Osteosarcoma or Bone Cancer


Typical sites of bone cancer

I hate writing about depressing things but we all must face some hardship periodically. In the veterinary world, we usually see things in threes — 3 dogs with bladder stones, 3 cats that have urinary blockage, and cancers.

So when I saw the first pet a week or so ago with possible osteosarcoma I crossed my fingers and sent him to his veterinarian but the news was not good; I hoped that since I was in a “different” avenue of veterinary medicine that the superstition would not hold.

Unfortunately, this also was not to be true — a second patient was referred back to his vet and bone cancer was found again. I am still hopeful that I won’t see another but I am being very vigilant with every pet to make sure there isn’t anything kind of wonky.

Osteosarcoma is a malignant tumor of the bone and among the most common bone tumors seen in dogs. It metastasizes (goes to other parts of the body) quickly and because of this has a poor prognosis.

It is more commonly found in large breed dogs and on the long bones of the legs. Most of these pets are seven years or older and we do tend to see more of them in males.

The pet usually is lame and the owner may think it is due to some type of trauma. Lameness can be subtle or even to non-weight bearing but eventually the swelling begins. Radiographs are recommended and your veterinarian may not see anything that looks like cancer but if the swelling or lameness continues another x-ray may be needed.

If bone cancer is suspected then x-ray films of your pet’s chest is recommended since the lungs are one of the favorite areas to metastasize.

Osteosarcoma is not a good prognosis but if the lungs appear clear, there are some treatment options:

  • Amputation — this is the very first thing that any veterinarian is going to recommend. Bone cancer can cause your pet’s bone to fracture with the slightest trauma even just lying down so this is the reason we recommend this treatment.
  • Amputation with steroids — not the best option but it will help for a short while and make your pet more comfortable.
  • Amputation with chemotherapy — this is the best option and gives your pet a greater chance at longevity.

None of the options are great but it will make a difference in your pet’s quality of life and longevity.

There is truly no way of telling who is going to get bone cancer and all we can do is to love our pets and do the best we can for them. I hope to not see the third one but if I do I will hold them in my thoughts like I do all of you.

Here’s to you and your pet’s health — blessings.


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