant dog breeds.
Osteosarcomas can cause lameness, pain and depressed behaviour.
Osteosarcomas require veterinary treatment to manage and treat.
What is osteosarcoma?
Osteosarcoma is a primary malignant form of bone cancer. This means that it is highly likely to spread (metastasise) to other parts of the body. It is most often seen in the limbs of large and giant breed dogs, such as rottweilers and wolfhounds.
What signs should I look out for?
Your dog may show a persistent limp on the affected leg. They may be quieter than normal or not their normal self with a reduced appetite. A painful swelling may develop at the site of the bone tumour, and you may notice the muscles starting to waste away on the affected leg.
How is osteosarcoma diagnosed?
Your vet will likely recommend x-rays to assess the leg. Further investigation may include more advanced imaging techniques such as a CT scan. Biopsies (the taking of a sample) of the affected bone may also be taken to confirm the diagnosis. Because osteosarcoma is an aggressive cancer with a high risk of spread, investigations may include imaging of the lungs (the most common site for the cancer to spread) and the abdomen too. If your vet suspects enlargement or spread to the lymph nodes they may recommend a biopsy of these also.
How is osteosarcoma treated?
Treatment can mean amputation of the affected leg to remove the primary tumour. Although this sounds very drastic, dogs generally cope remarkably well after amputation, especially as the source of pain has been removed. In addition, there are also radiotherapy and chemotherapy options.
What is the long-term outlook if my dog has osteosarcoma?
Unfortunately, as it is an overly aggressive form of cancer, without any treatment the life expectancy may only be a few months. With amputation of the affected leg, this can increase to 6 months, and with chemotherapy it can be extended to around one year. It should be noted that these are average life expectancies and so some dogs may survive longer or shorter than these times.