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Osteosarcoma In Golden Retrievers: Aggressive & Deadly Disease

Osteosarcoma In Golden Retrievers: Aggressive & Deadly Disease
Osteosarcoma In Golden Retrievers

Osteosarcoma is a malignant bone tumor that mainly affects large and giant dog breeds. The most affected areas of the dog’s body are limbs. The tumor usually occurs in the front legs, from where it spreads to other parts of the body. While it mostly affects limbs, a tumor can occur in the spine, ribs, or skull. Osteosarcoma is not as common in Golden Retrievers as much as in some other dog breeds like Greyhounds, Mastiffs, Grade Dane. However, it is still very much present.

We still don’t know exactly what causes osteosarcoma. Research has shown a correlation between the disease and particular genes that regulate the growth and suppression of tumor cells.

Symptoms Of Osteosarcoma In Golden Retrievers?

The most common symptoms of osteosarcoma in Golden Retrievers are: 

  • Lameness
  • Swelling
  • Shivering And Shaking
  • Loss Of Appetite
  • Pathological Fracture
  • Change In The Goldens Behavior
  • Reduction In Activity
  • Seizures
  • Bad Breath

If your Golden Retriever suffers from osteosarcoma, you will usually notice lameness or swelling in the affected limb. OSA is a very painful condition, so you may notice your Golden showing signs of pain and restlessness. However, we all know how good our Goldens are when it comes to hiding pain from us. So, most of the time, you won’t notice this. As with any cancer, your dog will lose its appetite and in general, lose the will to walk and run. In some cases bone will be weakened by cancer so much that it will fracture in the end, this is known as a pathologic fracture.

If the OSA develops in the mouth area, you will notice your dog’s bad breath or blood in the water or food bowl. Osteosarcoma that develops in the bones of the skull can cause visible changes in the symmetry of the face. Also, it can affect the brain and cause seizures.

How Do We Diagnose Osteosarcoma In Golden Retrievers?

There are a most common methods we use to diagnose OSA. 

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Fine needle aspiration
  • Bone biopsy
  • X-ray scan
  • CT scan

Is There A Treatment For This Malignant Tumor?

By the time we diagnose the osteosarcoma, the cancer cells have probably metastasized. This means they have left the location of the primary tumor and moved somewhere else in the body. With time these cells will form secondary tumors in the dog’s body. In this case, chemotherapy is used to slow the development of these cells into secondary tumors.

In case there is no evidence of spread, the goal is to immediately remove the tumor. This is typically achieved through the amputation of the affected limb. This is, of course, a difficult decision to take for every owner. But it will extend your Golden’s life. Most dogs will do well after the amputation. 

With the surgical removal of the tumor and subsequent radiotherapy or chemotherapy, the survival time is typically 10-12 months, with the chance of 12-25% for the 2-year survival rate. The severity of this condition is best-shown through the dogs that are not treated. They will be euthanized due to uncontrolled pain within 1-2 months of diagnosis.

Other treatment methods help slow down cancer as much as possible and ease the pain. These include radiation therapy, bisphosphonates, etc.


Osteosarcoma is an extremely aggressive cancer. In more than 90% of the dogs, the disease has spread to the other parts of the body by the time it is diagnosed. In most cases, the dog will be lost to OSA, and there is little we can do about it. What owners can and need to do is proper pain management. Remember, this condition causes extreme pain to the affected dog, so it is of utmost importance that you provide adequate pain control.