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Managing canine osteosarcoma: limb sparing versus amputation?

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The question of whether to euthanase a dog or to amputate or spare its limb in the management of canine osteosarcoma was a subject debated at this year's BSAVA congress, held in Birmingham from March 31 to April 3. Arianwen Morris reports

OSTEOSARCOMA is a very aggressive cancer arising from the bone-forming cells within the cortex or the inside of the bone. It progresses rapidly to involve the adjacent soft tissue, causing intense pain. As the tumour growth process weakens the bone, it can ultimately result in fracture. This was explained by Jane Dobson, an RCVS specialist in veterinary oncology at Cambridge university, during a session called ‘Canine bone tumours: limb sparing versus amputation’, which was part of the congress's ‘controversies’ stream.

Bone cancer was 10 times more common in dogs than in people and 85 to 95 per cent of bone tumours affecting the metatheses of the long bones in dogs were osteosarcomas, she said. There were a number of debatable issues concerning canine osteosarcoma, including the method of its diagnosis, for example, radiography versus biopsy, the system by which its progression should be graded and, in particular, the ways in which it should be managed.

The major issue to address when considering the management of a patient was pain: ‘For the animal's welfare, we have to address the pain aspect,’ she said. However, another feature of the disease was that metastasis occurred very early on in its progression and was a complication in approximately 90 per cent of cases.

‘This occurs very early in the course of disease and, unfortunately, there’s no such thing really as getting in there early, amputating the limb and saving the animal from metastasis – that doesn't happen. They have microscopic deposits at the time that they become lame,' said Dr Dobson.

Amputation …

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