Palliative Radiation Therapy (PRT) for Bone Cancer in Dogs

Depending upon the severity and the spread of bone cancer, dogs that have been diagnosed with the disease have a variety of treatment and management options. Palliative radiation therapy, also known as PRT, is a useful procedure to manage the symptoms and spread of several types of bone cancers in dogs. Palliation for osteosarcoma is common, as is use of the treatment in cases of hyperalgesia and allodynia. Palliative radiation therapy is not appropriate in all cases, however, and it is important to understand the function and uses of PRT before considering it for your dog.

What Is Palliative Radiation Therapy?

PRT is a type of radiation treatment. During the PRT procedure, radiation is delivered to the site of the cancer in your dog's body, discouraging growth and eliminating existing cancer cells. Unlike other types of radiation therapy, palliation provides radiation over an extended period of time. Your dog must remain perfectly still during this, so it's common for a radiation specialist to anesthetize your pet during the procedure. The frequency of therapy sessions as well as the duration of each session depends upon your dog and his particular case. For more specifics regarding your situation, talk with a veterinary radiologist.

Using Palliative Radiation Therapy

Palliative radiation therapy is intended for the maintenance of your pet's quality of life.  PRT is not typically used as a singular treatment strategy. Rather, PRT is used to relieve pain and prolong your pet's lifespan, particularly if surgical procedures like amputation are not feasible. Palliation does not cure your pet's cancer, but it eases his symptoms and allows him to function at a higher level in spite of the presence of cancer.

PRT is used frequently to manage the symptoms of osteosarcoma. In combination with pain relieving drugs, PRT typically helps to significantly improve activity and quality of life in roughly two thirds of dogs suffering from osteosarcoma.

Potential Side Effects of PRT

Palliative radiation therapy usually only causes side effects in the areas where the treatment is localized. In most cases, your pet will experience some skin irritation, ranging from mild to moderate. In more severe cases, it will appear that your pet has a reddish sunburn and he may experience some hair loss. Over time, the skin will scar and then heal, and the hair will regrow.

Occasionally, PRT may cause vomitting, diarrhea and other digestive complications. These cases usually develop when the therapy is directed at the stomach or abdomen.

If your pet has been diagnosed with bone cancer, speak with your veterinarian about the possibility of including palliative radiation therapy as a tool for managing his symptoms and alleviating his pain.