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Osteosarcoma

By: Dr. Jeffrey Philibert

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Diagnosis

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize osteosarcoma and exclude other diseases that may cause similar symptoms. Tests may include the following:

  • Complete medical history and physical examination
  • Radiographs (X-rays) of the affected bone
  • Radiographs of the chest/lungs to look for metastasis
  • Complete blood cell count (CBC)
  • Biochemistry profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Biopsy of the tumor
  • Bone scan, which is a specialized type of X-ray that looks for spread of the cancer to other bones

    Treatment

    In addition to administration of pain medications, treatment for osteosarcoma may include the following:

  • Surgical removal of the tumor, which usually involves limb amputation

  • Chemotherapy, usually done in conjunction with amputation or limb-sparing procedures

  • Radiation therapy as an alternate form of palliative treatment for pain relief in very select cases

  • Limb-sparing surgery, a type of surgery where the bone containing the tumor is removed and replaced by a donor bone. This procedure is performed only at limited veterinary surgical referral centers.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Your veterinarian can prescribe pain medications to make your dog more comfortable. You may be asked to administer pain medications to your dog until definitive therapy can be done, but do not give your dog any pills that have not been prescribed or recommended by a veterinarian. At the time of surgery a narcotic pain patch may be placed on the skin. These patches release a constant level of pain medication that is absorbed through the skin.

    You should limit your pet's activity to prevent further pain and to reduce the likelihood of a pathologic fracture, which is an abnormal breaking of the bone due to the cancer weakening it, prior to definitive therapy. Your dog should not run, jump or play during this time and you should watch him carefully or give him assistance when he is climbing stairs or getting in and out of a car.

    There is little that you can do to prevent bone cancer from occurring in your pet because the cause is poorly understood. Have your veterinarian evaluate your pet for any lameness that develops. Most forms of lameness are likely to be associated with arthritis or injury to ligaments and tendons. If your dog is not getting better with rest and anti-inflammatory drugs, radiographs of the affected region should be taken to exclude the presence of a bone cancer as a cause of lameness.

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