Signs Of Bone Cancer In A Dog

Are you a dog owner and afflicted by the condition of bone cancer? The signs of bone cancer in a dog are quite hard to observe as it is not common for all breeds of dogs. Bone cancer in dogs is one type of cancer that any dog can develop irrespective of its age, gender, or breed; most commonly, small and medium sized dogs are known to have this condition.

The most common sign of bone cancer in a dog is an increasing lameness due to the discomfort caused by this cancer. The dog may also try to lick the affected bone and show pain, reluctance or refusal to move. Since bone cancer in dogs is not painful until it gets advanced, many owners do not realise that their pet is suffering from this disease until the symptoms are pretty obvious. The initial symptoms are limping and difficulty in moving around. A sick dog may exhibit decreased activity and spend time lying down.

It’s important to know the signs of bone cancer in your dog, so that you can get help for them as soon as possible.

Bone cancer is an aggressive disease that can quickly spread throughout your dog’s body, so it’s important to catch it early. It’s also a serious problem because there is no cure for bone cancer in dogs. Treatment aims to keep the cancer from spreading and prolong your dog’s life, but the cancer will eventually spread and take over their body.

Some of the most common symptoms of bone cancer include:

-Lameness (your dog will limp)

-Loss of appetite (they may not want to eat)

-Loss of weight (your dog may feel weak)

If you think your dog might have bone cancer, contact your veterinarian immediately.

The signs of bone cancer in dogs can be hard to detect, but there are some key warning signs you should keep an eye out for.

The first is lameness. If your dog is not moving normally, or seems to be favoring one leg, that could be the sign of bone cancer.

Another symptom can be weight loss and a poor appetite. Many dogs with bone cancer have trouble eating because they’re in pain and feel nauseous. If your dog suddenly stops eating or loses weight without any other explanation, it may be time to see the vet.

Finally, if you notice any lumps under your dog’s skin or on their legs or paws, this could be a sign of bone cancer as well.

Signs Of Bone Cancer In A Dog


  • Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer.
  • Osteosarcomas are painful tumours that often first appear as hot, solid, tender swellings. They are most common in leg bones, but can affect any bone in the body.
  • Osteosarcomas are aggressive tumours that spread to other parts of the body (often the lungs).
  • Sadly, the outlook for a dog with an osteosarcoma is very poor.
  • Giant breed dogs are most at risk of developing an osteosarcoma.

What is an osteosarcoma?

Osteosarcomas are painful and aggressive bone cancers that spread quickly around the body. An osteosarcoma can develop in any bone, but they are most common in leg bones (see diagram below).

Osteosarcoma tumours destroy the bone around them, sometimes causing them to break (we call this a ‘pathological fracture’).

Osteosarcomas are most common in middle aged, large and giant breeds such as Irish Wolfhounds, Greyhounds and Rottweilers.

Illustration showing common places osteosarcomas develop

Common places osteosarcomas can develop. Click image to enlarge.


  • Limping (varies from mild to severe)
  • A painful, hot, hard swelling (usually on a leg)
  • An unexpected leg fracture
  • High temperature
  • Low energy (lethargy)
  • Lumps elsewhere on the body – occasionally, an osteosarcoma can develop in other bones or soft tissues.

When to contact your vet

Contact your vet for an appointment ASAP if you notice hot, hard swelling on your dog or if they are limping or seem to be in pain. You know your dog, if they don’t have the exact symptoms listed above but you are still concerned, it’s always best to contact your vet.


X-rays and sometimes bone samples are necessary to confirm an osteosarcoma diagnosis.

Treatment and outlook

Sadly, if your dog has an osteosarcoma, their outlook is very poor. Even with specialist surgery to remove an osteosarcoma, and chemotherapy to control spread, most dogs survive less than a year after diagnosis. This is because osteosarcomas are very painful and over 90% of dogs diagnosed have tumours elsewhere in their body (most so small they can’t be seen on scans). It’s important to consider this when deciding on a treatment plan. Treatment should be focused around pain relief and maintaining a good quality of life for your dog. Once your dog’s quality of life starts to drop and their tumour becomes painful, euthanasia is the kindest option. Every dog with an osteosarcoma is different and your dog’s treatment will be tailored to suit them as an individual. Your vet will discuss all your options and offer advice about when it is time to say goodbye.

Xrays showing healthy bone vs osteosarcoma


Managing an osteosarcoma is often very expensive, especially if you opt for surgery and chemotherapy. It’s very important to speak openly to your vet about your finances, the cost of treatment, as well as what you think is right for your dog. There is often more than one treatment option, so if one doesn’t work for you and your pet, your vet may be able to offer another.

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