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Bone Cancer in Dogs

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Bone Cancer in Dogs

Posted by Michael Jones on
Updated at: January 19, 2021

Cancer is a disease that infects the cells of just under two million people per year, but did you know that cancer is an incredibly common illness that dogs experience as well? Every year is different, but on average, about six million dogs are diagnosed with cancer on an annual basis. These statistics are deeply unnerving, but unfortunately, there is nothing pet owners can do to help their dogs outrun a cancer diagnosis - other than keep them happy and healthy as can be.

No matter how inevitable the illness is for dogs that eventually come down with the disease, the best way to respond to cancer in dogs is to take action as soon as you notice symptoms. Education is the strongest tool in the fight to save dogs that have cancer.

Bone Cancer in Dogs

One of the risk factors is an older age, and another one of the risk factors for cancer in dogs is belonging to a large-sized dog breed. It has been shown that older dogs belonging to large-sized breeds suffer from the disease more frequently than dogs that belong to smaller-sized breeds. Older dogs are at a higher risk of cancer simply because statistics show their bodies are more prone to diseases. 

That being said, not all cases of cancer are identical, seeing as there are four main kinds of canine bone cancer. In order to treat the disease, it’s important to have your dog seen by a trained professional, who can then diagnose your dog with the correct type of bone cancer.

Let’s first discuss the four main types of canine bone cancer, and then we’ll dive into a conversation about what pet owners can do to help treat it.

Types of Canine Bone Cancer

No matter the type of cancer, a diagnosis of this nature can send quite a bit of fear throughout every inch of your body, especially when it’s your dog that gets sick. While every form of the disease is serious, it is still important to learn the exact type of cancer your dog has so that your pet can receive the appropriate treatment. The sooner you know what type your dog has, the sooner that veterinary specialists can start treating your canine companion.

There are four main types, including… 

  • Chondrosarcoma
  • Fibrosarcoma
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Osteosarcoma
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The cancer osteosarcoma in dogs is the most common type of canine cancer in the bones. Osteosarcoma in dogs is often diagnosed with appendicular osteosarcoma. Appendicular osteosarcoma is a very common type, and unfortunately, dogs with the cancer osteosarcoma are facing one of the fastest-growing types of cancer in canines.

Also, each of the four types of this disease has the word sarcoma at the tail-end of it. Sarcoma is a term that refers to cancer that has originated in blood vessels, various muscles, or certain tendons. In some cases, all of the above are the origin of the cancerous cells. In other words, the term sarcoma simply identifies the illness as originating in the bones.


There are many symptoms your dog might develop, including… 

  • Low energy
  • Frequent naps
  • Limping or obvious weakness
  • Bloating and swelling
  • No appetite
  • Little desire to eat
  • Difficulty breathing regularly
  • Disinterest in walks
  • Less likely to play like usual
  • Puffy face and swollen eyes
  • Overall discomfort
  • Change in attitude
  • More isolated than normal

Overall, a dog with a bone tumor is going to seem ‘off’ in general. As pet owners, you get to know the personality of your dogs, and it’s easy to spot a change in attitude, even when you’re not actively looking for one. Unlike cats, dogs are not the best at hiding any pain or sensitivities they are experiencing, so their discomfort is going to catch your eye in no time at all.

Recognizing your dog is acting differently than usual and knowing the reason for their odd behavior are two different steps in figuring out what’s wrong with your pup. Keep this list of symptoms in the back of your mind just in case your dog ever exhibits them. Even if you are quite certain your dog has bone cancer, it’s absolutely essential that you take your pet to the vet.

A proper diagnosis is needed in order for the treatment process to begin, so make an appointment with your trustworthy veterinarian immediately. If you feel that the situation is dire, consider bringing your dog to the local animal hospital right away instead.

How Bone Cancer is Diagnosed 

Once symptoms arise, pet owners will usually notice there is something wrong with their dog. From there, it’s imperative to raise your concerns with a vet. The vets can then start to monitor your dog for symptoms and side effects to determine what’s going on with your pup.

Bone Cancer in Dogs

When bone cancer is suspected to be the culprit, there are a few different ways that vets go about diagnosing your dog. The disease is diagnosed by way of

  • Lymph nodes fluid test
  • X-rays 
  • Bone biopsy

Whether the vet decides to perform  a lymph nodes fluid test, an X-ray, or a bone biopsy will depend on their preferences.

At the time of diagnosis, it might be hard for dogs to receive a definitive diagnosis because metastasis is a common side effect of dog bone cancer. By definition, metastasis means that the cancer has spread from its origin to other parts of the body at the time of diagnosis.

Eventually, the problem will be traced back to the bones, and professionals can start to treat it. On that note, how exactly is it treated? Let’s find out.

How It’s Treated

When it comes to treatment options, the best-case scenario is that your dog will undergo a limb-sparing surgery. The goal of limb-sparing surgery is quite literally to spare the affected limb without needing to amputate. Skilled professionals perform surgery on your dog with the goal of removing tumors from the bone and help them keep the limb.

Treatment options might also involve chemotherapy, which is an aggressive method of destroying cancerous cells by way of medications. Chemotherapy is known to have very adverse effects, involving severe nausea and exhaustion. CBD is being investigated all over the world for many uses. However at this time, as the manufacturer of CBD products, we are not allowed to discuss that subject publicly nor we are not allowed to imply that CBD can be used for any specific treatment.

In most cases, radiation therapy is part of the treatment options for dogs with cancer. During radiation therapy, dogs are placed under anesthesia while radiation is emitted to the affected bone. Radiation therapy does not invoke as intense side effects as chemotherapy.

How Long Can a Dog Live with Bone Cancer

One of the first thoughts a pet owner will have after diagnosis is “How long can a dog live with bone cancer?” Dogs can live with bone tumors for years, but only if the tumors are malignant. If the tumors are cancerous and left untreated, the disease will eventually corrupt your dog’s skeletal frame and the complications will result in a shorter survival time.

How Long Can a Dog Live with Bone Cancer

There are cases in which dogs do not recover, which tends to be true for situations in which older dogs are involved. Additionally, the longer that the illness goes undetected, the less likely they are to heal and have a good chance of survival.

The median survival time of dogs following the treatment of bone cancer is around five years. Please keep in mind that this is only the median survival time, not an exact estimate of how long all dogs can live after receiving treatment.

As scary as canine bone cancer is, the definitive diagnosis is not always a death sentence. Many dogs that receive adequate treatment will enter a phase known as remission, meaning they no longer have the disease. There is a possibility that the cancerous cells will return in the future, but it’s always a case-by-case basis. Consult your veterinarian to find the answers to more specific questions concerning your dog’s symptoms or diagnosis!


Common Cancer Sites
Bone Cancer in Dogs
Dogs and Cancer
Dog Cancer
My Dog Has Cancer
Canine Bone Cancers
Radiation Therapy
Radiation Therapy for Bone Cancer


Approved by:

Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Belgrade

Ivana Vukasinovic grew up in Serbia and attended the University of Belgrade where she received a degree in Veterinary medicine in 2012 and later completed surgical residency working mostly with livestock. Her first year of practice was split between busy small animal practice and emergency clinic, and after two more years of treating many different species of animals, she opened her own veterinary pharmacy where an interest in canine and feline nutrition emerged with an accent on fighting animal obesity. In her free time, she acts as a foster parent for stray animals before their adoption, likes to read SF books and making salted caramel cookies.


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The Innovet Team

Please do not ask for emergency or specific medical questions about your pets in the comments. Innovet Pet Products is unable to provide you with specific medical advice or counseling. A detailed physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinarian are required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet requires emergency attention or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic health conditions, please contact or visit your local/preferred veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.

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