Dog bone cancer, or canine osteosarcoma, is unfortunately an aggressive and rapidly spreading disease to other parts of the body. It is one of the most common bone tumors in the canine world. If you want to know more about the disease, its causes, treatments, as well as some data for its early detection, do not hesitate to continue reading this article.
What exactly is bone cancer in dogs?
Bone cancer, or osteosarcoma, is a malignant tumor that originates in the bones. This cancer arises from the abnormal production of cells that create and break down bones (called osteoblasts and osteoclasts, respectively). Long bones (such as those in the legs) are the most commonly affected, although bones such as the dog’s jaw, hips or pelvis can also be affected. Bone cancer in dogs can also affect non-bone tissues, including the mammary glands, liver and kidneys.
Causes of bone cancer in dogs
The causes of bone cancer in dogs are not well understood. But it is known that there are certain breeds of dogs more prone to developing it. For example, the Scottish Greyhound is known to be genetically predisposed to osteosarcoma, and it also occurs frequently in other large breed dogs, especially Rottweilers. Large or giant dogs are also at higher risk, as are middle-aged or older dogs.
Is it possible that my dog has bone cancer? Signs and symptoms
Osteosarcoma can occur in any bone in a pet’s body, but in dogs, most tumors of this type appear on the front limbs, near the shoulder, wrist, and knee. Osteosarcoma is extremely aggressive and spreads rapidly to other parts of the body, making early detection and treatment vital.
The symptoms of bone cancer in dogs can be subtle, and may include:
- Lameness that does not go away and swelling of the affected bone: one of the most common symptoms when a tumor affects a limb.
- Swelling or lump appearance: This is usually the first sign of a tumor in the skull, jaw, or ribs.
- Difficulty eating, in the case of tumors that affect the jaw.
- Neurological signs, such as seizures or wobbly walking – these symptoms are related to skull or vertebral / vertebral tumors
- Breathing difficulties, related to rib tumors
- Loss of appetite and lethargy.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, do not hesitate to make an appointment with your veterinary specialist in animal oncology, so that he can carry out an evaluation.
Diagnosis and action against bone cancer in dogs
To diagnose this type of cancer in dogs, veterinarians generally follow these steps:
- First, the vet will perform an x-ray and perform a physical and orthopedic examination to rule out other possible causes of the limp.
- To obtain a definitive diagnosis and determine the best type of treatment for your dog, biopsies will be made of any problem area identified on the x-ray performed.
- Chest x-rays or computed tomography (CT), blood tests, and a urinalysis will be done to assess the animal’s general health and determine whether or not the cancer has spread.
Advanced computed tomography, or X-ray, is highly recommended for limb bone tumors because it provides better information so that veterinarians can determine if surgery is possible in each case and how surgery should be performed to achieve favorable results.
Treatments for canine osteosarcoma
Because osteosarcoma tumors are quite aggressive, amputation of the affected limb, followed by chemotherapy to treat metastasis, is possibly one of the most common treatments. Although amputation is not the best option for all pets, it can be a good alternative for dogs: healthy dogs can work quite well with just three legs.
Limb-sparing surgery, in which the tumor is removed and the affected bone replaced with another, may be another good option depending on the location of the tumor and whether it is relatively small at the time of diagnosis. However, the complication rate for this type of surgery, specifically infection, is especially high.
In cases where surgery is not an option, due to the location of the tumor, stereotactic radiation (SRS / SRT) can be a beneficial treatment. It can also be an alternative to amputation for dogs in which the cancer has not destroyed a large amount of bone. This type of advanced and highly accurate radiation therapy uses high doses of radiation to damage and kill cancer cells. Still, follow-up chemotherapy is still recommended and necessary in many cases.
The main advantage of SRS / SRT stereotactic radiation is that it provides a high radiation dose with sub-millimeter precision. Which means:
- Maximum damage to the tumor and minimal damage to nearby healthy tissues
- Fewer treatment sessions compared to conventional fractionated radiation therapy (CFRT): in this case, patients require only 1-3 sessions, which means less anesthesia for your pet and less risk.
- Great chances of a faster recovery with fewer side effects.
- Options to treat tumors previously considered intractable with radiation.
Bone cancer in dogs: life expectancy, survival and prognosis
The prognosis for pets with bone cancer depends on the severity and progression of the disease, as well as the treatment chosen.
Dogs with limb bone cancer receiving radiation and chemotherapy treatment are known to have a median survival of about one year, similar to the survival time for dogs treated with amputation and chemotherapy if it has not yielded the expected results. .
If your dog suffers from this or another type of cancer, it will also be important to discuss with your veterinarian the way in which you will address pain: you will have to agree with him on how you are going to handle the pain of the animal in the pre and postoperative period, as well as everything what you can do to improve your situation.