Types of Bone Cancer in Dogs

Written by rene agredano
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Types of Bone Cancer in Dogs
Bone Cancer Affects Many German Shepherds (german shepherd image by Aleksander from Fotolia.com)

Although bone cancers can take 1 to 3 months to appear, most dogs will show symptoms rapidly and without warning. Bone cancer symptoms can include limping, reluctance to exercise and irritability. This disease typically affects large dogs such as rottweilers and German shepherds, but it can also affect smaller dogs such as terriers. Older dogs who are diagnosed with bone cancer have a better chance of surviving less aggressive forms than younger dogs.


Osteosarcoma is a highly aggressive, painful bone cancer that accounts for about 85 per cent of all bone tumours in dogs. This type of bone cancer usually occurs in a dog's leg or shoulder, but tumours can also appear in the ribs, skull, jaw or spine. The primary tumour site can be removed through amputation and chemotherapy can help to prevent future growth. For dogs who aren't amputation candidates, radiation therapy can provide palliative pain relief. This disease is almost always terminal because it most often metastasises, or spreads, to the lungs rapidly, usually within a year of diagnosis.


Chondrosarcoma is the second most common primary tumour of the axial and appendicular skeleton of a dog, accounting for about 10 per cent of all bone cancers. Chondrosarcoma appears in bone cartilage, on the pelvis, ribs or skull and sometimes on a leg. It is usually less aggressive than osteosarcoma. Surgery can remove the tumours but if it occurs on a leg, amputation will usually be recommended. In about 20 per cent of cases, it will spread to the lungs, but at a later stage of the disease than osteosarcoma.


Fibrosarcoma tumours are fast growing and malignant and usually appear in male dogs who are about 8 years old. It is the third most common type of bone cancer in dogs but metastasises in only about 10 per cent of all cases. Typically these tumours appear on the limbs or tail and their appearance can be different from dog to dog. Fibrosarcoma tumours can be removed with surgery but often reappear within a year of removal.

Synovial Cell Sarcomas

Synovial cell sarcomas are rare and usually occur in a dog's joints, bursae and tendon sheaths. Many dogs can recover from this cancer if it is a Grade I or II, through amputation of the affected limb and subsequent chemotherapy. If the cancer is diagnosed as a Grade III, the tumours will likely metastasise to the lungs and cause a rapid decline in health. In these cases, radiation therapy can provide temporary relief but will not slow down the tumour's growth.


Hemangiosarcoma is an aggressive form of cancer affecting less than 5 per cent of all dogs diagnosed with bone cancer. It usually occurs in younger dogs and is most often found in the limbs or axial skeleton. Amputation of the affected limb can help provide pain relief and chemotherapy may help delay disease progression, but survival times are usually shorter than other types of bone cancers.

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