possible. This objective is accomplished through treatment with chemotherapy. For many years amputation has been considered the standard of care for relieving pain in pets with osteosarcoma. By removing the affected limb we also eliminate the very real risk of the patientâ€™s fracturing the bone during the course of the disease. While the idea of losing a limb is a major mental obstacle for most families, in reality the majority of dogs can live a happy life after amputation with relatively minor changes to their normal routines. Because our pets distribute their weight over four limbs and do not have the mental distress that we would experience in having a limb amputated, they are much better able to thrive after such a procedure. Recovery from surgery is rapid over the course of a few weeks and most dogs are able to learn how to climb stairs and continue to be highly active. There are certain exceptions and pets that are extremely large, overweight, or have significant preexisting orthopedic problems should be evaluated carefully before you and your doctor decide upon surgery. For certain dogs whose tumors are detected early enough and are in a favorable location, a limb-sparing surgery can be an alternative to amputation. This is a highly advanced procedure and several techniques that involve removal of the affected segment of bone followed by some type of grafting and stabilization have been explored. Consultation with a veterinary surgeon is important to determine whether your pet is a good candidate.
to fight the cancer as aggressively as we can without sacrificing the patientâ€™s quality of life. This means that we want our patients to continue to feel well during and after chemotherapy treatment and keep any side effects to a minimum. Most commonly dogs receive an intravenous injection every several weeks over the course of several months. They do not have to stay overnight in the hospital, do not need to be anesthetized for treatment, and usually have only mild symptoms of stomach upset for a few days after treatment. By utilizing chemotherapy after surgery or radiation treatment, we can significantly extend the happy time these pets can enjoy with their families. Osteosarcoma remains a devastating disease in our companion animals, but one for which we can offer comfort and time through treatment. Research into new ways of fighting the disease is an ongoing process to expand our options. Todd M. Erfourth, DVM, DACVIM Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center (PVSEC) 807 Camp Horne Rd Pittsburgh, PA 15237 (412) 366-3400
As an alternative to surgery, radiation therapy can be highly useful in alleviating bone pain. Radiation is most commonly used in a palliative setting in which the goal is to improve comfort with several treatments given on a weekly basis. Each treatment is performed under a short general anesthesia but has essentially no side effects other than temporary hair loss in the area. The main issue with this approach, however, is that the beneficial effects are only temporary and the pain typically returns. Recent technological advances have also allowed for the use of higher and more precisely delivered radiation doses (stereotactic radiotherapy) that may offer more long-term control of symptoms. Currently this type of treatment is in its infancy and availability is limited. After making sure pain is controlled, the final step is to consider chemotherapy treatment to slow the spread of disease. In veterinary oncology the philosophy is Holiday Issue 2014