Treating Osteosarcoma in Dogs with Chemotherapy

Osteosarcoma in dogs is a type of cancer that develops in the pet's bones and joints. Although all breeds are susceptible to sarcomas, large breed pets are at greater risk of developing osteosarcoma. The cause of osteosarcoma isn't established and research suggests that it may occur due to cell mutation and trauma. Osteosarcoma is an aggressive form of cancer that requires aggressive treatment protocol to slow disease progression. Since the symptoms of canine arthritis are similar to the symptoms of osteosarcoma, it's necessary to obtain a definite diagnosis to begin early treatment.

Development of Canine Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma mostly develops in the limbs of large breed pets such as Great Danes and Saint Bernards. Once the cancer sets in, the limbs become swollen and cause lameness and pain. In addition, pets may suffer from pathological bone fractures since the cancer is highly invasive. Lesions or fractures present in the bone are easily detected through x-rays or ultrasounds. However, further diagnostic tests may be performed to confirm osteosarcoma.

Diagnostic Tests Include:

  • Radiographs
  • MRI scans
  • Bone biopsy
  • Complete Blood Count Test
  • Urine Analysis

Progression of Osteosarcoma

Since osteosarcoma is an aggressive cancer, it can spread easily to different parts of the body. The vet will determine the various parts of the body that are malignant in nature during diagnosis. If osteosarcoma has spread to different parts of the body, surgical intervention cannot be the only treatment procedure used to combat the cancer. Chemotherapy is necessary to slow the progress of the disease and kill other malignant cells present.

Treatment of Osteosarcoma in Dogs

Most cases of osteosarcoma spread to the lungs. Although radiographs of the chest may not detect malignancy around the lungs, all dogs are treated with chemotherapy medicines. Affected limbs are surgically amputated and affected bones are extracted during treatment. The dog will be prescribed chemotherapy drugs according to the severity of osteosarcoma present. Commonly used chemotherapy medicines include carboplatin and doxorubicin. Chemotherapy is generally administered for several weeks as an outpatient procedure. The treatment protocol varies according to individual pet needs and underlying health concerns present.

Chemotherapy for Osteosarcoma in Dogs

Chemotherapy drugs are often alternated during treatment. Each outpatient procedure lasts for at least half an hour. The dog will also experience certain side effects due to the drugs administered. Since osteosarcoma causes severe and often irreparable bone damage, limb sparing techniques are not beneficial. Most pets survive up to one year with both surgical intervention and chemotherapy medication. The main aim of treatment is to slow the progress of cancer and reduce discomfort and pain caused by osteosarcoma.

Treatment without Surgery

Few pet owners don't opt for surgical intervention. They use chemotherapy as the only treatment option and provide supportive care. The prognosis for dogs treated exclusively with chemotherapy is not good. Most pets survive for a few months due to the medicines administered.

Pet owners should work with the vet to determine the treatment option best suited to the dog. Surgeries are also expensive and pet owners have to commit both time and money to keep the dog comfortable.