What is the Right Time to Euthanize a Dog with Osteosarcoma?

What is the Right Time to Euthanize a Dog with Osteosarcoma

Each month I ask a regular reader if they would like to contribute to Doggysaurus. This month’s contribution is from Jane in Torquay, UK, who last year had to make the difficult decision to euthanize her dog with osteosarcoma.

She’s given me permission to reproduce her words from an email onto the blog today. I hope it helps with any other readers wanting to know when the right time to put down your dog might be. Osteosarcoma is an extremely painful canine disease, so the decision isn’t an easy one to make.

Here are Jane’s words with her short answer first, followed by more in-depth thoughts…

When to put down a dog with Osteosarcoma

The right time to euthanize a dog with Osteosarcoma is when your dog cannot live a good quality of life anymore. If they are in pain, cannot eat properly, or need assistance going to the bathroom, then these are all indicators that it’s the right time to put them down.

It’s a very personal decision, but one which you should always take after having your vet’s opinion. They will come at it from a practical angle, based on the pain your dog is suffeirtng rather than an emotional one.

Euthanizing a dog with Osteosarcoma

Putting down your dog is one thing all owners dread experiencing when it comes to our beloved four-legged friends.

To see our furry, bundles of joy, go through the pain of this disease, can be heart-breaking. Nothing can adequately prepare us for hearing a diagnosis like this and making the decision to put them down.

Whether you have experienced Osteosarcoma already or are currently going through it with your dog, I want to assure you that there can be light at the end of this dark tunnel – depending on what stage your dog is at, there could be some time before you have to make the decision.

Having gone through this with my dog, I can understand the desire to hold on to every glimmer of hope you can find. And that’s not a bad thing.

We just need to remind ourselves that a dog under high levels of pain is not living its best life and often the pain of seeing them go through something like this, greatly outweighs the pain of losing them.

What is Osteosarcoma in dogs?

Osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone disease that primarily affects large and giant breed dogs. This occurs when a mass of malfunctioning bone cells (tumor) begins to grow deep within the bone (view source) of the dog and then starts to invade and destroy healthy bone cells.

This causes immense levels of pain.

These cancerous cells can then break away and affect other parts of the body. Osteosarcoma primarily affects the limbs of dogs, however other parts of the body such as the lungs can be affected as well.

Symptoms associated with this disease include swelling, intermittent periods of lameness, and joint or bone pain. Other symptoms include lethargy and loss of appetite.

Due to the cancerous tumor not developing as strong as a normal bone, any slight injury to that area will cause major damage to the dog.

This is known as a pathologic fracture (view source) and the scary part is that these do not heal!

As the dog starts to show lameness, it will usually take 1 to 3 months until it is completely lame. Other symptoms will depend on which part of the body is affected by the tumor.

Approximately 10,000 dogs each year in the United States, fall prey to this debilitating disease. Osteosarcoma also causes about 85% of bone tumors in dogs (view source) with recent studies indicating that 70% of the time, osteosarcoma is passed down genetically between dogs.

Heavy and older dogs have a higher probability of contracting the disease (view source). Those who are over 90 pounds account for nearly a third of all the cases and a dog that has just reached 8 years old will be at a higher risk of developing the disease.

Certain breeds are also more susceptible, which includes the Rottweiler, German shepherd, Golden Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, Irish Setters, Saint Bernards, Irish Wolfhounds, Scottish Deerhounds, Borzois, Leonbergers, and Great Danes. 

When is the best time to euthanize a dog with Osteosarcoma?

There is no direct cookie-cut answer when it comes to euthanizing a dog with osteosarcoma, as there are a lot of factors that need to be considered.

However, for a lot of dog owners, it all comes down to the quality of life.

If a dog is not able to live the life he or she used to live comfortably and if they are in constant, debilitating pain, then as heart-breaking as it is, it might be time to say goodbye to our special pooch.

It is important to know that you are not alone, as there are veterinary professionals who can guide you through this decision process.

How to treat Osteosarcoma in dogs

Unfortunately, Osteosarcoma is an incurable disease and most treatment options available aim to extend the quality and quantity of life for a dog.

In this case, treatment has two options: firstly, to alleviate the immense pain felt by the dog and secondly to reduce the metastatic (spread rapidly) component of the disease.

The first option available to alleviate the pain is to amputate the limb with the tumor. In most cases this relieves the pain immediately, however, the chances of the disease spreading are still very high.

Another option to help with the pain is using palliative radiotherapy, along with pain medications, known as bisphosphonate infusion treatments.

Limb-sparing surgery can also be performed which involves removing the tumor without amputating the leg. This however will need to be done in conjunction with chemotherapy.

This type of surgery will also require a great deal of post-operative special care as the limb will need a long time to heal. Additional treatment options a dog can receive include analgesic drugs.

These do not usually help a dog with the intense level of pain it goes through and should only be considered if amputation and palliative radiotherapy are not an option.

There are also alternative treatment options available, such as targeted nutritional therapy, which uses a ketogenic diet to treat cancer in dogs.

Other alternative treatments include taking on a more holistic approach using natural remedies.

These include many types of remedies such as injecting them with a mixture of vitamins A and D, bromelain, omega-3 fatty acids, and a blend of herbs called the Hoxsey Formula with boneset. There are cases where these treatments have been very successful in treating cancer.

How long can dogs live with Osteosarcoma?

So with all these treatment options, I bet you’re wondering how long a dog can live with Osteosarcoma following the various treatment procedures?

Here is a summary of the different life expectancies for a dog who would undergo different types of therapy:

  • Without therapy: a dog will have about two months to live. This also depends on when the diagnosis was done. Usually, once the dog is diagnosed, the cancer has already metastasized.
  • Amputation: will raise a dog’s lifespan to about six months.
  • Palliative radiation and chemotherapy: gives a life expectancy of about six months.
  • Amputation and chemotherapy: can extend a dog’s life to about a year, and in some cases, a dog can live for up to two years.
  • Limb-sparing surgery: can raise a dog’s lifespan the same as going through amputation and chemotherapy treatment.

There certainly are many different types of therapies and various approaches one can take when it comes to Osteosarcoma. And all the decisions must be made in consultation with a professional.

I even recommend that you seek the advice of not just one professional, but perhaps a few.

This is to ensure that you can gain the best advice and guidance from several sources, allowing you to weigh up the options and make the most informed decision possible. Especially when it comes to treatment options and when the right time to euthanize is.

How you can help your dog with Osteosarcoma

The best advice I can give you is to offer your dog the best care and the best possible treatment options you can afford.

I have found that their glossy, tired eyes will tell us when its time. Then with sad and peaceful hearts we can say our goodbyes and thank them for all the special memories they shared with us.

It’s also worth mentioning here, that for your own peace of mind, your dog will not feel any pain when euthanised.


I would like to thank Jane for taking the time to right her account of putting down her dog with Osteosarcoma. If you would like to contribute anything similar, please do get in touch with me.

Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/dog-nose-paws-brown-eye-s-sad-2869953/

Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

Recent Posts