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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

A Dog With Bone Cancer

Updated: May 15th, 2024

I couple of months back, I diagnosed a bone tumor in a wonderful dog named Dolly.

Dolly is one of the world’s happiest dogs.  She is an elderly family member (she would not be happy if I told you her age).  She is a Boxer.

As many are aware, Boxers are one of the breeds of dogs that are very prone to cancer.

Dolly’s humans came in to my practice and related that she had been having a hard time with her back leg, and that it seemed stiff and sore.  Naturally, the first thing that popped into their minds was some arthritis or maybe a sprain.

The problem was that when I examined Dolly, I was able to feel a firm swelling above her knee joint, coming from deep within the leg.  I did not like the feel of it, especially since things like arthritis or ligament injuries in that area cause swelling of the knee, not of the area above the knee.

Knowing about the incidence of dog cancer and the breed’s tendency, I advised X-rays without delay.  Sadly, it was clear from the X-ray films that Dolly had bone cancer.

We discussed all of the usual steps, including core biopsy,  staging the disease with further testing to see if there was obvious spread, assessing the other limbs to make sure she could handle an amputation, considering the MDR-1 test to see if she might be more prone to side effects of doxorubicin chemotherapy if we were to use it, supplements (of course Apocaps), pain control, diet, deliberate steps to promote cancer-fighting brain chemistry, and so on.

Dolly’s people needed a bit of time to consider everything, so they went home.  They got their Dog Cancer Survival Guide. After careful consideration, they decided against surgery and chemotherapy and wanted only to focus on life quality enhancement.  They would have had to travel for palliative radiation to help her pain, so we decided on diet, Apocaps,  and various medications for her pain control.  So we started the treatments and I discharged her to see how she did.

Time went by and she was been very happy.  This is the kind of dog whose life quality will stay high even when she is enduring bone cancer.  She just wiggles and wags her little stumpy tail no matter what is going on, licking your face happily and excitedly.  Her joys of life most certainly were intact.

The other day, Dolly’s humans called and said that she had fallen down the stairs and her limping was worse.  I advised she should come get it checked out, fearing the worst.

We took X-rays again, and my fears were confirmed.  She had broken the leg at the tumor site.  This is not that rare in dogs with bone tumors and is called a pathological fracture, meaning a break in a bone mainly due to weakness from a disease.  Of course the tumble down the stairs did not help matters.

The amazing, wonderful thing about Dolly?  There she was, happily bobbing her head up and down, her stumpy little tail furiously wiggling right along with her whole rear end.

Thank goodness for high quality pain control.  Thank goodness she was on Apocaps. Thank goodness she is blessed with a will to live.

In spite of it all, that little tail wiggling furiously.


Dr D

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  1. Freddie on July 17, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    Hello my daughter great dane just broke his leg due to tumor in his leg also his leg is 5 time bigger than the other now. The vet said he still had more life in him so not to put him down yet hes 7 1/2 old for a dane. Why wouldnt they put a cadt on it instead of just give pain meds

    • Dog Cancer Vet Team on July 18, 2019 at 6:54 am

      Hello Fred,

      Thanks for writing, and we’re so sorry to hear about your pup! It might be worth talking to your vet and getting more information them with regards to your dog’s situation. If you are unsure about your vet’s answer, you can always get a second opinion. Here’s the link where you can search and find vets in your area:

  2. Nick Fortunati on June 20, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Dear dr. D,
    My dog carli is an 8yr old pitbull/mix, n2s if shes pure breed or not!! So I was away for the weekend and got a call my dog fractured her leg, so when I got back on Monday I took her to this place called saves in Lebanon NH n I was going there to get her fracture fixed cause my family vet did an ex ray on her and didjt see ne signs of ne problems other then a fracture/ break. All was good but the doctor wanted to take a chest and all around ex ray of the leg to double check cause my gf at the time had no clue how she broke it, she never had ne signs of that leg hurting her or limping or ne problems whatsoever 3 days prior to it happening when I left for the weekend, my ex gf had a lab that was only a year old and my dog carli is 8 but still plays like a puppy so they always played really rough so I didn’t know if she broke it from them getting to rough one day and caused a fracture and then did the same that weekend she broke it cause it was already fractured, but wasn’t sure!!! So after they did the ex rays again there was no signs of ne thing in her chest or ne problems with her chest, above the break the doctor noticed a lil dark spot on her shoulder or just below her shoulder and he automatically said he thinks it could be bone cancer and suggested I amputate the leg and send it in for biopsy!! She’s going in tomorrow to have a biopsy done before I decide to amputate it, what are your thoughts on this, could it be bone cancer, or could it be and infection from a slight fracture that I never knew was there? Or could it be fungal or something like that?? She’s my best friend and I’m very concerned, she hasn’t showed ne signs of cancer, she’s been eating, popping, and peeing just fine and still acts like her normal self even w a cast on her arm!!!? Please let me know what you think, I could get the ex rays and email them to you!!!?

  3. Sue on September 2, 2012 at 8:43 am

    This story hit close to the heart. My Boxer Gouda crossed the bridge on 7/19/12. She was originally diagnosed with Cutaneous Epitheliotropic T cell Lymphoma on 5/09. At the end while walking back in after relieving herself both the bones in her lower leg broke from the osteosarcoma right at the tumor site. I had limited time and released her of that pain only two hours later

  4. Kaci on February 15, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Hi – I hope someone maybe able to help me. My 4 year old Bullmastiff 2 years ago had a metal plate put into her back leg, all has been well until recently her whole leg has swelled up, its swollen at the foot up to her hip and she cant move it much. She has been back and forth to the vets for x-rays but the x-rays do not show anything, yet despit lots of medication the swelling is getting worse. The vets think it may be a tumor but why wouldnt it show on x-ray?, they are talking about amputation but really they are stuck to know what it is. They have taken a biopsy and suggested waiting another 2 weeks but the swelling is huge now. Has anyone had any kind of experiance of this? Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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