Sarcoma in Dogs

Sarcoma in dogs is a type of cancer that affects various cells in the dog's body. Most affected cells are associated with connective tissue and are tested positive for malignancy. The terms used to describe various types of sarcoma are directly related to the location of malignant cells. Commonly occurring sarcomas are fibrosarcoma, osteosarcoma and angiosarcoma. Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer detected in dogs. This sarcoma is invasive and sets in certain bones present in the body. In order to determine the type of sarcoma present, pet owners should seek prompt vet help if any symptoms of sarcoma exist.

Symptoms of Sarcoma Include:

  • Lameness of the limbs
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal enlargement
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Unusual bleeding
  • Halitosis

Diagnosis of Sarcoma in Dogs

To determine the cause of various symptoms the vet will perform a thorough physical examination of the dog and conduct ultrasounds and x-rays to detect internal tumors or masses. The vet will look for soft tissue sarcomas in particular that originate from mesenchymal cells. Soft tissue sarcomas may develop under the skin or as growths that appear either small or large in size. Tumors present in the body are subjected to full thickness biopsy to obtain a large sample of cells for laboratory analysis. In most cases the biopsy may be performed after surgical removal of the mass. CT scans are also helpful to determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. During diagnosis it's also important to establish the overall health of the pet and the presence of underlying ailments. In addition, blood tests, fecal exams and chest X-rays are beneficial.

Treatment of Sarcoma in Dogs

Most cancerous growths or tumors are extracted with surgical intervention. After surgical extraction of the mass, chemotherapy medication is administered to slow the progress of the disease and kill other cancerous cells present. Combination therapy may also be used if the tumor is not well defined. Radiation therapy is administered under anesthesia to pets suffering from sarcoma. Radiation therapy involves the use of photons to penetrate the cancerous cells and destroy them. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy, when used in combination, work to reduce cancer progression and discomfort caused by sarcoma. The treatment protocol for chemotherapy varies according to individual dog conditions and the extent of cancer development in the body. Pets treated with surgical intervention require proper home care and medical attention.

Home Care

Pet owners have to commit both time and money to care for pets suffering from sarcoma. Post surgery procedures should be followed to speed recovery and reduce discomfort and pain. Although most pets respond favorably to chemotherapy, they suffer from certain side effects. The vet will schedule several follow up diagnostic tests to determine response to medication and disease progression. Chemotherapy drugs prescribed for home administration should be given on time. Unusual symptoms should also be brought to the vet's notice.

The prognosis for dogs suffering from sarcoma varies according to the grade of cancer present, the dog's age and underlying health conditions. If the cancer is in the advanced stage the vet may recommend supportive care to keep the pet comfortable. In some cases, chemotherapy and radiation therapy prolongs the dog's life by one year.