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

Radiation therapy and dog cancer?

Updated: October 10th, 2018

Radiation is a big gun in dog cancer therapy.  There are many out there that would not even consider it….to hardcore, too scary.  And honestly, many times they might be correct.  But in some cases radiation should be at least considered.

For many it is out of the question.  No nearby cancer referral center, no veterinary university, no money.  But for those that live fairly close to a facility that offers this modality, it is an option.

Why do people opt for radiation for their dogs? What is the point?

Radiation is to help dogs that have cancers that are hard to cure. These cancers either never go away, or go away with treatment only temporarily.  So people consider it as another way to increase their dog’s life expectancy or to hopefully improve life quality.

Radiation is used to decrease the tumor cell burden (kills certain types of cancer cells), in very few cancers can cure them.  More and more frequently, it is used to help with tumor pain. If a tumor cannot be removed with surgery (inoperable), radiation can be an option as well.

What cancers are very sensitive to radiation (where radiation can kill a lot of the cancer cells)? Lymphosarcoma is a biggie, perianal adenoma/adenocarcinoma, neuroblastoma, plasmacytoma, and transmissable venereal tumor.    Some other cancers that are moderately sensitive (radiation helps a bit) are nerve sheath tumors (hemangiopericytomas), fibrosarcomas, and histiocytomas.

Radiation can help control pain with osteosarcomas in dogs.

So that’s a bit of the good.  Let’s look at the bad in the next blog post.

Best to all,

Dr Dressler

Leave a Comment

  1. Pearla on October 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Hi Dr. Dressler

    My almost 5 year old American Bulldog was diagnosed with a sarcoma. The pathologists could not commit to which kind but leading towards Osteosarcoma. They found thru a CT scan that she had three areas of concern. Her spleen which they think was the mother ship, the inside of her rib bone and her scapula bone. We had her spleen removed and a biopsy done on her scapula. These were sent to the pathologist for review. Both tumors looks similar but not conclusive on what type of sarcoma it is. Can Osteosarcoma start on the spleen and metastasize to her bones? Or do you think it was the other way around?

    Lots of variables here but figured I would ask what the possibilities are that osteosarcoma can spread from the spleen to the bone.

    She had her first round of radiation today on her scapula because this is the most irritable area for her. She is limping a lot and in some pain.The suregon said there are possibilities that they could remove only a portion of the scapula and avoid amputation. Your thoughts on this?

  2. Gianna Cosme on September 25, 2012 at 9:41 am

    my case is even worst, my 7yo male Yorkie just got diagnosed with a oral malignant melanoma. I live in the Dominican Republic and we don’t have neither a facility or an animal oncologist in the whole island! even the test my vet did had to be sent a US lab, ANTECH Diagnostics in Southhaven, MS. and if you allow me, ill post the results here:

    Microscopic Description:
    Examined are two small sections of oral tissue derived from a single
    wedge speeimen. There is a densely cellular mass of neoplastic
    mesenchymal cells arranged in nests. sheets, and bundles supported by
    afine fibrovascular stroma. Tumor cells are polygonal to elongate.
    wilh small to moderate amounts of amphophllic cytoplasm which Is
    sometimes lightly pigmented, and round lo oval nuclei with
    variably-sized nucleoli. Thers ls modérate anlsocytosls .and
    anisokaryosis. Mitoses are 12 per ten 400x fields. Vascular or
    Iymphatic invasion is not observed. The lesion extends to the borders
    of the examined sections. AII tissue was submitted for processing.
    Microscopic Findings:
    Oral malignant melanoma.
    The mass is a malignant melanoma of the oral tissue. The lesion
    exhibits moderate atypia and mitotio activity. Oral malignant
    melanomas are typically aggressive neoplasms with a poor prognosis.
    and approximately 70% metastasize to regional Iymph nodes, and 67% to
    distant sites, especially the lung. These tumors often exhibit
    invasive growth. and recurrences following surgery are frequent.

    I just want an honest opinion of what to do to at least make it easy for him. Considering the radiotherapy its apparently out of the question, my vet told me that operating on him without the radiotherapy wont be a good thing.

    any meds I should giving him, food, treatment, any advise will be appreciated!


Scroll To Top