What Is The Right Time To Euthanize A Dog With Osteosarcoma?

What Is The Right Time To Euthanize A Dog With Osteosarcoma

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Dog owners might wonder: what is the right time to euthanize a dog with osteosarcoma? According to Yarmouth Veterinary Center, the right time to euthanize a dog with osteosarcoma is when the pet’s pain becomes extremely unmanageable that they are forced to stop eating and that they can no longer live a good quality life anymore.  

Perhaps one of the most painful knowledge in this world is knowing that our dogs live shorter than us.

Yes, these furballs of happiness and love can’t live forever, and oftentimes, the way they leave us involves numerous trips to the vet, hearing them howl and sob in pain, leaving them at the vet clinic for in-hospital treatment, and lastly, getting the call asks you if you are open to putting an end to their suffering.

The pain is unexplainable, and just thinking of this brings tears to my eyes. Yes, it is painful, but we have to talk about this ugly truth in this article so that you as a responsible fur parent know what to do if this happens to you.

Bone Cancer in Dogs

Canine bone cancer or bone cancer in dogs is a common type of cancer in dogs that are often diagnosed as malignant.

This disease can be classified as Primary Bone Cancer, where the cancer cells arise within the dog’s bone, and it is also classified as Secondary Bone Cancer, where the cancer of the dog originated from other organs and had just spread to the bone.

More than 80% of malignant bone tumors that occur in dogs are Osteosarcoma (OSA) which makes it the most common bone tumor in dogs.

Osteosarcoma is a malignant and aggressive form of cancer that spreads quickly throughout a dog’s body- too quickly that the highest cause of fatality of dogs due to osteosarcoma is no longer osteosarcoma itself, but cancer’s metastasis to the dog’s lung.

According to numerous studies, osteosarcoma mainly occurs in large and giant breeds such as Great Dane, Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Boxer, Doberman Pinscher, and Irish Setter.

The ages of dogs who were diagnosed with this disease range from 6 months to 14 years, and it occurs more in female dogs than males.

According to the Brazilian Journal of Veterinary Research and Animal Science, osteosarcoma more often occurs in the appendicular skeleton of a dog’s body (64%) over their axial skeleton (29%).

This means that OSA often occurs in the dogs’ pectoral limbs, pectoral girdle, bones of the forelimbs, and hindlimbs. In addition to this, from the results of the studies that they have conducted, the number one predisposing factor of this illness is the dog’s breed, with pure-bred male dogs being most predisposed regardless of the morphological pattern of OSA.

How Painful Is Osteosarcoma In Dogs?

Osteosarcoma in dogs is extremely painful that according to VetSpecialists.Co.Uk, most dogs who are diagnosed to have this illness present intermittent lameness due to pain.

This clinical feature of osteosarcoma can be alleviated by standard doses of painkillers but it would only be effective for a week or two.

If you see that your dog is limping and it couldn’t be fixed by the pain-killer prescriptions of your vet, you might need to get a second opinion on your dog’s condition.

Early Signs & Symptoms Osteosarcoma In Dogs?

Here are the signs and symptoms that you should watch out for if you suspect that your pet has canine osteosarcoma:

Loss of Appetite & Lethargy

Loss of appetite and lethargy is pretty common for dogs who are stressed, depressed, or not feeling well, in general.

However, if your dog losses their appetite and feels lethargic because of a pain that they feel in their body, you should stop self-medicating your dog and start consulting a trusted veterinarian.

Swelling or a mass in your dog’s bone.

Bumps and lumps are not unusual to dogs, but if it is persistent and grows as your dog ages, this probably is a sign that there’s something wrong going on in your dog’s body.

Send your dog to the vet so that your doctor can determine if the lump it has is cancerous or not.

Difficulty eating if a tumor affects the jaw.

Since osteosarcoma originates from the bone, it can arise from your dog’s mandible, which mimics the osteoblastic composition of a long bone.

If this happens, the lump in your dog’s jaw might grow rapidly and would eventually impede their oral cavity. Immediate medical attention to your dog is needed when this happens.


Lameness is when a dog can no longer use their limbs to walk or move. This occurs when a dog’s bone is fractured, or their joint is injured or dislocated.

This condition is easily overlooked by dog owners since most dogs recover after a few days from lameness, but if your dog often presents with sudden lameness and it lasts longer than two or three days, it is suggested that you consult a veterinarian immediately.

Wobbly Gait

Unless your dog is walking on slippery floors, it should not have a wobbly gait. A wobbly gait, according to the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, is seen when a dog walks with its head done, and it could not walk in a steady or straight line.

This phenomenon is seen in dogs who are suffering from bulging disks, trauma, degenerative diseases or, bone cancers such as Osteosarcoma.

How Quickly Does Osteosarcoma Progress In Dogs?

AKC Canine Health Foundation claims that some dogs who are diagnosed with osteosarcoma can still survive 5-6 years after diagnosis, provided that the prognosis of the disease is good.

The stages of prognosis for Osteosarcoma in dogs include Stage I or Low-Grade Tumors (G1) without metastasis; Stage II or High-Grade Tumors (G2) without metastasis; and Stage III where the cancer cells are already showing metastasis to other parts of the dog’s body.

Substages ‘a’ and ‘be are also included to reflect intramedullary lesions and local extramedullary spread.

Therefore, if your dog’s osteosarcoma is diagnosed to be in Stage Ib, it means that your dog’s tumor is small and it has not yet spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant parts of the body.

This stage has a good prognosis, and with the correct treatment, your dog still has a high chance of surviving.

Canine Osteosarcoma Treatment

Just like in humans, cancer in dogs is easy to cure. We as fur parents can provide the best care for them and follow all treatments available to help them feel better, but at the end of the day, we can only do so much for our dogs.

Nowadays, the standard care for canine osteosarcoma is still surgical removal of the affected limb with adjuvant chemotherapy.

So, if your dog has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, you can expect that your dog will undergo a series of surgeries and a ton of medicines to take.

Depending on the severity of your dog’s disease, radiation therapy can also be suggested by your veterinarian.

This is not as effective as chemotherapy to treat your dog’s osteosarcoma, but this is one of the palliative treatments that your dog can go through to alleviate the pain that comes with having this disease.

How to prevent osteosarcoma in dogs

Nobody ever wants to lose their pet over osteosarcoma, which is, as a responsible pet owner, you should know the preventive measures so that your dog can avoid developing this disease.

Work with  a Professional Breeder

If you prefer buying your dogs from a breeder, make sure that you are purchasing them from a professional and experienced breeder.

Backyard breeders nowadays experiment with dog breeds without taking into consideration the genetic diseases that they might develop.

This is a red flag in choosing your breeder, so as much as possible, choose the breeder that you would get your puppy from.

Healthy Lifestyle

Osteosarcoma is considered a genetic disease, but your dog’s lifestyle can prevent them from developing these diseases.

Seeking the help of a canine nutritionist and knowing the best diet and exercise that your dog needs and following them religiously can be such a great help in keeping your dog healthy.

How Long Does Bone Cancer Take To Kill A Dog?

This is probably one of the hardest pills to swallow as a dog owner, but once your dog has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, his survival time only lasts for one to two years.

According to the Flint Animal Cancer Center, only 20%-25% of dogs live longer than two years after they have been diagnosed with osteosarcoma.

How Long Can Dogs Live With Osteosarcoma Without Treatment

Without treatment and needed surgery is done for your dog, their life expectancy is shortened to approximately two months, according to Vetspecialists.co.uk.

No dog owners who love their pets can accept that fate, which is why we do everything in our power to lengthen their lifespan.

Consulting a good oncologist during the early signs of this disease is vital for their survival, as chemotherapy and other treatment can really help them with the pain that they are going through.

Compared to humans, they have tinier limbs and smaller bodies that can only endure so much pain. If by any chance, your dog can no longer live a happy and pain-free life after series of therapies and thousands of medicines, as painful as it may sound, we might as well let them run free, in hopes that they will be happily waiting for us at the other end of the rainbow bridge.

If you need help in looking for veterinary clinics that offer canine euthanasia, don’t hesitate to let us know.

Additional References:

  • Spodnick GJ, Berg J, Rand WM, Schelling SH, Couto G, Harvey HJ, Henderson RA, MacEwen G, Mauldin N, McCaw DL
  • J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1992 Apr 1; 200(7):995-9.
  • Canine osteosarcoma: amputation and chemotherapy.
  • Berg J Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 1996 Jan; 26(1):111-21.

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