Osteosarcoma is a tumour of bone, and it is the most common bone tumour found in dogs. It is more common in large and giant breeds, such as Rottweilers, Greyhounds and Great Danes. In our practice we most often see it in Rottweilers. 

Sometimes a firm swelling can be seen on the leg where the bone tumour is, and the dog will often be limping on this leg. Osteosarcoma is a painful tumour, but even though it causes pain, the dog may not cry out with it. Instead he could have more subtle changes in behaviour, such as trembling or being more quiet than usual. Bone tumours can also weaken the bone and make it more likely to fracture. 

Dogs with osteosarcoma do not normally respond very well to standard pain relief, and if they do it is usually a transient effect.  

Osteosarcomas can also be seen on other parts of the body, such as the head, spine or ribs. 

A vet will usually diagnose osteosarcoma based on X-rays or a CT scan, and they may also do a bone biopsy. Bloods would also be done at the time.

Diagnosis helps to look at the tumour itself, but it also gives useful information on possible spread of the tumour, especially to the lungs. 

Osteosarcomas can also be seen on other parts of the body, such as the head, spine or ribs. 

There are different ways to treat bone cancer depending on the location, spread, the patient as well as the family’s wishes. Decisions on how to move forward are always based on a long discussion where the different options are looked at. Unfortunately, average survival times range from only weeks up to about a year, even with treatment. Treatment options can include palliative care, bisphosphonates, radiation, surgery and amputation. No matter what treatment option is chosen it remains an important part to treat the pain to ensure the patient can have good quality of life and enjoy each day. 

Palliative care focuses on managing the pain and ensuring the patient can enjoy good quality of life. This can also involve the use of bisphosphonates, which are drugs that help harden the bone as well as lessen the pain. 

With any treatment chosen, the dog will still sadly lose the battle, usually due to decreasing quality of life, whether this is because of the primary tumour or effects by tumour spread. 

Your hospice vet will be able to talk you through the options available and to help you decide what path suits your dog and your family best.  Feel free to talk to us on 0333 320 8731

Maja Redfern

Maja is clinical director at Dignipets. A mobile veterinary practice that offers palliative and end of life care for every pet in need in the West Midlands. Having completed a certification programme in hospice and palliative care in 2017 Maja advises colleagues and referring practices on pain management for their most difficult geriatric cases. She is a dedicated pet owner (two dogs and three cats) and has developed a reputation amongst wanderers and strays for being the go-to person when lost.