Osteosarcoma in dogs

Osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone cancer, with 80% occurring in the limbs and spreading readily to other organs. As osteosarcoma grows, the cancer becomes progressively more painful, destroys and weakens the bone, and can cause a fracture. The mouth and spine can also be tumour sites. 

Large-breed neutered males are more predisposed to osteosarcoma, with a 20-fold increase in certain breeds. Early osteosarcoma signs can mimic arthritis, osteomyelitis, or fungal diseases.


What are common osteosarcoma signs in dogs?

Early signs include:

  • Mild lameness
  • Unwillingness to jump or use stairs
  • Panting
  • Depression

Intermediate to advanced signs include: 

  • Severe lameness
  • Muscle wasting
  • Swelling on the affected leg
  • Decreased appetite
  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing

Lameness, or unwillingness to jump or use the stairs, are signs of osteosarcoma in dogs.


How is osteosarcoma managed in dogs?  

Osteosarcoma management involves chemotherapy protocols to treat the cancer and multiple options to address the pain. Limb amputation or limb-sparing surgery to remove the tumour offer the best pain management. If surgery is not an option, palliative radiation therapy and intravenous treatments for pain are often recommended. Oral analgesics also are important for pain management. 

Dogs with osteosarcoma need regular veterinary visits to monitor their status and prognosis. Discussing a personalised management plan with your veterinarian and a veterinary oncologist, is important for the best outcome for your dog.

What is the prognosis for dogs with osteosarcoma?

The prognosis for osteosarcoma is highly variable, depending on the chosen treatment. 

Without treatment, survival time is between one and three months. With radiation and chemotherapy, the median survival time is seven months. 

With the surgery and chemotherapy combination, the survival rate is around a year, with 25% of dogs living for two years.  


Management tips for dogs with osteosarcoma

At-home needs include:

  • Easy access to food and water, and a comfortable location
  • Consistency with prescription medications 
  • Ramps and safety gates
  • Mobility aids (e.g. sling or harness)  
  • Preventing pressure sores
  • Monitoring appetite, weight, drinking, urination, and energy level

For end-of-life care:

In a crisis:

Immediately contact your vet if your dog has significant medication side effects, swelling or drainage at the surgery site, or difficulty walking; collapses; or is unable to walk at all.

It is vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your dog‘s condition becomes unmanageable or they begin losing their quality of life. 

The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this difficult time by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services and personalised memorialisation options. Our services can even be pre-paid to help ease the financial burden at the time of your pet’s passing. 

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give us a call on 1800 953 619 or visit our website goodbyegoodboy.com.au.


This article was reproduced with permission from Goodbye Good Boy advisor Dr Dani McVety, of Lap Of Love.