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

My Dog Has Osteosarcoma: Should I Allow Amputation?

Updated: May 15th, 2024


Is amputation a good idea for dogs with osteosarcoma? Dr. Dressler looks at this decision from two perspectives. In this article: life expectancy.

Osteosarcoma is a common dog cancer in large breeds, and it most often affects the long bones of the legs. It’s very aggressive. That’s why most of the time, as soon as a veterinarian sees the lesions on an X-ray she will recommend amputation.

(Most dogs with this kind of cancer do not survive beyond a year with amputation alone. Editor’s note: To read more about canine osteosarcoma including the numbers and stats, see this article by Dr. Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology).)

The idea of removing your dog’s leg probably kicks up strong feelings. This is a hard choice.

So, should you allow an amputation? Or should you let your dog keep their leg and try to cope?

This is a heavy duty question.  You probably want to prevent pain and suffering in your dog, so it’s a good idea to carefully contemplate this so you can cope.

I recommend considering at least two factors: Life Expectancy (how long life is), and Life Quality (how good life is).

In this article, we’ll look at life expectancy, and in the next, we’ll look at life quality.

What’s the Average Life Expectancy for Your Dog?

I know it sounds harsh, but realistically, dogs live much shorter lives than we do. I know that your ten-year-old dog might not seem old to you, but for some breeds, that’s a really advanced age. Particularly for large breeds, who tend to have shorter lives in general.

So, as you contemplate amputation, it’s nice to get an idea of the average life expectancy of your dog. There is an excellent review of dog life expectancy here.

Now, be careful with these numbers. These numbers are just averages, just like they are for people. The average man might live to 72, but that doesn’t mean any one individual man will die on his 72nd birthday. The same is true for dogs.

Now, What’s YOUR DOG’s Life Expectancy?

Once you have ascertained what your dog’s potential life expectancy is, you need to weigh what that really means for your dog.  Your vet can help with this by discussing the impact of your pet’s individual health problems.

For example, if your dog is otherwise healthy, your dog’s life expectancy might be a little longer than if she were diabetic, or had heart disease. Just like a human, right?

So, basically, you need to talk to your vet to see if your dog is near to or past the expected length of life given everything else going on.

For example, if your dog is already close to what we would expect for his breed and health condition, amputation might not be what you want. You will have to carefully consider whether the payoff will be what you expect.

On the other hand, if your dog is not close to her life expectancy, you might want to go ahead.

Get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide for more helpful tools and information, including an entire chapter on osteosarcoma.

What’s Your Dog’s Personality?

So far we’ve focused on numbers to determine life expectancy. But an intangible factor that you must consider is your particular dog’s personality.

Some dogs just have this will to live. I’ve seen very senior dogs fight and spit and claw for life. I’ve seen young ones so passive that they don’t seem to much care one way or another whether you poke or prod.

If you have a dog that just wants to keep going, that’s a really good sign. These dogs are driven.

This will to live, this tenacity, boosts lifespans. That’s for sure! So, remember to consider this factor too.

If your dog is a fighter, they may be a good candidate for amputation, maybe even if they are at the end of their “expected lifespan.”

Remember There are Other Things That Can Be Done, Too

In addition to amputation, there are chemo protocols, covered in the osteosarcoma chapter in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. But beyond the conventional tools, many osteosarcoma clients have seen benefits with modification of diet, lifestyle, life quality boosting and addition of nutraceuticals like Apocaps (I’m biased since I formulated it), plus other supplements or comfort care medications.

In addition, I highly recommend joining the TriPawds community for more information on amputation.

Don’t Forget to Consider Life Quality

Looking at life expectancy is the first step in determining whether to amputate your dog’s leg or not. Next, we look at life quality on three legs, plus a little about the surgery itself.


Dr Dressler


Leave a Comment

  1. Stacy Wellbrook on November 30, 2021 at 1:58 pm

    Does this Dr. have an email and if so, does he reply to emails?

  2. Robin on March 21, 2021 at 8:14 pm

    My dog is only 2 years old. His lesion is hurting him now and he limps all the time.. if I only have a couple months with him how can I decided to have amputation. I’m having a hard time with knowing I am the only who decides when he will be put down.. so confused. I’m an FNP by profession so it’s even harder..

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