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Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options Of Osteosarcoma in Dogs 

Osteosarcoma (Bone Cancer) in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Osteosarcoma or Bone Cancer is one of the common types of cancer that can affect any dog, especially big and giant dog breeds. There are even studies that confirm that it affects some breeds more than others, too. Larger breeds such as Rottweilers  It is an aggressive type of cancer that manifests itself in different areas of the dog’s bones. The tumour can grow in the skull, spine, ribcage, legs, or pelvis which, in some cases, can even spread to the lungs. 

Bone cells are responsible for consistently remodelling, organising, and controlling the bones. Once these cells go awry, they become destructive and aggressive, which can lead to the development of bone cancer in dogs. If left untreated, this condition may spread into other areas of the body, which can further damage and weaken the dog and can become fatal. 

Fortunately, if bone cancer is detected early on, it is treatable. Continue reading to learn more about osteosarcoma in dogs, its causes, signs or symptoms, and treatment options. 

Types of Osteosarcoma in Dogs 

There are different types of bone cancers that can be diagnosed in dogs. However, OSA is the most common out of them, while the rest also affects the bones, as a part of the general process of cancer. 

  • Osteosarcoma (OSA)
    Manifests in the limbs, skull, spine, jaw, and ribcage. It primarily affects larger dog breeds compared to small breeds, where size and weight play an important part on the risk factors of this bone cancer type. It affects dogs as early as 1-2 years of age to older ones between 7-9 years of age. 
  • Chondrosarcoma (CSA)
    Second most common bone cancer which is a cartilage tumor that is not as malignant as OSA. It occurs in ribs, skull, and femur (thigh).
  • Fibrosarcoma (FSA)
    This bone cancer type is not as common as the last two but can manifest itself in axial skeleton (jaw bones, facial bones, ribs and vertebrae), and sometimes in the limbs as well. It has two types: central and parosteal. 
  • Hemangiosarcoma (HSA)
    It is a rare bone cancer that usually affects younger dogs and occurs in the axial skeleton and limbs. 
  • Multilobular Osteosarcoma
    Another rare bone cancer that shows up along the lining of the bones, notably on the skull, pelvis, ribs and hard palate. A more detailed scan is required to detect the detailed tumour once symptoms show up.
  • Primary Joint Tumours
    These tumours usually develop in joints, bursae, and tendon sheath. It has two types: epithelioid and spindle. 

Causes of Osteosarcoma in Dogs

No studies have been proven to show where the origin of bone cancer in dogs started, but it is commonly believed that genetics are mostly attributed to the development of osteosarcoma in dogs. As stated, it is most common in larger breeds, and vets have identified this to be common among breeds such as Rottweilers, Scottish Deerhounds, Greyhounds, and Irish Wolfhounds.

How to Diagnose Osteosarcoma in Dogs

The causes of osteosarcoma can be subtle at first that pet owners may not see the signs right away. This is why early diagnosis and prevention are key to preventing it from getting worse. The signs will commonly be seen on the front hind legs, around the jaw and skull, spine, ribs, or on the back legs. 

Changes in behaviour and physical appearance must also be observed. Here are the common symptoms:

  • Showing signs of severe pain
  • Swelling and redness on the legs, skull, spine, or jaw
  • Lethargy or weakening of the body
  • Lameness or Limping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abnormal growth of mass on dog’s body
  • Respiratory troubles
  • Nostril discharge

Staging and Prognosis of Osteosarcoma in Dogs

Once you see the symptoms of a possible bone cancer occurring, bring your dog to the vet immediately. From there, an initial physical evaluation will be performed on your pet to locate the tumour. This includes a physical examination, x-ray exams, blood tests, and bone scans, and at times, it is required to aspirate or perform a biopsy. A PET-CT scan is also offered to examine the entire body and check if the tumour has spread. 

Depending on the location of the tumour, your veterinarian will come up with a specialised treatment plan for the best way to treat your dog’s condition so it to live longer and healthier. In addition, the severity of the bone cancer affects the type of treatment your dog will get, whether it’s therapy or surgery.

Treatment Options for Dog Osteosarcoma

Once your veterinarian has confirmed the diagnosis, the spread of the tumour if it reached other areas, they then will determine the prognosis and treatment eligibility. The treatment for osteosarcoma varies depending on the severity, but these are the common options:

  • Surgery
    Commonly done through amputation, to remove the source of bone cancer on the affected area. Other procedures include the removal of bone that has cancer to replace it with a bone graft, however, there may be risks with this type of procedure.
  • Chemotherapy
    This treatment makes use of chemotherapeutic agents to prolong survival after diagnosis. 
  • Immunotherapy
    Currently still in progress for further development, wherein it’s possible to use the body’s own immune system to treat neoplastic cells. 
  • Palliative care
    Alternative options for surgery or chemotherapy which involve traditional radiation therapy, aggressive painkillers, and/or biphosphate drugs,


Osteosarcoma is an aggressive type of bone cancer that can affect dogs, especially big and large dog breeds. It can be painful for your dog, despite its subtle symptoms and signs, which can become worse and show up through your dog’s actions and physical appearance. Early detection is better to have it quickly treated to prevent it from spreading and affecting other areas of the body. Make sure to contact your veterinarian once you notice the signs and book an appointment for the diagnostic tests needed.

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