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

A Dog With Bone Cancer

Updated: October 5th, 2018

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

Discover the Full Spectrum Approach to Dog Cancer

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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: https://www.acvim.org/

  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.

  5. Melinda on October 25, 2010 at 8:24 am

    Dr. Dressler,

    My Collie was diagnosed with bone cancer 4 weeks ago. I noticed she was limping and her left front leg was swollen where it bends. I took her to the vet thinking it was arthritis, I could tell he knew exactly what was wrong the second he looked at it and felt it, he did an x-ray. He showed me the x-ray and explained everything to me. We have chosen not to amputate, and to let her live out her life. She is still eating well, running and barking as usual. Her leg has become pretty big at the joint, though. I give her pain medication at times, even though she acts fine. Is it ok to let her go on with her leg becoming bigger? I know we will eventually have to put her down, but with her still acting fine the decision has become very difficult.

  6. Nicky on October 21, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    I noticed my 6 year old male neutered mix breed (shepherdX 130lbs) was limping. He was previously diagnosed with arthritis of his front digits. I noticed that the limping was not going away over a few days, normally his arthrits would bother him after a long walk but would resolve with a days rest. I took him to my vet and he x-rayed him and found small changes in the humerus bone and diagnosed osteosarcoma. The other vet looked at the x-rays and was not as 100% positive because the changes were so subtle. I took the x-rays to a board certified surgeon in hopes for amputaion 1 week later and they did chest rads and he had visible lung mets! Visible lung mets?? Already? The bone lesion was not even that progressed. I was given an estimate of 2 months for his life. I was heartbroken, my best friend got a life sentance. I started researching alternative therapy. I changed his food to high protein and gave him supplements, Transfer factor, K-9 immunity and omegas. I took him for a 12 hour trip to get pallitave radiation and started pamidronate. My efforts did not give him any more time, Ben died 2 months after diagnoses. The lung mets had filled his lungs and he was having trouble breathing.
    This disease is relentless and I hope more research will go into finding better treatments.

  7. Carmen on October 19, 2010 at 7:41 am

    My Boxer, Bandit likely had bone cancer, but I did not know it until it was too late. He began to limp around on three legs, with his back right held up. X-rays did not show anything wrong with his leg and it was then suggested that we have chest images taken. Nothing appeared there either. The limping continued and he began to lose weight. About 3 weeks later, more images were taken of his chest and it showed that cancer was in his lungs and spine. Euthanasia was recommended on the spot due to the amount of pain that he was in. I never was given his actual diagnosis, but have figured on my own that it was bone cancer. Recently, I came accross a term called Hypotrophic Osteopathy that links limping with tumors in the lung. Dr. Dressler, could you explain this further?

  8. zena on October 18, 2010 at 4:04 am

    hi my rottweiler named fizz has been diagnosed woth bone cancer at the age of 6 she has had her back leg amputated and is truely amazing to the point that 2 days after she was running about unaided and less than a week later is running up and down steps unaided and without stabilisers !!! though the vets are astounded she didnt surprise me at all cos i aleways knew she was an amazing if not large young lady !!
    my question is this she is starting chemotherapy hopefully this week and though I have looked into it no-one can tell me definitely if there is dangers to humans via transfer of body fluids etc and what safty guidelines should i take and for how long after each treatment would she be a danger to humans and other pets
    thank you for your help zena and miss fizzly

  9. Sara Garcia on October 17, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Hello i would like to buy Apocap for my dog,but i live en Australia,what can i do?please,Regards Sara

  10. Laurita Bainbridge on October 16, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    where does Dr. Dressler practice? I would like to take my dog to him. I lost one of my beloved basset hounds to Lymphoma in August after a courageous fight. I had two additonal wonderful years with him and his decline was rapid within a few days, very little side effects from Chemo. His brother is now not well and i do not feel like we get quality care in the area where I live. He is handicap from a ruptured disk two years ago, and became ill in May. starting with a neck problem, just woke up one morning and could not turn his neck to the right. Then he was not eating and lost weight. I took him to three or four Drs. and he had a battery of test, including blood work, xrays, ultra sound, berium and endoscop and they did not find anything. He is eating well, but has never gained the weight back. I am desparate to help him. thank Rita

    • DemianDressler on October 16, 2010 at 3:01 pm

      Dear Laurita,
      So sorry to hear of your bassets.
      I practice on the south shore of Maui in Hawaii!
      Pretty far for most people. How about acupuncture?

  11. Dave on October 16, 2010 at 3:21 am

    My golden retriever/boarder collie had a slight limp and was diagnosed w/ bone cancer his front leg back in March. The vet gave him 4 months to live. He refused amputation surgery as the cancer spread to the lungs already.
    I contacted several major vet universities and they all agreed w/ my vet and said to let nature take it’s course.

    I came across Dr Dressler’s site and switched to a high protein diet of fish, chicken, eggs, vitamins, fish oil, tea, spinach, cottage cheese, etc. I have since added Halo dry dog food to supplement his diet to add calories and cut some expens. If possible, I would stick w/ the high protein as much as possible.
    He LOVES the Halo, which I add to his food.
    I give him Tramadol & Derramax as needed.

    Another major thing I did was put my dogs leg in a home made sling. He learned to walk on 3 legs quickly. I gradually built up his strength and stamina and once again he is back to going for walks and playing frisbee. I made the sling with a kids long sleeve t-shirt, shortening the sleeve on the good leg and folding his paw and inserting it and his elbow into the long sleeve and tied the sleeve above the shoulder area. I used a couple safety pins as needed. I add a short ace bandage to the elbow & leg area to keep the elbow from slipping out of the shirt when we go for walks or play frisbee.

    It’s been 6 1/2 months since his grim diagnosis, and he’s doing fine.

    Best wishes to all.


    • DemianDressler on October 16, 2010 at 2:28 pm

      Dear Dave-
      Great work.
      Consider pamidronate- an idea to increase bone density in bone cancer dogs. Click here for more. Also I give Apocaps to dogs under my care (all steps supervised by your vet of course).
      Dr d

  12. Angie on October 16, 2010 at 3:17 am

    Hi Dr. Dressler,
    A dog with Bone Cancer – After Dolly fractured her leg, did you have to put her down?
    I recently had a Bullmastiff with Bone Cancer at 7 years and opted for surgery and amputation. He only lasted 5 months after amputation and the cancer had spread everywhere. One of the fears I had of not amputating was him breaking his leg.
    I was just curious what happened with Dolly.

    • DemianDressler on October 16, 2010 at 2:30 pm

      Hi Angie-
      Dolly is with us and is still wagging. We are starting pamidronate the end of next week and have her bad leg supported with a soft bulky splint.
      Dr D

  13. LisaT on October 11, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    My girl had ’bouts of pancreatitis, many of them were from food allergies, once it was triggered by parasites. Fat was not the cause of her pancreatitis, but the pancreatitis made her fat intolerant.

    Have you read these articles for mast cell: https://www.dogcancerblog.com/?s=tagamet
    Cimetidine /tagamet really is good for this and I think quercitin would also be good. DHA from an algae source might be easier than fish oil. My pancreatitis girl could tolerate algae derived DHA, as well as fresh ground flaxseeds. She could not tolerate fish oils.

    Best of luck to you!

  14. Abigail on October 7, 2010 at 2:37 am

    The question relates to diet and supplements. Our small 8 year old cross-breed dog has always had a natural diet and various natural based supplements but she has recently been diagnosed with pancreatitis and then just 3 weeks later with a mast cell tumour. The tumour has been removed but the dilemma is two-fold, one is that she has always been on a diet similar to the one recommended in the book so I can’t help wondering what I should add or take away that will help her. The second problem is that an anti-cancer diet is not very compatible with the low-fat diet we are using to keep the pancreatitis under control. She is also having slippery elm and other herbal remedies, prescribed by our vet, for the pancreatitis. I obviously don’t want to risk this condition flaring up again because it can also be life-threatening but feel we should try include some of the supplements, such as EGCG and the mushroom extract. I have tried to buy Apocaps from Amazon but they won’t ship to the UK. Is there a supplier in the UK? Would be grateful for any advice.

    • DemianDressler on October 13, 2010 at 5:15 pm

      Dear Abigail,
      So sorry to hear this double whammy bad news. You and your little one are going through a rough time. I would use lean meat and cut out the liver or boil it to remove the fat. As Lisa pointed out, you can use algae as omega-3 sources. Give 3 times the human dose on a pound for pound basis but you must be careful to gradually introduce it very slowly as discussed in the Guide. Due to the dietary restrictions I would also add a multivitamin including the fat soluble vitamins at normal dietary doses (D,E, A, K) based on your vet’s recommendations for your dog (under veterinary supervision). You must be very slow to introduce all the changes (supplements, diet, etc) with your dog due to her pancreatitis, and do everything under veterinary supervision. Introduce each new item singly (one by one) over a period of at least 10 days to assess the effects. I like your protocol. I would also have your vet consider artemisinin as discussed in the Guide.
      Dr D

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