Osteosarcoma in Dogs - for Pet Owners

Osteosarcoma is a bone tumour that, in dogs, most commonly occurs on the limbs. Most dogs are diagnosed after a period of lameness that does not respond to pain relief medication.

Definitive diagnosis of the tumour is by X-ray and bone biopsy.

Where possible, surgical removal of the tumour is recommended. This removes the source of pain for the patient and improves quality of life. Surgical removal is generally by amputation although limb spare surgery may be possible for some patients.

It can be very difficult as an owner to consider the idea of limb amputation. It may be helpful to remember that removing the affected limb removes the source of pain. In addition many dogs are not using the affected leg at the time of diagnosis and so adjust well following amputation. Some dogs may have concurrent orthopaedic problems that do not make them good candidates for amputation. Your vet can help guide you as to whether your pet is a good candidate for amputation.

Reading about the experiences of other people who have pets with 3 legs may be useful. A good resource for this is tripawds.com.

I have seen many happy 3 legged dogs during my work as a veterinary oncologist. The videos below are good examples of 3 legged dogs moving well and often quite soon after surgery.


Unfortunately amputation is not expected to be a curative for dogs with osteosarcoma. Osteosarcoma commonly spreads to other organs such as the lungs.

Dogs that have amputation alone tend to live an average of 6 months after surgery. Dogs that have chemotherapy after amputation live closer to 1 year on average. Quality of life after amputation and with chemotherapy tends to be excellent and it is worth discussing further with your vet or veterinary oncologist. For further information tailored to your pet please ask your vet to submit a request for advice on your behalf.