Osteosarcoma In Dogs: Natural Alternatives

Dog With Osteosarcoma

Your dog starts limping suddenly. And when it doesn’t get better, you take him to the vet for x-rays. 

You were expecting an exercise injury or maybe some arthritis. 

But, after x-rays and maybe other tests … your vet tells you it’s osteosarcoma … an aggressive bone cancer.

It’s a terrible shock, of course. And if it happens to you, you’ll have some important decisions to make for your dog. So I want to provide you with as much information as I can, to help you make the best decisions for your dog’s care. 

I’ll tell you about what treatments conventional vets recommend. But I’ll also mention some natural alternatives that can really support your dog’s own healing.

Natural therapies may help preserve his quality of life better than conventional treatments. 

And I also want to tell you about some research that’s going on.  Some studies offer hope that there will be better solutions for dogs with this cancer in the future. 

What Is Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma is the most common form of bone cancer in dogs. 85% of bone cancer patients have osteosarcoma. 

Osteosarcoma tumors can be in any bone in the body … but are most often in the long bones of the limbs. Front legs are more likely to get osteosarcoma than hind legs. 

Osteosarcoma tumors are often at the end of the bone. This is a factor that differentiates them from secondary bone cancers. Secondary cancer have spread from other cancer types. These are usually in the middle of the bone.

The most common locations for osteosarcoma tumors are:

  • Towards the knee, away from the elbow
  • The top of the shoulder (top of the humerus bone)
  • The wrist (bottom of the radius bone)
  • Bottom of the tibia, at the ankle or hock joint

Usually there is one tumor; and the tumor usually doesn’t spread to other bones through the joints.

Osteosarcoma Spreads

But osteosarcoma tumors are fast-growing. So they do spread or metastasize quickly to other body parts. 

  • 10 to 15% of dogs with osteosarcoma already have some lung metastasis when they’re diagnosed. 
  • But 90% of dogs already have micrometastasis … meaning the cancer has spread but doesn’t show up on X-rays. 

That’s important to keep in mind when considering surgical options.

Even if the primary bone tumor is removed (through amputation) … micrometastases will grow. These are often the eventual cause of death in osteosarcoma patients. And it’s why conventional vets recommend chemotherapy.

What Causes Osteosarcoma?

Osteosarcoma causes are a bit of an unknown … but here are some of the possibilities. 

One theory is that over time, your dog’s body weight may cause small microfractures in his  long bones. These over-stimulate bone growth and inflammation … creating increased risk of malignancies. 

Radiation therapy (for other types of cancer) can sometimes trigger osteosarcoma. This isn’t common, but can happen in up to 5% of patients, about 3-5 years after radiation treatments. 

Bone trauma like fractures or infections may also cause osteosarcoma at a later date. If your dog had a fracture repaired with a metal plate, that’s another possible cause. 

Early spay/neuter is also a risk factor.  One study showed that Rottweilers spayed or neutered before 1 year old were 3-4 times more likely to develop osteosarcoma. Another study found that spayed or neutered purebred dogs have more than double the risk of intact dogs. 

Genetics may also be a factor. Certain breeds (see below) are more prone to osteosarcoma. And some genes have been implicated: p53, retinoblastoma , PTEN , and possibly c–Kit.

Fluoride in drinking water may also be a contributing factor, especially in males. There’s research linking fluoridated water to osteosarcoma in growing boys and male rats. So, logically, it may be the case for dogs too. 

Dogs Prone To Osteosarcoma

Taller, heavier dogs are at higher risk for osteosarcoma, especially in the front legs. 

Dogs over 66 lbs are 60 times more likely to get osteosarcoma than dogs under 22 lbs. 

In dogs over 88 lbs, 95% of primary bone cancer is osteosarcoma. In dogs under 33 lbs, that number drops to 40-50%. 

Size is a more important factor than breed … but these are some of the breeds at risk for the disease. 

  • Great Danes
  • St Bernards
  • Irish Setters
  • Dobermans
  • Rottweilers
  • German Shepherds
  • Golden Retrievers

Scottish Deerhounds are genetically predisposed to osteosarcoma as well. 

Middle age is also a factor. Osteosarcoma is often found in dogs from 2 to 10 years of age, but the median age is 7. 

Signs Of Osteosarcoma

One of the difficulties in recognizing osteosarcoma is that dogs are so good at hiding lameness. And the signs of osteosarcoma are easy to confuse with other diseases.

But key symptoms are … 

  • Persistent lameness 
  • Swelling

In early stages, most dogs won’t have other symptoms. They’ll otherwise feel okay. So if your dog’s pain doesn’t improve with rest or pain remedies, talk to your vet. 

Other signs as the cancer develops may include …

  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing or coughing – in later stages of lung metastasis
  • Severely increased lameness, suggesting the bone has fractured (rare, but it can happen)

Bloodwork won’t usually alert you to osteosarcoma. One change may be increased ALP (alkaline phosphatase, a liver enzyme). And there are many things that could cause that.

However, elevated ALP is a factor in prognosis, as you’ll see later. 

Diagnosing Osteosarcoma In Dogs

Again, if your dog has lameness that doesn’t go away; or there’s swelling in the limbs … see your vet. 

The first step will be a physical exam and x-rays. Your vet will want to rule out other causes for the lameness. X-rays will show lesions typical of osteosarcoma. 

Avoid Bone Aspirate or Biopsy

To confirm suspected osteosarcoma, some vets may do a bone aspirate or bone biopsy. 

But it’s best to avoid these diagnostic tools if you can. They may …

  • Increase metastasis
  • Weaken the bone further
  • Increase pain

And the results may not change the treatment decisions. 

Oncologist Dr Sue Ettinger (co-author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide), says if she sees lesions that look like osteosarcoma, she skips the biopsy or aspirate and recommends immediate surgery. That’s because bone lesions can’t be repaired. They also create risk of a painful fracture.  In that case, a biopsy could be done after amputation. 

For a bone aspirate, your dog will be sedated. It’s less likely to cause a bone fracture than a biopsy.  But it can be inconclusive as to the type of sarcoma. 

In that case, a special stain to test for ALP in the aspirate can confirm an osteosarcoma diagnosis. A negative result does not rule out osteosarcoma, however. 

Bone biopsies remove a piece of the bone for testing; but that creates risk of fracture. They can also lead to misdiagnosis in 50% of cases. So if you decide on a biopsy, make sure you find an experienced surgeon. The sample should come from the middle of the bone, not the edges. I’ll get into discussion about surgeries for osteosarcoma a bit later. 

If It’s Osteosarcoma …

The next step will be to check for metastasis.

That’s usually done via chest X-rays. Your vet may also look for micro-metastasis with a CT scan. (CT scans are expensive and require anesthesia.) 

Other tests may include:

  • Full blood panel (CBC and chemistry)
  • Urinalysis
  • Lymph node aspirate or biopsy to check for metastasis (not common, but affects prognosis)
  • Additional X-rays if your dog is lame in other areas
  • Abdominal ultrasound to evaluate overall health

Rule Out Fungal Disease

It’s also important to rule out fungal infections, which can look like osteosarcoma. So if you live somewhere where diseases like blastomycosis are common, you may need to do a bone biopsy after all … to identify fungal infection.

There may be a difference in symptoms too. With blastomycosis, your dog will likely feel sick, with symptoms like …

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing
  • Depression
  • Eye problems
  • Lameness
  • Skin issues

Staging Of Osteosarcoma

While oncologists usually “stage” cancers … this may not be useful for osteosarcomas. That’s because so many of them are already advanced (with metastasis) at diagnosis.

  • Stage I – low-grade tumors without metastasis
  • Stage II – high-grade tumors without metastasis
  • Stage III – metastasis has occurred

Staging osteosarcoma isn’t likely to change your treatment decision (whatever that turns out to be). 

Conventional vets love citing statistics and giving you prognosis estimates. They’ll likely tell you the expected survival times for various treatment options.

Other than treatment decisions, some factors that affect prognosis are:

  • Tumor size and metastasis
  • High ALP levels (indicate shorter survival times)
  • Tumor location (may affect metastasis)

But instead of worrying about exactly when your dog might die … you may want to focus your energy on giving your dog the best quality of life for however much time he has left. Whether that’s a month or 3 years. 

There are all kinds of dogs who defy the odds and have much longer survival times than the experts predicted. 

So, speaking of quality of life, let’s talk about some treatment options.

Treatments To Consider

You’ll have some difficult decisions to make. And the first one is a very big one.

Amputation/Surgery

Except in rare cases, conventional vets and oncologists will recommend surgery plus chemotherapy for osteosarcoma.

Surgery usually involves amputation of the limb. So you’ll have a 3-legged dog. 

And this is probably the only instance you’ll see where DNM says “it’s OK to amputate.”

Removing the limb removes much of the cancer (depending on the level of metastasis).

And it also removes the pain. Eliminating the pain is obviously a huge factor in your dog’s quality of life. 

But not all dogs do well with amputation. So it’s an individual decision.

Many dogs are fine hopping around, even running and playing, on 3 legs. Dogs often adapt very quickly to amputation … because the pain has already caused them to shift their weight to the other 3 legs. 

Before amputating, ask your vet to test … to see how well your dog bears weight on the opposite leg. 

But if your dog has compromised mobility in other limbs, it may not be a good choice for him. Severe arthritis, neurological problems, or lameness in another leg, could mean he won’t do well as a tripod dog. 

In that case there are “limb-sparing” procedures that some dogs may qualify for.

Limb-Sparing Surgery

These are complicated and expensive procedures. And not every hospital can do them. 

But it could be a solution for your dog. It involves removing only the affected part of the bone … then replacing it with bone from a donor. The “donor” could be your dog himself. 

Your dog may be a candidates for limb sparing procedure if he has …

  • Osteosarcoma in less than 50% of the bone
  • Limited soft tissue involvement
  • No fractures
  • Lesion that doesn’t wrap around the whole bone

There can be complications like infections or fractures with these procedures. And the cancer is more likely to recur than with amputation.

There may be one more alternative to surgery. 

Stereotactic Radiation (SRS/SRT)

This is an advanced radiation therapy that some oncology clinics offer. It may be an option if your dog hasn’t already lost a lot of bone. 

Because SRS/SRT is highly focused, it can damage and kill osteosarcoma cells … but without doing too much damage to surrounding healthy cells. It may also relieve your dog’s pain. 

Conventional oncologists still recommend chemotherapy after SRS/SRT. 

The Surgery Decision

It’s a very difficult decision. Of course, you must consider your dog’s ability to walk on 3 legs.

If you talk to holistic vets, you’ll get varying responses about amputation. 

In the conventional approach, removing the cancer is part of the solution. 

But the holistic approach treats the whole dog with alternative therapies.

By supporting your dog’s overall health, you may be able to stop the tumor from growing. And your dog is more likely to maintain good quality of life than with toxic drug treatments. 

Dr Judy Jasek, who specializes in alternative treatments for cancer patients, believes that the main reason to amputate is for pain management. 

Because cancer is a systemic disease, removing the tumor doesn’t treat the cancer. 

Most of Dr Jasek’s osteosarcoma patients aren’t amputated. Instead, Dr Jasek supports the dog with diet and other therapies (that I’ll get into below). 

NOTE:

If you don’t opt for surgery, your dog will need pain management … whether conventional or alternative. 

Chemotherapy And Radiation

Follow up chemotherapy and/or radiation is always recommended as part of the surgical option … and it’s what conventional vets recommend, even if you don’t do surgery. 

And the chemotherapy statistics they give you may be compelling:

  • With just amputation dogs have a median survival time of 4-5 months.
  • 90% succumb within a year; just 2% survive to 2 years. 
  • Amputation plus chemotherapy offers median survival times of 10 months to 1 year. 
  • 20-25% of dogs survive for 2 years.

But chemo drugs have many severe side effects. Even the actual treatments can be painful … and stressful for your dog. 

Radiation treatment is used to lessen pain and can be very effective. 

And a third drug treatment, bisphosphonates (pamidronate) may help in bone remodeling. It can also control pain and may have anti-cancer effects. 

But the list of side effects is massive. I won’t reproduce it here, but you can read it online

It’s a new treatment, so there’s not much information about its results. We don’t know whether it buys your dog more time. 

Deciding On Drug Treatments

I want to share a paragraph about these treatments from Dr Marty Goldstein’s book, The Nature Of Animal Healing. Dr Goldstein discusses the significant harmful side effects of these treatments. 

What he says next may be helpful to you as you consider these treatments. 

“…even if the tumor is eradicated through chemo or radiation, where does that leave the pet? In a lesser state of health than the one he was in before their debilitating effects. […] To me, the only rationale for either of these treatments is to accomplish initial treatment of a cancer condition that is life-threatening, or when the statistics for success leading to healthier, prolonged lives support it for that cancer type.”

Dr Goldstein cautions against these invasive therapies. He may use them occasionally, but only when necessary for the patient … and then, for as little time as possible.

Dr Jasek also says she sees much better success in dogs who haven’t had conventional therapies like chemo and radiation. Patients who’ve had these treatments go downhill faster. 

That’s because chemo destroys the immune system. There are always cancer cells that escape chemo or radiation … and then they come back with a vengeance.

Chemo offers good short term results but bad long term outcomes.

Dr Jasek supports people’s choices and will still do the supportive care, even for dogs who are getting chemo. But she warns “I can’t treat chemo side effects, because it destroys the microbiome.” 

And Dr Ian Billinghurst explains that although these treatments may seem to work initially … cancer will always come back.

“And when this cancer in its new format makes its obnoxious reappearance, it is always more malignant, more aggressive and far less responsive to chemotherapy than the horror it replaced.”

Please read what Dr Ian Billinghurst has to say about chemo and radiation treatments.

So … I urge you to explore all the options before making a decision. Some holistic therapies may be just as effective as the toxic drug options. 

A Real Life Example

Before we look at some alternative therapies … I want to share with you a story from someone who’s been there. Joanne Bulanda Keenan chose amputation plus surgery for her dog Summit … and regrets it.

First it was a limp… Or was it? Two  weeks later x-rays and a diagnosis. Osteosarcoma. And a referral to the veterinary hospital at the University of Guelph. More testing to check for spread. Good news. No spread. And  within a week … amputation. Twelve days from diagnosis. Then chemo. Every two weeks. Followed by lethargy, misery, listlessness, not eating. And worry. And 3.5 months from that first x-ray, Summit was dead. 

The university did a necropsy. Cause of death was bacterial pneumonia. Not cancer. I understood immediately what that meant. Chemo suppressed his immune system to the point where he got a bacterial infection. Every time he got chemo, it further suppressed his system. When he began to revive and fight the infection, it was time for chemo again! And guess what? There was no lung metastasis at time of death. 

I live with guilt and sadness about what happened and what I did not know and who I did not know. Now I know better and would do things much differently.

This would be my approach today. I’m not giving you advice. Just telling you my top 10 things I’d do differently with hindsight.

#1 Slow Down. Speed kills and it killed my Summit in 3.5 months. The prognosis if I did nothing was longer than that. The body needs time to heal, no matter what method you choose. Rushing into this type of life-altering surgery was the wrong thing to do. From diagnosis June 1, 2011, until his death Sept 16, it was a wild ride as I was pulled through the conventional ways of amputation and chemo. It was always impressed upon me on how fast we had to move. Within just 12 days of diagnosis, he was scheduled for amputation.

#2 No amputation — especially not as a primary means of cancer control. The stress of recovery on the body can be the foundation for the spread of cancer or other ailments. When one part of the body is weakened, strengthen the rest.

#3 No chemo! It’s a low dose, so it doesn’t have the effect it would on a human given a full dose. But it still diminishes the immune system. All the raw feeding I’d done through his life  and the recent supplements did not help strengthen his immunity when faced with chemo. Summit didn’t take well to the chemo, or so I thought. He would be lethargic for a week or two and just as he rallied, it was time for the next treatment. I didn’t note the pattern until after I lost him. The day of his 4th chemo session he showed his usual signs of lethargy (not moving at all for days) and no interest in food, just water. En route to the hospital, he died, three months post surgery. Blood tests done before treatment sometimes noted elevated white blood cells. I look at this as a sign that Summit’s system had rebounded and he was fighting something but I was told “this sometimes happens”. Well – duh — the system is trying to rebuild!  Chemo kept suppressing his immune system so an infection could take hold and take his life. 

#4 Use medical diagnoses to formulate YOUR plan, not theirs. Summit registered clear on x-rays of his three other limbs and major organs, clear ultrasound and a clear bone scan with radioactive isotopes. It was the happiest day of my life to hear he had no traces of cancer any where else….a clear baseline. But it was repeatedly impressed upon me that if we didn’t do surgery, the limb would weaken and break. I was petrified to subject him to that kind of pain.

#5 Research. Consider all options. If you feel you don’t have any, find some: diet, homeopathy, artemisinin, TCM, acupuncture.

#6 Ask for help. Amass a team and delegate to help with #5. When friends ask to help, give them something to research, foods to find, practitioners to find, etc. Choose strategic people to ask for help and advice. Don’t broadcast to the masses. That results in confusion and being overwhelmed.

#7 Trust yourself and your beliefs. I will never forgive myself for blindly trusting methods I didn’t 100% believe in or understand. If you’re confident in your nutritional decisions and in the mentors in your dog’s corner, follow that path. Since then I have befriended and followed countless others who have helped their dogs survive cancer with better quality of life and less invasive measure … including medical experts and researchers. 

#8 Listen to your dog. When he is lying there lifeless, is that what you want for him? How can you change that to gain quality of life? Chemo was making both of us miserable.

#9 Control the things you can control. For me that means maintaining a clean environment. Change towels, sheets, carpets, often.

#10 Be prepared to lose sleep to put your plan into action. This is your new reality. 

Now, let’s talk about some other alternatives to manage your dog’s osteosarcoma.

Alternative Therapies

Homeopathy

Homeopathy can be highly successful in treating all kinds of cancers. Instead of attacking the cancer as a separate entity, homeopathy supports the body’s own healing ability.

Dr Charles Loops is a homeopathic veterinarian who specializes in cancer cases. He’s had a lot of experience with osteosarcoma. Here are some highlights of his recommendations.

  • Limit diagnostics to X-rays. Osteosarcoma has a very characteristic appearance.
  • Avoid biopsies, which can increase metastasis as well as pain
  • Amputation is not fully curative because of metastasis
  • But he recommends amputation if your dog has 3 good legs

Dr Loops’ experience with osteosarcoma shows:

  • Survival times with amputation plus homeopathy are similar to amputation plus chemo. He sees dogs surviving for 1-2 years. Some live 3 years and others are even cured. 

So … homeopathy can be just as effective as chemo at prolonging your dog’s life. But without the harmful side effects, without the stressful vet visits … and at much lower financial cost. 

Dr Loops uses a combination of homeopathic remedies, with frequent potency changes, and frequent dosing. 

He’ll prescribe … 

  • Your dog’s constitutional remedy 
  • A remedy relating to the tumor and its location
  • He may add a third remedy that addresses genetic and environmental cancer causes. 

In February 2017, Dr Loops wrote on his website about dogs he was treating at the time:

  • Seven dogs living past the two-year mark, post-diagnosis, with treatment using his homeopathic protocol.  
  • Three of the seven dogs have exceeded three years.  
  • Six other dogs are in the six month to 1 year range, post-diagnosis, and are still free of metastasis and are expected to continue doing well.  

Most of these dogs have had amputations.  

“Of the twenty-five to thirty dogs I treat each year, and with the varying tumor locations and start times for beginning homeopathic treatment post-diagnosis, I expect a 20-25% potential survival rate of at least two years with my future cases.”

These survival times are at least as good as chemotherapy results. And again, with no adverse side effects. 

With homeopathy, your dog may have a longer and better life, with less stress and discomfort, than with chemo. 

Read more detail from Dr Loops about osteosarcoma treatment.

TCVM

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine can also offer good results with osteosarcoma. A TCVM practitioner will use a combination of treatments:

  • Acupuncture
  • Herbal therapy
  • Food therapy

Osteosarcoma can present as stagnant toxic heat. Toxic heat is particularly common in mid to late-stage cancer patients. 

Food therapy ingredients for toxic heat include green leafy vegetables, gizzards, white fish, turkey, rabbit, yucca, and winter squash. 

Chinese herbs might include Wu Wei Xiao Du Yin (Five Ingredient Decoction to Eliminate Toxin) or Ba Zheng Tang.

A good TCVM practitioner can help extend and maintain your dog’s quality of life with a combination of therapies.

In some cases, TCVM therapy can have better results than conventional treatment.

IV Vitamin C

IV vitamin C is becoming more popular, especially with holistic practitioners. It can be used successfully to support cancer patients. There’s some controversy because of past conflicting research (in human cases). 

Nonetheless, some holistic vets say it can perform miraculous turnarounds in serious medical conditions. 

The therapy is individually tailored to the patient’s condition. It may include several days of treatment. 

Smith Ridge Veterinary Center is one clinic that uses this therapy extensively. 

Ozone Therapy

Several holistic practitioners use ozone therapy for cancer. Dr Judy Jasek uses it successfully with osteosarcoma patients. Dr Marty Goldstein also describes in his book how ozone turned around osteosarcoma treatment results for many patients. 

Medical grade ozone is made by passing pure oxygen through a generator that uses an electrical spark to split an oxygen atom off of the Omolecules. This free oxygen atom will combine with other O2 molecules and produce O3, which is ozone. 

Your dog can have the treatments at the vet clinic. Some vets (like Dr Jasek) will rent you an ozone generator to use at home,

Pulsed Electromagnetic Therapy (PEMF)

Finding a PEMF practitioner may benefit your osteosarcoma dog.

PEMF sends a magnetic pulse through the body. It increases circulation, oxygen absorption and protein synthesis in the cells. 

It can heal damaged tissues, reduce pain and stimulate organs. 

There is some early research to show how PEMF can help cancer patients. One study of PEMF benefits on cancer found that PEMF slowed tumor growth in various types of cancers. PEMF also  has immunomodulatory effects. 

Another study showed it increased the effects of doxorubicin chemotherapy in mice with osteosarcoma. 

It’s a very safe therapy. It can be expensive to buy the equipment, though it is available for home use. But you can find holistic practitioners who offer PEMF therapy.

Herbs And Supplements

It’s best to find a holistic practitioner with osteosarcoma experience to help you choose the right herbs and supplements for your dog.

But here are some things that can help.

Mistletoe

Dr Judy Jasek uses injectable mistletoe in her practice. Mistletoe has several therapeutic benefits. 

  • Prevents tumor metastasis
  • Causes cancer cell death
  • Improves mitochondria health
  • Reduces tumor blood supply
  • Stimulates the immune system
  • Reduces pain

Mistletoe can also reduce side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. You can learn to give subcutaneous mistletoe injections yourself at home. 

Medicinal Mushrooms

A good organic medicinal mushroom blend can really support your dog’s cancer-fighting ability,, 

Beta-glucans are the main medicinal property in mushrooms. Beta-glucans have many benefits … and boosting immunity is a big one. 

Make sure you buy a product made from whole mushrooms … not mycelium. 

Many mushroom supplements are just mycelium. That’s only part of the mushroom. Mycelium is grown on grains. Mycelium grown on grains is higher in starch and lower in important beta glucans than whole mushrooms. 

If you buy a mushroom blend made for dogs, follow the dosing directions on the label. If it’s made for humans, assume the dose is for 150 lbs and adjust for your dog’s weight. 

A mushroom blend can do a lot to support your dog’s immune system. But you may want to add one extra mushroom for your dog. 

Turkey Tail Mushrooms (Coriolus versicolor or Trametes versicolor)

Even if your mushroom supplement blend already includes turkey tail … giving extra turkey tail mushrooms can help fight cancer. 

Turkey tail mushrooms have been shown to help cancer patients in several studies of different kinds of cancer.  One study in dogs even showed it can increase survival times for dogs with deadly hemangiosarcoma. 

CBD

good full-spectrum CBD oil can be a good addition to your dog’s osteosarcoma regimen. Buy a 1000 mg strength and give it once or twice daily.

There are a few ways CBD can help your dog with osteosarcoma.

While there don’t appear to be studies specific to CBD and osteosarcoma, cannabinoids can help manage other cancer types. 

And there’s ample anecdotal evidence of CBD helping dogs with cancer.

One 10 year old dog with osteosarcoma had been given 1 month to live. After getting CBD, she could stop her pain medications … and she stopped limping. She lived another 6 months, without other treatments. And she was active until the very end of her life. 

Other Herbs

Australian company McDowell’s makes several herbal blends for dogs with cancer, including one for osteosarcoma. It includes equisetum and elecampane, both of which are known as bone healing herbs. You may want to talk to your herbalist about whether this combination is right for your dog. 

They also have chemotherapy and radiation support formulas, in case you decide to do either of those treatments. 

Hands-on/Energy Therapies

Hands-on therapies can improve your dog’s quality of life. These therapies can be especially helpful for dogs with amputations whose bodies need to adjust to walking on 3 legs. 

Check into treatments like …

  • Chiropractic
  • Physical therapy/rehab
  • Massage
  • Acupressure
  • Reiki
  • Whole Energy Body Balance

Even meditating with your dog can be helpful … to both of you … during the stress of going through cancer.

Promise For Future Treatments

There’s more research than you’d expect into osteosarcoma in dogs. That may be because recent research has shown similarities between osteosarcoma in children and dogs … so they’re using dogs to study new treatment options for children.

So this may offer hope of some better treatment options in future … for dogs too. 

Immunotherapy

Some immunotherapies are already being done in osteosarcoma treatments for dogs. 

Immunotherapy means stimulating the immune system to fight the cancer cells. 

One therapy involves inhaling interleukin-2 liposomes. It’s been successful in treating dogs with advanced lung metastasis. 

Another immunotherapy called L-MTP-PE shows promise but is not yet commercially available. But it can increase survival times to 15 months.

One dog got immunotherapy treatment at Tufts University. First he had his leg amputated. Then he got 4 rounds of chemo. After that he got 3 experimental injections. The immunotherapy triggers the body to hunt down bone-cancer cells. Almost a year later, he has no metastasis and is still cancer-free. (But, he did have to go through amputation and chemo!)

Another osteosarcoma immunotherapy experiment involves using drug combinations to target the tumor “microenvironment.”  They’re using the chemo drug Doxorubicin with the allergy drug Apoquel … and a drug called Iadarixin. That’s a drug that inhibits CXCR1/2 chemokine receptors. This is another suppressive, chemotherapy-type combination that suppresses the immune system. 

Cryosurgery

Cryotherapy is a technique used to “freeze” cancer tumors.  The body then rejects the frozen tissue. 

It’s less invasive and less painful than regular surgery. 

It can also help stimulate the immune system. There’s anecdotal evidence that cryotherapy of a primary tumor can activate the patient’s own immune system. That can eradicate tumor cells far from the site of where the primary tumor was frozen. 

However, cryosurgery is currently only useful for osteosarcoma that’s in the jaw, with exposed bone. It’s difficult to use it for internal osteosarcoma of the long bones. However there is research now into MRI-guided cryosurgery for dogs

So this may be a better possibility for osteosarcoma patients in future.  

Vaccines

While we usually recommend avoiding vaccines at DNM … I also recognize that life-threatening disease can change your perspective. So here are some studies taking place. 

One osteosarcoma dog received a vaccine made from her own tumor at University of Missouri. She’s still doing well 3 years later. 

University of Florida is also studying an osteosarcoma vaccine. They’re recruiting dogs who have osteosarcoma, but have not received any chemo. To participate contact VM-ClinicalStudies@ufl.edu.

The Mason Lab at University of Pennsylvania, is evaluating a vaccine. The goal is to stimulate the body’s immune system to recognize and kill osteosarcoma cancer cells. It’s an attenuated bacterial (Listeria monocytogenes) vaccine, genetically modified to express the  HER-2/neu tumor protein that’s expressed in osteosarcoma cancer cells. 

And another osteosarcoma vaccine may soon become available. Aratana Therapeutics announced that their Canine Osteosarcoma Vaccine, LiveListeriaVector (AT-014), has been granted a conditional license by the USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics. 

In their preliminary study, 18 dogs dogs had amputation followed by chemotherapy, followed by the vaccine every 3 weeks for 3 doses. The median survival rate was 956 days with the vaccine, vs 423 days in a historical control group.  

Common side effects included lethargy, diarrhea, and fever. 4 serious adverse events were reported in a separate field safety study. 

Dogs with osteosarcoma who have undergone amputation and chemotherapy are eligible for studies into this vaccine. Contact edna.moore@medvetforpets.com if you’re interested. 

Improved Treatments?

This study examining “what do we know about canine osteosarcoma treatment” discussed the potential use of nanoparticles. The chemo drug doxorubicin and siRNA (RNA molecules) encapsulated in liposome-based dextran nanoparticle could help develop novel therapies. These techniques are used in some human cancer therapies, but not yet available to dogs. 

Preventing Osteosarcoma

When it comes to preventing any kind of cancer, the rules are similar:

Feed the very best diet you can afford. This should preferably be a whole food, raw meat-based diet. Use organic, grass-fed meats if you can. Above all, don’t feed any kibble or starchy foods. Starch is sugar … and sugar feeds cancer. 

Minimize vaccines. The number of conventional vets who still vaccinate dogs with cancer is shocking. Dr Judy Jasek told me she has many patients who come to her recently vaccinated – even after a cancer diagnosis! If your dog isn’t healthy, don’t let your vet give him any vaccines. Vaccination disrupts the immune system, causes chronic disease, and hurts your dog’s ability to fight cancer.  Apparently vets are not reading the vaccine labeling, which says vaccines should only be given to healthy animals. 

Maintain good gut health. More than 80% of your dog’s immune system is in his gut. So promoting good gut health is vital in his ability to resist cancer (or any other disease). As well as a good diet, give pre and probiotics to support gut health. 

Minimize all pharmaceuticals. Try to avoid drugs and pharmaceutical flea and tick products for your dog.  Especially antibiotics, which disrupt the gut microbiome, possibly forever. Conventional drugs suppress disease and drive it deeper. When it comes back, it often comes back in a worse form … and that could be cancer!

Minimize toxins. Keep toxic chemicals out of your dog’s environment. This includes cleaning products and artificial fragrances in your home, fertilizers and pesticides in your yard.

Don’t spay or neuter your dog. As I explained earlier, the risk of osteosarcoma greatly increases in spayed or neutered vs intact dogs. 

Give your dog filtered or spring water. Fluoride in his water can increase the risk of bone cancers like osteosarcoma. 

Exercise and fun! Make sure your dog gets to be a dog. Get him outside and moving. It’s not just about exercise. Different activities relax body and mind … and help relieve stress (for you too!).  

So … as you contemplate different options for your dog … keep in mind that toxic treatments may not be the best choices.

Alternative treatments can help manage the cancer by supporting your dog’s own immune and healing mechanisms. This can prolong your dog’s quality of life … as long as the tumor’s not growing. 

As Dr Goldstein says …

“I’ve had pets run around for years … with some portion of their tumors intact. As long as we’ve contained the tumor, reduced or eliminated any pain, and enabled the pet to lead a happy, energetic life, who cares if he has a tumor or not? {…] if it remains dormant, it need not arouse our concern or provoke an all-out assault with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.”

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