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Bone Cancer in Dogs

Bone Cancer in Dogs

Just like human beings, dogs also suffer from bone cancer. This can be quite a painful condition for your pet. It should be diagnosed early to save the pet from misery. Read on to know more about the disease and to identify it early on...
Marlene Alphonse
Canine osteosarcoma is a very aggressive tumor, affecting the bones of the dog, and causing severe pain. Every year, approximately 10,000 dogs are said to be diagnosed with this condition. There are two types of cancer: primary tumors that originate within the bone, and metastatic tumors that migrate to the bone from another part of the body that is affected by cancer. This disease can develop at any age, but is most likely to occur when the dog is old. It mostly affects breeds whose body structure is large.

Types of Canine Bone Cancer
  • Fibrosarcoma is a locally aggressive tumor that has a low tendency to spread unless the tumor is malignant.
  • Osteosarcoma is a highly malignant tumor, and is diagnosed after it has metastasized.
  • Chondrosarcoma is less aggressive than fibrosarcoma, but spreads to a wider area than osteosarcoma.
  • Synovial sarcoma is another type of bone cancer that causes complete destruction of the bone. Grade 1 and Grade 2 synovial cell carcinoma is potentially curable but, Grade 3 usually results in death.

Osteosarcoma can be easily detected in dogs by observing signs like:
  • Limping in the leg where the cancerous tumor is present. The lameness may not be so evident in the beginning, but as the size of the tumor increases, it causes more damage to the bone tissue, making it more painful, and leading to permanent disability of the dog.
  • A hard swelling will be observed on the affected part of the dog that may increase in size with time. The dog's behavior may change due to extreme pain in the affected part.
  • A condition called pathological fracture, where the bones become weak and tend to break easily even due to minor injury, can also be observed.

Though the cause of osteosarcoma is not exactly known, it has been noted that tumors generally develop in the growth plates. It has also been observed that male dogs are affected more than their female counterparts. A diet that can stimulate rapid growth and development is thought to play a significant role in the development of malignant tumors. Other factors include bone infections as well as fractures, exposure to chemical carcinogens or ionizing radiation, etc. Castrated males and spayed females are also at a risk of contracting bone cancer.

Diagnosis and Treatment

This illness can be treated using the following methods:
  • An X-ray or radiography is carried out in order to reveal a developing tumor, or characteristic bone patterns such as lytic lesions.
  • If the X-ray does not reveal a clear picture, a biopsy is performed.
  • Another common treatment is amputation of the affected limb. Limb sparing is also carried out if the cancer has not affected a major part of the bone.
  • Chemotherapy, coupled with surgery, is the primary form of treatment carried out in order to avoid amputation.
  • Chemotherapy drugs like cisplatin, carboplatin, and doxorubicin are used to alter the course of osteosarcoma.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication and analgesics such as aspirin, butorphanol, carprofen, and tramadol are used to provide temporary relief from pain and discomfort.
In case you identify any of the aforementioned symptoms in your pet dog, consult a veterinarian immediately for timely and possibly life-saving detection and treatment.