Signs & Symptoms of Bone Cancer in Dogs

The most common type of bone cancer in dogs, called osteosarcoma, is aggressive and can spread quickly to other parts of the body, making early detection and treatment vital. Today, our Ventura vets explain how to spot the signs of bone cancer in your dog, and when to reach out to your vet. 

Bone Cancer in Dogs

Osteosarcoma is the most common type of primary bone cancer, accounting for approximately 95% of bone tumors, in dogs. Other types of bone cancer include chondrosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, and hemangiosarcoma.

This aggressive condition leads to the malignant, abnormal growth of immature bone cells. It spreads quickly to other parts of the body, making early detection and treatment vital. Despite the severity of this disease there is hope, if diagnosed early a life-saving surgery may be possible to remove the cancerous limb.

Certain dog breeds are more prone to developing bone cancer. Scottish Deerhounds are genetically predisposed to osteosarcoma, and it occurs frequently in Rottweilers and other large-breed dogs. Giant dogs, such as Great Danes, are also at greater risk as they age.

Veterinary Oncology

If your dog is showing the following signs and symptoms of bone cancer, book an appointment with a veterinary oncologist immediately. Vets specializing in oncology will have the appropriate technology to diagnose bone cancer and offer an effective treatment plan.

Signs of Bone Cancer in Dogs

The signs of bone cancer in dogs can be subtle and difficult to recognize, especially in the early stages of the disease. Typically, in dogs bone cancer will often appear in the front limbs near the shoulder, wrist, and knee. However, their jaw, facial bones, vertebrae, ribs, and rear legs may also be affected.

Symptoms of bone cancer in dogs can include:

  • Loss of appetite and Lethargy
  • Neurologic signs, such as a wobbly gait
  • Indications of severe pain
  • Discharge from the nostrils
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Swelling in the ribs, spine, legs, or jaw
  • Limping or lameness
  • Growth of a mass on the dog's body

When to See Your Vet

Signs of bone cancer in your dog should always be taken seriously, due to the aggressive nature of this disease it can spread quickly to other organs and cause conditions such as loss of appetite and respiratory distress that can be fatal.

It is important to keep a close eye on your dog’s overall health and immediately book an appointment with your vet if you notice any of the symptoms listed above, even if they are subtle. 

Diagnosis of Bone Cancer in Dogs

To diagnose osteosarcoma, veterinarians typically will perform a physical and orthopedic examination and run an X-ray on the area of concern. Any problem areas identified on the X-ray will likely be biopsied for a definitive diagnosis. Blood tests, a urinalysis and chest X-rays or a computed tomography (CT) scan will likely be performed to assess your dog’s overall health and determine if the cancer has spread. 

Prognosis and Treatment of Bone Cancer in Dogs

There are numerous factors such as age, weight, and where the tumor is located, which will influence your dog's prognosis. The prognosis for pets with osteosarcoma depends on the severity and spread of the disease and on the treatment you choose. 

Because osteosarcomas tumors are so aggressive, the most common treatment is amputation of the affected limb followed by chemotherapy to treat metastasis. 

Radiation treatment can be effective at providing pain relief when surgical management is not an option.  As few as two treatments are capable of complete or partial pain relief that typically lasts for several months.

If your dog is diagnosed with osteosarcoma your vet will develop a specialized treatment plan to coordinate treatments and help your dog achieve the best possible outcome. New therapies and procedures are always being studied and alternative options may be available. 

Our vets at VMSG will take the time to discuss recent bone cancer treatment developments with you so that you are able to understand your dog's treatment options.

If your dog is displaying any signs and symptoms of bone cancer, contact our Ventura vets to schedule an appointment.

Bone Cancer in Dogs, Ventura Vets

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