Osteosarcoma is a common cancer in the dog. Most of the time it occurs on the long bones of the legs in large breed dogs. And most of the time a veterinarian or veterinary oncologist will recommend amputation of the affected leg.
You will likely have some strong feelings about it, as one who loves a living, breathing being facing the removal of a limb.
This is a heavy duty question. Since it has a lot of emotional charge for those interested in preventing pain and suffering, it can be a hard choice. The choice warrants careful contemplation to make sure you are able to cope with the situation.
At least two factors should be considered. The first is life quantity, which is also life expectancy. The second is life quality, which of course is how good life is.
Let’s look at life quantity first, or life expectancy.
First, get an idea of the average life expectancy of your dog. Be careful with this. These numbers are just averages, just like they are for people. There is an excellent review of dog life expectancy here.
Once you have ascertained what a dog’s potential life expectancy is, you need to weigh how much more time are we looking at for your dog. Your vet can help with this by discussing the impact of your pet’s individual health problems.
We want to see whether, at the time of diagnosis, your dog has already reached the expected life length for most dogs like yours.
If your dog is close to what one would expect for average life length, the motivation or payoff for the surgery should be considered carefully. If your dog is not yet there, one might consider going ahead with the surgery.
It should be noted that most dogs with this kind of cancer do not survive beyond a year, with amputation alone (read more here).
However, this does not mean that your dog will pass away within a year, as you have access to continued treatment from your vet, oncologist, and the information contained here. There will be more in upcoming publications being edited right now.
For the time being, I will point out that some clients have had benefit with modification of diet, lifestyle, life quality boosting and addition of supplements or comfort care medications. Common examples of these can be found in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, but I feel that the supplement I use has helped some dogs under my care (of course I am biased in this since I was the one that put Apocaps together).
Get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide for more helpful tools and information
One last intangible is your particular dog’s personality. Some dogs just have this will to live, and sometimes one can perceive this pretty clearly. They just want to keep going. They are driven. This will to live, a tenacity, boosts lifespans. Remember to consider this factor too.
That’s life quantity.
This is the first step. Next we look at life quality on three legs. We will look a little at the surgery itself, some issues that affect life quality on three legs, and more.
I will post more on this issue in the next entry.
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.
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