Osteosarcoma in Dogs

Lili Duda, VMD
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Dear OncoLink "Ask the Experts,"
I have a dog that has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma and I have a choice between full amputation or nothing. I would like to know if I could obtain more information about the procedure described as "Limb Salvage." I am interested in presenting evidence and preferably a procedure to my vet to preserve the health and capacity of my dog.  

Lili Duda, VMD, Editor of the OncoLink Veterinary Oncology Section, responds:

At this time, the only good results with limb salvage surgery are in dogs with tumors of the distal radius (the "wrist" joint). More than three-quarters of these patients return to near normal function. Dogs with tumors of the proximal humerus ("shoulder" joint) did very well only about 10% of the time. Dogs with tumors in the tibia did not do well if arthrodesis ("joint fusion") of either the tarsus ("ankle") or the stifle ("knee") joints was required. Generally, at this time limb sparing surgery is recommended only for tumors of the distal radius.

Limb salvage is a complicated surgical procedure requiring specialized skills and equipment. Currently, it is only available at a limited number of specialty practices across the country.

Another treatment option (if amputation is not an option) is palliative radiation to help control pain in the area affected by the bone tumor. Palliative radiation will not prolong survival with osteosarcoma — the goal is to improve quality of life in the short term.

If you or your veterinarian have not already done so, please consult a qualified veterinary oncologist to further explore the treatment options for your pet.