One of the most common types of cancer in dogs is bone cancer, and it must be diagnosed and treated in its early stages to see the best recovery results. Here, our Thousand Oaks veterinarians talk about the symptoms and treatments for bone cancer in dogs.
What is osteosarcoma?
Osteosarcoma is the most commonly seen form of primary bone cancer in dogs. About 95% of all bone tumors diagnosed in dogs are osteosarcoma. This aggressive condition leads to the malignant, abnormal growth of immature bone cells.
If left untreated, osteosarcoma will spread rapidly throughout the body and could cause a cascade of other health issues, potentially becoming quickly fatal. However, if osteosarcoma is diagnosed early, life-saving surgery to remove the cancerous limb may be possible. Swift removal of the limb can help to prevent the disease from spreading.
What are the signs of bone cancer in dogs?
Early symptoms of bone cancer in dogs are so subtle that many pet parents don't recognize them straight away. Osteosarcoma often develops in a dog's front legs first, but may also affect your pet's jaw, facial bones, vertebrae, ribs, and rear legs.
Some of the most common symptoms of osteosarcoma in dogs include:
- Swelling in the ribs, spine, legs, or jaw
- Severe pain
- Mass or lump on the dog's body
- Loss of appetite
- Limping or lameness
- Respiratory distress
- Discharge from the nostrils
- Lethargy or weakness
When should I take my dog to see a vet?
Bone cancer is an aggressive disease that has a tendency to spread extremely quickly, so urgent treatment is required. If your pet is displaying any of the symptoms listed above call your vet immediately to book an emergency appointment. Pet parents should always take symptoms of bone cancer in their dogs very seriously! Osteosarcoma can quickly become fatal if not detected early enough to treat.
What is the treatment for dogs with bone cancer?
Because of the aggressive nature of osteosarcoma, the best treatment is often to amputate the limb and then begin chemotherapy. Although amputation may seem extreme, it can help to prevent the cancer from spreading and most dogs have little trouble adjusting to life with three legs. If surgery isn't an option for your dog, a combination of radiation and chemotherapy may be beneficial.
If your dog is diagnosed with osteosarcoma, your vet will take the time to discuss recent developments in the treatment of cancer so that you are able to understand therapy options for your dog.
What is the outlook for dogs with osteosarcoma?
Factors like your dog's age, weight, and the tumor's location will all influence the prognosis. Only your vet will be able to provide you with an accurate prognosis for your pet, and your veterinarian or veterinary oncologist will develop a specialized treatment plan to help your dog achieve the best possible outcome.
Dogs diagnosed and treated for bone cancer can usually live for another 1 - 6 years. Unfortunately, bone cancer is extremely aggressive and often proves fatal even when treated with surgery and other therapies, but your primary and specialty vet teams will collaborate to ensure your dog's comfort and quality of life for as long as possible.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.