Canine Bone Cancer: Treatment, Prognosis & Life Expectancy

Treatment for canine bone cancer involves:
– managing pain
– controlling metastasis (tumor spread)

Canine bone cancer is a very painful disease. Palliative treatment can make your dog more comfortable and increase its quality of life.

What are palliative treatment options?

  • surgery: amputation or limb sparing
  • radiation therapy
  • pain relief drugs

Surgery is recommended for local tumor control. It provides immediate pain relief and prevents the risk of fracture. The primary surgical treatment is amputation. The majority of dogs adapt well following amputation. However, dogs with degenerative joint or neurologic disease, are overweight or of large size/breed are not suitable for amputation. Hence, limb sparing could be an alternative to amputation.

Limb sparing or limb salvage involves removing the tumorous bone and replacing it with a metal rod, bone graft or by growing the remaining bone. This surgical procedure preserves much of the function of affected limb.

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Criteria for limb sparing surgery:
– only recommended for tumor of the distal radius (forearm bone adjacent to the wrist)
– less than 50% of the bone is affected by tumor
– tumor is localised
– there should be no evidence of tumor spread
– dog should have no other health issues

There is a high rate of post surgery complications, such as local tumor recurrence, infection and implant failure.

For chondrosarcoma and fibrosarcoma that have low risks of metastasis, surgery is usually the only required treatment.

For highly metastatic primary canine bone tumors such as osteosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma, surgery alone is only palliative. Chemotherapy is recommended for controlling metastasis and increasing survival time.

For dogs which are not candidates for surgery, radiation therapy and/or drug medications can provide pain relief. However, these palliative treatment options have no effect on survival time.

Immune Modulation Therapy

In addition to surgery,  chemotherapy and other palliative therapies, using immune enhancement supplements may improve response to, and outcome of, conventional treatment. They can help to improve quality of life and survival times.

Canine Bone Cancer – Prognosis & Life Expectancy

Prognosis for canine bone cancer is determined by:
– stage of tumor
– tumor size
– tumor location
– serum ALP levels
– age

Poor prognosis if serum ALP levels greater than 110 U/L, younger/older dogs, large tumor, advanced stage of tumor or tumor of the spine and skull.

Median survival times

Amputation only: 4-6 months
Amputation + chemotherapy: 10-12 months (some dogs live longer than 2 years)
Limb sparing + chemotherapy: 223-529 days

Amputation only: 201-540 days

Amputation only: up to 72 months

Difficult to determine as this tumor is highly aggressive and metastatic


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