Osteosarcoma in Great Danes
Osteosarcoma is a painful disease that starts in the weight bearing bones of the legs. It almost always requires amputation of the affected leg and often results in unrelenting pain that cannot be controlled with medications alone.
Amputation and chemotherapy are the standard treatment for osteosarcoma, and some dogs do quite well.
Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that is commonly found in large and giant breed dogs (Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds and Rottweilers) however dogs of all sizes can be affected. This tumour typically develops in the long bones of the limbs (humerus, radius/ulna, femur and tibia) but can also affect the skull, pelvis and ribs.
This tumour is extremely painful and frequently causes a progressive, crippling lameness in the fore or hind limbs that does not respond to standard pain killers. In advanced cases the tumour can cause the break down of the bone causing severe pain and muscle wastage.
Chemotherapy is the recommended treatment for osteosarcoma, this involves weekly visits to a veterinary oncologist over a period of six months. The chemotherapy drug used is called cisplatin and it can lead to kidney damage so we need to monitor blood tests very closely. Sadly the prognosis for this tumour is not good and it will inevitably lead to death in most cases. Radiation therapy is often offered as a palliative treatment in the hope of improving quality of life and possibly prolonging it.
Frequently found in large breed dogs, particularly Great Danes, this tumor forms abnormal blood cells and is located under the skin. It can be very difficult to detect, as it grows and spreads quickly. Hemangiosarcoma is also very painful and often bleeds, especially as it grows. We can detect signs of this disease during senior wellness testing.
Bruxism (teeth grinding), restlessness and a bloated stomach are common signs of this disease in Great Danes. Gastric dilatation and volvulus, more commonly known as bloat, occurs when the dog’s stomach twists, filling it with gas and cutting off blood supply to the organ. If not treated promptly, bloat can be fatal in as little as 30 minutes.
The primary treatment options for bone cancers affecting the long bones of the body are surgical excision and chemotherapy. Amputation of the affected limb provides immediate pain relief and greatly improves quality of life. Chemotherapy can prolong the remission of the tumor and allow dogs to live for years after amputation and surgery.
The most common way to treat osteosarcoma is amputation of the affected limb. This removes the tumor and in nearly all cases resolves the pain. Limb-sparing surgery is also possible in some dogs, but this can lead to complications including infection and decreased mobility in the limb.
Chemotherapy is often recommended as a follow-up to amputation or limb-sparing surgery. It won’t cure the osteosarcoma or extend life expectancy, but it will reduce symptoms and may prolong the time your dog has before the cancer spreads.
As more and more great danes are being diagnosed with these conditions, research is advancing to help us understand how these diseases affect our big dogs. This knowledge can help us develop more effective treatments in the future, and hopefully one day eradicate these bone tumors entirely. Until then, we will continue to evaluate their health and provide them with the care they need.
Pododermatitis is an inflammation of the skin of the feet with resulting swelling, pain and discharge. It is often caused by a combination of causes and can be difficult to diagnose. X-rays of the feet are usually required to evaluate for bone involvement. Other diagnostic tools include a cytology of the paw smear, hair pluckings and skin scrapings to look for yeast infections, bacteria, parasites (demodex mites), and fungus.
Treatment varies depending on the cause. If infection is the underlying cause, a course of antibiotics and topical medications will be needed. If allergy is the underlying cause, food and contact allergen avoidance will be needed. Blood work can help determine any hormone imbalances that may be present.
Osteosarcoma of the long bones of your dog’s legs is common in large breed dogs. This cancer can spread from the bones to other organs of the body including the lungs. Once the lungs are involved, euthanasia is the best option for your pet.