Canine Osteosarcoma: Treatment, Prognosis & Life Expectancy

Osteosarcoma in Dogs: Treatment Options

The 2 goals of canine osteosarcoma treatment are:
– palliation of pain
– delaying metastasis

Osteosarcoma causes severe pain. Hence, pain palliation therapy should be considered to improve quality of life in dogs.

Palliative treatment options:
– amputation
– limb sparing
– radiation therapy
– pain medications

Chemotherapy is recommended following surgery to manage tumor spread and prolong survival times.

Appendicular Osteosarcoma Treatment

The primary surgical treatment for both appendicular osteosarcoma in dogs is amputation. It removes the pain and risk of fracture, with low complication rate. Most dogs adapt quickly following limb amputation and are able to function well with 3 limbs.

Limb sparing is an alternative surgical treatment for appendicular (limb) osteosarcoma. It involves removing the tumorous bone and replacing it with an allograft, metal implant or bone graft. This preserves much of the function of the treated limb.

Limb sparing is only suitable for dogs with tumors of the distal radius and ulna (wrist joint – front leg). There should not be evidence of tumor spread and less than 50% of the bone is affected by tumor. Post surgery complication rate is high. The common complications include recurrence of tumor, infection and implant failure.

Surgery alone provides pain relief but has no effect on survival times. Chemotherapy is recommended as an adjunct to surgery to control tumor spread and to improve survival times in dogs with appendicular osteosarcoma.

If surgery is not possible or pet owners choose not to have surgery done, radiation therapy and/or pain medications can alleviate pain and inflammation.

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Axial Osteosarcoma Treatment

Aggressive surgical resection is the main treatment for axial osteosarcoma in dogs.  However, the location of tumor makes it difficult or impossible for a complete surgical removal. Hence, tumor recurrence is common and is the main cause of treatment failure. Depending on tumor location, chemotherapy is recommended in certain cases of axial osteosarcoma.

Palliative treatment such as radiotherapy and pain medications are used where surgery is not possible.

Immune Modulation Therapy

In addition to surgery/chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, using immune enhancement supplements may improve response to, and outcome of, conventional treatment.  They can help to improve quality of life and survival times.

Osteosarcoma in Dogs: Prognosis and Life Expectancy

Appendicular osteosarcoma – median survival times:
No treatment:  2 months
Palliative treatment only: 90-150 days
Surgery only: 4-6 months
Surgery + chemotherapy: 262-366 days (1 year)

Axial osteosarcoma
Prognosis for axial osteosarcoma in dogs is generally poor due to tumor recurrence.

The most favourable prognosis is for tumor in the mandible (lower jaw). The median survival time is 15-18 months for dogs treated with surgery alone.

Scapula osteosarcoma:
Surgery + chemotherapy: 10-14 months

Rib osteosarcoma:
Surgery only: 90 days
Surgery + chemotherapy: 240-290 days

Spine and skull: poor prognosis

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