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Symptoms of osteosarcoma in dogs

Updated on January 3, 2009

Learn more about how to decrease the chances of this disease

Owning two Rottweilers, I looked  forward to getting them vaccinated and giving them a great head start in life by playing it safe and preventing any major disease or weakness by feeding the highest quality foods and having routine check ups all their lives. Once six months old, I asked the vet when the best age was to get them neutered and spayed and her answer was as early as possible.

So I had them altered immediately a week thereafter. Little did I know that there were studies out there suggesting that large breed dogs spayed and neutered too early in life, were shown to be prone to osteosarcoma as they approached their middle to senior years.

Actual studies had reported that chances of osteosarcoma decreased when the dogs were spayed and neuterd once they were at least one year old. 

Osteosarcoma is a word derived from "osteo" meaning bone and "sarcoma" meaning cancer. It commonly strikes large dog breeds from their middle ages to senior years (even though there are cases affecten dogs as young as 2 years old) It is uncommon in small dog breeds. While it can affect basically any bone in the body, It typically affects the dog's legs usually below the elbow and gradually spreading while creating typical symptoms often confused for arthritis.

Symptoms of Osteosarcoma:

Progressive lameness



Difficulty breathing


The affected dog's bones typically become eroded and are replaced by tumerous bone which is friable and prone to fractures that do not heal. X-rays of the bones may show eroded bones and provide a diagnosis. Further confirmation may be obtained via biopsy, In blood work the presence of elevated Alkaline Phosphatase may suggest a poor prognosis.

Upon diagnosis amputation of the affected limb is recommended to confine the tumor from spreading. Pain medications are prescribed as well. Radiotherapy or chemoherapy may be recommended. Osteosarcoma is unfortunately very invasive and more likely than not, upon diagnosis the tumor has already spread to other body parts (metastasis). The most common area of metastsis are the lungs.


Prognosis of affected dogs may be poor. The tumor metastatizes in 90% of the cases in the lungs. Chemotherpay radiation, may slow down the process of cancer cells spreading but it most cases the disease will ultimately take over witihin a year depending on the dog's response to treatment and the aggressiveness of the cancer.

Studies reported that male and female dogs spayed and neutered before 1 year of age had a higher incidence (1 in 4 chance ) of developing osteosarcoma. This suggests that sex hormones play a role in the development of bone cancer.

While my dogs are still young, I worry about their future, however, I have learned my lesson and will think twice next time should I need to alter other large breed puppies in the future.

Rottweilers are prone to osteosarcoma


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      Tripawds 8 years ago

      Great information, thanks for the accuracy and depth.

      Try not to worry about your babies, there are so many factors that can influence osteosarcoma development.