Osteosarcoma is the most prevalent type of bone cancer found in dogs. It's an aggressive, tumour-forming cancer that can metastasise to surrounding organs and lymph nodes. Any breed of dog can develop this condition, but large breeds seem to be more susceptible to developing bone cancer than small breeds. It's not yet understood why some dogs develop osteosarcoma, and the condition has not been linked to genetics, age or gender. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for osteosarcoma in dogs:
Symptoms of osteosarcoma include swelling at the site of the tumour, localised pain and lethargy. Lameness can occur when tumour growth develops along a leg bone, as the bone will weaken and can fracture. In response the pain they are experiencing, your dog may become socially withdrawn and irritable, and they may also lose their appetite, which can quickly lead to dehydration.
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
Your vet will diagnose osteosarcoma by taking details of your dog's symptoms and carrying out a physical exam. Blood and urine samples will be collected to check for signs of inflammation or infection and organ function. Your dog will also undergo diagnostic imaging, such as an X-ray or CT scan, to determine the size of the tumour, any damage to the bone and whether cancerous cells have spread to other parts of their body.
Treatment for osteosarcoma typically involves surgical removal of the tumour, and when a limb is severely affected, amputation is sometimes necessary. If this is the case, your dog will receive physiotherapy to help them adapt. If cancerous cells have spread to other parts of their body, chemotherapy or radiation therapy will be required. These therapies don't have a great success rate in dogs with this type of cancer, so early diagnosis is an important factor in your dog recovering from osteosarcoma.
During treatment and recovery, your dog will require a quiet, calm living environment, so you may have to keep them separate from other pets or young children. They will also have to reduce their activity levels, so long walks and playing fetch will be off bounds for a while. Your vet will have several follow-up appointments with your dog to ensure treatment has been effective and there's no further development of cancerous cells.
If your dog has any of the symptoms associated with osteosarcoma, schedule an appointment right away with your vet to prevent unnecessary suffering.