Sarcoma cancer in dogs

Updated April 17, 2017

If you've visited your vet only to find that your beloved canine has been diagnosed with sarcoma cancer, you're probably filled with questions, and your search for solutions may only be leaving you more confused. The following is some basic information you should know about sarcoma cancer, especially soft tissue sarcoma cancer, the most common type of sarcoma cancer in dogs.


Sarcoma is a group of tumours usually originating in connective tissue. Most sarcoma cancers in dogs are malignant. Sarcoma cancers are named after the type of cell, tissue or structure involved, such as angiosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, liposarcoma and osteosarcoma. Fibrosarcoma originates from fibrocytes or connective tissue. Neurofibrosarcoma originates from the connective tissue around the nerves, and anaplastic sarcoma are malignant sarcoma cells.


The annual rate of soft tissue sarcomas in dogs is about 35 in 100,000. Unfortunately, the cause of sarcoma cancer has not yet been identified. However, associations with radiation, trauma, parasites and larger dog breeds have been established.


Soft tissue sarcomas tend to have several important common features with regard to their biological profile. Sarcomas tend to appear as pseudoencapsulated--enclosed by a protective coating or membrane--fleshy tumours but have a poorly defined microscopic structure of tissue or infiltrate through facial areas. These cancerous growths can range from unperceived or acne-like to unmistakable growths of alarming size. Sarcomas may occur or originate in any anatomical part of the dog's body.


There are three basic methods of treatment for sarcoma cancer in dogs. One is medical management, which involves using specific medications and drugs to either slow or stop the tumour's growth or to more aggressively attack the cancer cells in an attempt to actually terminate the cells.

Another method is surgery, wherein an attempt is made to remove the cancerous tumour in the dog altogether. Although an invasive procedure, a cure is not always achieved if all the cancer cells are not successfully removed and may only provide a temporary solution. Furthermore, even if it is known before surgery begins that total removal is not possible, this removal procedure is still executed to mitigate the growth and symptoms produced by the cancerous cells in the dog. For both of these surgical procedures, follow-up surgery or scheduled maintenance of the cancerous cells may be necessary to inhibit the growth of new sarcomas.

The third method of treating sarcoma tumours in dogs is radiation therapy, usually conducted by specialists in veterinary radiology.

As sarcoma cancer behaves differently, according to a dog's specific, unique biology and cell make-up, each case must be assessed on an individual basis. And although all three methods of treatment can be used on the same dog, it again depends on the dog's current health status and whether or not it is healthy enough to cope with each procedure.

Expert Insight

If you're considering surgery for your dog, there are a few considerations to alleviate his suffering. First of all, most dogs won't eat their normal food after surgery. If this is the case for your dog, offer cooked food that has equal parts protein and carbohydrates such as a plate with cooked meat and pasta. If you believe your dog is in pain post-surgery, consider pain medications like Tylenol with codeine or anti-inflammatories like Rimadyl or Etogesic.

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About the Author

Originally from North Carolina, Heather Broeker studied journalism and advertising at the University of North Carolina. After graduation she moved to Los Angeles, where she worked for Fox Searchlight, Fox Reality and later as a writer and marketing director. Broeker now lives in Los Angeles and runs Head Over Heels, a writing and public relations company.