What is Osteosarcoma?
Commonly called bone cancer, osteosarcoma is by far the most common type of bone cancer in the dog.
How does my dog get Osteosarcoma?
As with most cancers, the cause is not known. However, because it's far more common in giant and large breeds, and at the ends of their long bones, where the growth plates are, it's thought to be associated with rapid growth. It may also be influenced by sex hormones, as it's more common in males than females.
How do I know if my dog has Osteosarcoma?
Most owners first notice their dog limping, either off and on or constantly. The bone may be swollen and painful, most often on the front leg away from the elbow (near the wrist), or the rear leg around the knee. The bone may also break easily at the site of the tumor. Your veterinarian will take radiographs, which will usually reveal abnormal bone. A CT scan is more sensitive and can detect earlier stages. The most definitive diagnosis is with a bone biopsy.
What can I do about Osteosarcoma?
Osteosarcoma is a painful disease, so pain medication or radiation therapy are needed if surgery is not pursued. Treatment of choice is complete surgical removal, which usually means limb amputation. Most dogs do well on three legs, but older and heavier dogs may not. Limb sparing surgery is available at a few veterinary centers around the country, and may be an option for some dogs. Surgery is followed by chemotherapy. Dogs cope well with chemotherapy, and rarely suffer from the same side effects that humans do. Unfortunately, the tumor has usually metastasized by the time of diagnosis, and while amputation plus chemotherapy offers the best survival time, they are seldom curative. Survival time is longer for osteosarcoma of the jaw.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my dog from getting Osteosarcoma?
At this time there is no prevention. However, some evidence exists that neutering, especially early neutering, may slightly increase the odds of getting osteosarcoma.
Are there certain breeds that get Osteosarcoma more often?
Large and giant breeds are predisposed, especially Irish Wolfhounds, German Shepherds, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Rottweilers and Greyhounds.