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Bone cancer in dogs – all the facts about the disease

Knochenkrebs Hund - die wichtigsten Fakten zur Erkrankung und was du tun kannst

Bone cancer is a common cancer in dogs. There’s no need to beat around the fact that the prognosis is extremely poor. However, it is a condition that we as dog owners should be concerned with. In my practice, I have cared for several dogs with bone cancer. Usually already after the amputation of a run. The situation is difficult for the dog and the owner alike. The dog owner knows that a diagnosis of osteosarcoma means that the dog’s lifespan is extremely limited. After the amputation, the affected dog must cope with a new body feeling and redefine movement sequences for itself. It is important to me to give you, the dog owner, comprehensive information about the disease so that dealing with bone cancer in an emergency is easier.

Bone cancer dog

A bone tumor is always a primary tumor. This means that the tumor originates in the bone and does not metastasize to it. The bone tumor metastasizes to the lungs at an early stage. This means that when the bone tumor is detected, it has already metastasized to the lungs in about 20% of dogs. A large proportion of patients already have micrometastases. However, they are often not yet visible at the time of diagnosis due to their small size. Bone cancer is a very aggressive cancer that metastasizes very quickly and early. In addition to the lungs, the lymph nodes are often affected. Metastases from a bone tumor have a sphere-like appearance.

Which bones are affected in bone cancer?

It is usually the long tubular bones, such as the upper arm or thigh, that are affected by osteosarcoma. But also foot bones, ribs, spine scapula, head bones, pelvis and the chest area can be affected.

Which dogs are particularly at risk?

Some dog breeds are thought to have a hereditary predisposition to bone cancer. Mostly they are large-bodied breeds, such as Irish Wolfhounds and Great Danes. Small dogs are rarely affected. Then, in most cases, the bone cancer occurs in the short and flat bones. This includes, for example, the shoulder blade. However, in my practice, I have frequently had medium-sized dogs that had osteosarcoma.

The symptoms of bone cancer

Lameness is usually one of the first symptoms of bone cancer. This is because it is predominantly the long tubular bones that are affected. Often this also occurs after a supposed minor trauma, so that one thinks that the dog has, for example, stretched itself when jumping out of the car.

In addition, affected dogs are particularly sensitive to touch at the site of the tumor and swelling occurs. The dogs show severe pain during movement and therefore avoid many movements. The general condition of the dog deteriorates rapidly. The pain is very severe, the dog loses appetite and therefore weight and becomes visibly weak.

How can bone cancer be detected?

A comprehensive diagnosis is necessary when bone cancer is suspected. This includes the following measures:

  • Examination of the lymph nodes
  • Blood test and organ profile
  • X-rays of the bone changes as well as the lungs in 3 planes (supplemented by a CT scan, if necessary)
  • Biopsy of the bony change and possibly the enlarged lymph node.

How can a bone tumor be treated?

In the first step, it is important to know in the context of diagnosis, in which stage of the disease the affected dog is and whether metastases have already formed. As a rule, the tumor is not only removed locally, but the entire limb is amputated. After stored, some veterinarians may recommend chemotherapy to prevent the formation of metastases, or to delay the growth of metastases.

Whether you want to put your dog through the rigors of chemotherapy is always at the discretion and decision of the dog owner.

Prognosis for bone cancer

The bone tumor grows very fast and metastasizes just as quickly. Untreated, the average survival time after diagnosis is approximately three months. With amputation and chemotherapy, the prognosis is approximately one to two years. After a bare amputation, the average survival time of the dog is estimated to be 6-9 months.

As a dog owner, what can you do for your dog with bone cancer?

When a dog suffers from bone cancer, the focus is on palliative treatment. I recommend to have the dog accompanied by physiotherapists especially after the amputation.

after the amputation of a limb, the body center of gravity and also the body feeling of the dog change. In addition, there may be sensory disturbances and also phantom limb pain. To make life easier for the dog with three limbs, physiotherapy is a very helpful measure. On the one hand, pain can be relieved, on the other hand, new movement sequences are trained, mobility is maintained and the musculature is also promoted.

Also this will help your dog with bone cancer dog

Furthermore, I recommend adjusting the dog’s movements and walks after the amputation. It is better to take several short walks, as the recovery period is significantly shortened and the dog does not tire as much.

Mostly dogs arrange themselves with the life on three legs very well. However, slippery surfaces such as tile or parquet can be very difficult for affected dogs. With carpet runners you can offer your dog a good relief here. Alternatively, there are dog shoes that prevent slipping. Many dogs also accept them very easily. Getting into the car can be made easier with the help of a ramp, and when climbing stairs there are practical carriers that can be used to secure and support a dog. Also, make sure that your dog sleeps well bedded, so that no pressure points and unnecessary tensions are formed. Make the dog’s life as easy as possible and enjoy the remaining time intensively and spend it positively.

One should be aware that the prognosis in bone cancer is very difficult and palliative care and freedom from pain for the dog should always be a priority.

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