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

Checking Your Dog’s Legs for Signs of Osteosarcoma

Updated: November 22nd, 2018

osteosarcoma-dogTaking it in Stride: Those Amazing Legs

Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) is a common cancer in our dogs, and it usually develops in the long bones of the legs and the ankle or hock joint.  It is more common in some breeds than others, and although there are certain reasons a dog is predisposed to bone cancer, the actual cause is not completely understood. Simply feeling safe that your breed or mixed breed is far down the risk-list is like wearing blinkers.

As always, I never look for trouble, but I try to remain aware and observant so if anything does occur, I catch it early. I asked my veterinarian for some tips on staying vigilant, and this is what I learned.

By developing a habit of watching your dog stand, walk, trot and run you have the best tool in your first-defense arsenal.  When standing or moving, we want to see equal weight bearing on all paws with smooth movement.  If you normally walk your dog yourself, ask a friend to take the lead occasionally, so you can step back and watch.  Observe the gait, then focus solely on both front legs, then on both back legs.  Watch as your dog pauses to stand as well.

If you notice even a slight favoring of one leg or a change in the weight-bearing ratio, it’s time to get your smartphone out and take a video.  Just as photos are an excellent way to track a lump, bump or wound, short videos of your dog in motion can give your vet the best information to use if you make an appointment.  Rather than trying to describe or demonstrate what you saw, just hit ‘play’.

If for some reason you have to delay a vet appointment, take a video as soon as you notice the limp, then another video in a day or two.  These don’t have to be long recordings, but 30 seconds of seeing how your dog moves will tell your vet volumes.

Just like us, our dogs can slip or bruise a foot, leading to temporary discomfort. If you have your recording, but the limp goes away, hold on to it.  Be watchful for a month. If there is a repeat of the uneven gait, another video is indicated, and it makes a good comparison.

If however, your dog appears to be in pain, or is holding a leg completely off the ground and refuses to put weight on it, an immediate vet appointment is crucial.  Favoring a leg can indicate many things from bruising, minor strain, ligament damage or rupture, arthritis, fracture … and yes, cancer.   Dr. Etttinger’s post on Recommended Tests for Osteosarcoma and Work-Up discusses the diagnosis process further.

Get a copy of this seminar to learn more on how Osteosarcoma is diagnosed, treatment options, amputation, and more!

Feeling your Way

Another good way to assess your dog if you notice that she has started to limp is by using your cuddle time to investigate.

Some leg and bone problems can begin without affecting how your dog walks.  Running your hands along the legs from hip all the way down to the paws is a good way to let your fingers do the walking.  This is especially important in the long-haired breeds where you would not see a misshapen bone.

As you feel your way down the leg, feel those strong, straight bones and appreciate how they let your dog move through her life.  If you feel a lump in the bone, a depressed area, or an swollen joint, it indicates the need for your vet’s intervention.

Remember you have a comparison advantage. If you’re not sure whether her right leg should be shaped as it is, compare it to the left. And remember, if your dog does not want you near a particular part of her leg, if it seems tender or guarded … it’s vet time.  Don’t wait and see.  If it is bone cancer, you want to know as soon as possible.

So much can be done for our dogs when we catch an early symptom.  In the Dog Cancer Survival Guide Dr. Dressler thoroughly reviews the signs, symptoms and treatment options if we find ourselves in this fight.  And Dog Cancer TV has some wonderful, short videos on many subjects including osteosarcoma.

For more helpful tools and information, get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide

There’s nothing quite like seeing our dogs run free with all the joys of life ahead. We can help safeguard that for them.

Happy tails!

Leave a Comment

  1. Sandra on April 23, 2020 at 10:29 pm

    Hi Am from Malaysia. My pet german shepherd just 3 years(mona) currently suffering from osteosarcoma leg bones. Doctor said its already spread to his lungs. Now am taking medicine and giving her curcumin.
    Can she prevent from this cancer?

  2. ZenOnco Healing Center on February 12, 2020 at 1:34 am

    This is a great article, I liked it very much. Dog cancer is a major problem.


  3. Tiffany W on July 23, 2019 at 9:37 am

    I feel my dog’s story is strange, but positive at the same time. My large mix rescue was diagnosed in June 2017 with osteosarcoma in his front left leg. Shortly after, he had the leg amputated. Well, I don’t have to tell any of you reading this that surgery and recovery is painful for the owner as well as the dog but in different ways, of course. I chose to not put my boy through chemo/radiation. I purchased the Dog Cancer Survival Guide 2 years ago and absorbed all of the information. With the statistics being what they are, I was anxious and nervous about when I would start seeing symptoms of the cancer in other areas. I even adopted another large rescue dog about 4 months after the amputation, thinking another dog would help me cope with losing him, whenever that would be.
    I am here to tell you that it has been over 2 years and my sweet boy is even more active than before… and he’s about to celebrate his 9th birthday! He is even more active than the most recent dog I adopted and she’s 4 years old. He’s still bright-eyed, rambunctious and silly and pays attention to every word that I say to him. He had a physical last week with the doctor that did his amputation and she is amazed at how well he is still doing.

    Again, I think this is a strange story but in a good way. I don’t think you hear of too many osteosarcoma cases that survive this long. I want it to help give pet parents hope.

  4. Forrest Reid on June 24, 2019 at 6:12 am

    Yes I have a rescue dog mix believe part boxer part bulldog. That has started to limp. We took her to the vet and they said it could be a torn ACL. Iam desperate for someone to tell me what it is. Before this dog I had a English bulldog that I got as a puppy. At around 8 years old she started to limp. The same as now everyone said torn ACL. We did the surgery. She never got better. The doctor said when he did the surgery and cut her open it was like a sist or tumor inside thatruptured and bled out. He had never seen this before doing this type of surgery. After 6 wks no improvement and just keeping her on medication to keep her out of pain. The medicine wasn’t working giving her diarrhea and nothing would work I had to put her to rest because I know she was in pain and suffering. It broke my heart to do that but I didn’t know what else to do. I don’t what that to happen to this dog. I am prepaired to do what is necessary. I just need to find out what is wrong. How can I fund out it she has cancer. I would do ACL surgery or amputate her leg if I though it would give her relief and make it so she doesn’t suffer any. Poor thing as been thought a lot she only weighted 25lbs when she was rescued and is the sweetest dog. I just want to do the right thing for her. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated. The vet that did the ACL surgery and if you amputated her leg the cancer wouldn’t come back? Right now she eats fine she will let you move her leg all around and doesn’t appear that it bothers her she just won’t put any wait on it. Do you think X-ray would help diagnose. Desperate fir an answer.

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