A Guide to Canine Osteosarcoma Treatment

Canine osteosarcoma is also known as dog bone cancer. Bone cancer cannot be treated, however there are methods to help your dog feel better and prolong his life expectancy. Osteosarcoma weakens the bones by attacking the bone tissue. The disease can cause fractures and is very painful for the dog.

Bone cancer in dogs has been associated with sudden bone growth and this leads to the conclusion that larger breeds of dogs may be more exposed to developing osteosarcoma. The condition is more frequent in older dogs.

Osteosarcoma Symptoms

The most common symptoms of osteosarcoma are lameness in the feet, possible lesions and joint pain. However, an x-ray will show if the symptoms point to bone cancer.

If the dog has osteosarcoma, it is imperative to determine whether the disease has spread in the entire body or it is just in the first phase. The vet will sun some blood tests, urine analysis and a few more radiographs plus a biopsy.

Canine Osteosarcoma Treatment Options

After establishing the stage of the condition, the canine osteosarcoma is given treatment. However, full recovery is only possible in less than 10% of the cases. The most successful treatment is surgery accompanied by chemotherapy.

Osteosarcoma Surgery

The vet will determine the required surgery procedure; in some cases the amputation is the only solution to remove the cancer. Dogs can adapt well to living with 3 legs, and there are even prosthetic appliances available. Remember that your dog can live longer and pain-free for the following year opposed to a painful 1 to 2 months-which is the likely prognosis if you decide against surgery.

The surgery can help your dog feel better and should delay the occurrence of the metastasis.

The limb amputation has an alternative: bone transplant. The affected bone, the tumor and the tissue surrounding it will be replaced with parts from a healthy donor. This type of surgery has proven to be a success; however, this is not a procedure that can be performed in all cases of canine osteosarcoma. The location of the tumor is important. The transplant can be easily performed on the back legs, but may be problematic if the tumor is located in the front legs or other parts of the dog's body. The bone transplant procedure must be accompanied by chemotherapy.


The chemotherapy treatment helps in preventing the growth of new cancerous cells. The drugs will not kill the existing cells. Chemotherapy may be expensive and will also cause side-effects such as hair loss, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney disease and secondary infections. The most common drugs used are Cisplatin and Carboplatin. Adriamycin is a powerful antibiotic that may also be used together with chemo.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy may be an option in early stages of bone cancer. However, the radiation therapy is not as effective as surgery and chemo. Radiation may be used to ease the pain.


Bone cancer is a serious condition and once the dog reaches the metastasis he has only a couple of months of life left. Dogs with osteosarcoma usually end up with pulmonary metastasis. In this stage, euthanasia is the only solution. The treatment can help reducing the dog's pain and help him live longer.