Pet Care Blog

Signs of Bone Cancer in Dogs (Osteosarcoma)

Signs of Bone Cancer in Dogs (Osteosarcoma)

Bone cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in dogs. Bone cancer must be detected and treated in its very earliest stages in order to achieve the best possible treatment outcomes. Here is more from our Memphis vets on the symptoms and treatments for bone cancer in dogs.

What is osteosarcoma?

At Memphis Veterinary Specialists & Emergency in Cordova, osteosarcoma is the most common form of primary bone cancer our vets sees in dogs. Osteosarcoma accounts for approximately 95% of all bone tumors diagnosed in dogs. This aggressive condition leads to the malignant, abnormal growth of immature bone cells.

Left untreated osteosarcoma will spread rapidly throughout the body causing other health issues, and can quickly become fatal for dogs. 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?

The early symptoms of bone cancer in dogs are so subtle that many pet parents don't recognize them straight away. Osteosarcoma often appears first in the dog's front legs however, your pet's jaw, facial bones, vertebrae, ribs, and rear legs can all be affected by this aggressive disease.

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 a very aggressive disease which 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 urgent appointment. Pet parents should always take symptoms of bone cancer in their dogs very seriously! Osteosarcoma can quickly lead to fatal conditions such as respiratory distress.

What is the treatment for dogs with bone cancer?

Due to the aggressive nature of osteosarcoma, the best treatment is often amputation of the limb followed by chemotherapy. Although amputation may seem extreme it can help to prevent the cancer from spreading and most dogs do very well with three legs. If surgery isn't an option for your dog, a combination of radiation and chemotherapy may be beneficial.

Following your dog's diagnosis of osteosarcoma, your vet will take the time to discuss the most recent bone cancer treatment developments with you so that you are able to understand your dog's treatment options. 

What is the prognosis for dogs with bone cancer?

Factors such as age, weight, and where the tumor is located will all influence your dog's prognosis. Only your vet will be able to provide you with an accurate prognosis for your pet. 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 typically live for another 1 - 6 years. Unfortunately bone cancer is very aggressive and often proves fatal even when treated with surgery and other therapies.

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.

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