When you first hear the diagnosis of osteosarcoma your head starts spinning. All you hear is cancer.
Osteosarcoma is by far the most common bone tumor in dogs, usually striking the leg bones of larger breeds. Osteosarcoma usually presents in middle aged or elderly dogs but can arise in a dog of any age with larger breeds tending to develop tumors at younger ages.
This type of bone cancer usually has a sudden onset. The owner may notice just a few weeks of limping, the swelling around the mass and then discomfort.
All of a sudden a very active dog is on the sidelines.
One of our Love Dogs, Bingo, is one such dog. Just a few short weeks ago she was running in the desert and enjoying her agility classes.
Bingo was adopted when her prior owner had Alzheimers and new homes had to be found for several dogs. No one knows for certain her age but somewhere between seven and ten.
Now she sits with her owner in a new doctor’s office, shaking and scared. The lump on her left front foot is growing more pronounced every day.
The veterinary oncologist spends several hours discussing this type of bone cancer and the options for treatment and potential results.
They all seem to have the same outcome – a dramatically shortened life.
Amputation of the affected bone is recommended for any tumor involving bone. When the malignant structure has been removed, it is submitted for biopsy and the diagnosis confirmed at that time. Biopsy before amputation is felt to simply add a painful procedure to the patient and, if possible, is reserved for tissue already amputated.
There are benefits to amputation as removal of the affected limb resolves the pain in 100% of cases. There are benefits to aggressive treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation.
There are also drawbacks.
Aggressive treatment means restricted activity, many visits to the vet, considerable pain and considerable cost.
And none offer the one outcome most desired – time.
The average prognosis is months, not years.
So Bingo’s owners started making her bucket list of what once constituted her Quality of Life:
- Running free in the desert
- Playing with her canine siblings
- Jumping with joy when it is mealtime
- Being a therapy dog – a Love Dog
Bingo’s Quality of Life may now be measured differently:
- Is she pain free
- Can she walk comfortably even if she cannot run
- Can she enjoy the company of her human and canine family
- Can she continue to share her love as a Love Dog if only to be admired and petted gently … for a little while longer
- Can she have the best possible rest of her life
This is how you measure a dog’s Quality of Life and the toughest decisions are ones you make out of knowledge and love.
All of Bingo’s fellow Love Dogs wish her the best as she and her family deals with this new challenge.