updated July 9th, 2021
It’s normal to be worried if your dog has been diagnosed with chondrosarcoma. However, there are a few positive things that should be considered.
One thing that determines overall life expectancy for a dog diagnosed with this bone tumor depends on the location.
Median survival time also depends on whether the cancer has spread. Locations could include the liver, kidneys, lung, heart, and skeleton.
In order to get a full understanding of a dog’s life expectancy, this post has been written in sections. A dog’s life span after diagnosis has a lot to do with where the cancer is and how well it can be treated.
Did you know…
Chondrosarcoma is the second most common primary bone tumor in dogs. It accounts for 5 – 10% of bone tumors in dogs. The most commonly affected site is the nasal cavity.
Signs of Chondrosarcoma in Dogs
Signs of cancer in dogs often mimic other conditions. It’s important to consider a set of symptoms rather than any one abnormality.
This cancer affects flat bones in the body. This means the tumors can be found in the ribs, nasal cavity, pelvis, and the ribs.
Signs could include:
- Localized swelling (could be painful)
- Decreased appetite
- General Pain
- Bulging eyes (chondrosarcoma of the skull)
- Sneezing and nasal discharge (tumors in the nasal cavity)
- Rear leg weakness (chondrosarcoma of the pelvis)
Additional Info You Should Know
When speaking to the veterinarian, he/she may use terminology that is, at best, confusing. Here is a short glossary of terms that may help you on your next visit.
A neoplasm is a tumor.
Central or Medullary Chondrosarcoma
This means that the cancer originates in bone organs. Bone organs can be the bone itself. Ligaments, tendons, and cartilage are also considered bone organs.
This means the cancer has developed in the membrane lining the outer surface of all bones.
Extraskeletal sites include the mammary glands, heart, aorta, larynx, trachea, vertebrae, facial bones, digits, and the penis.
It is possible for chondrosarcoma to originate in the extraskeletal area.
How Veterinarians Reach a Diagnosis
Your veterinarian will want to know what’s been happening with your dog including a detailed account of bothersome signs.
As dog owners, we sometimes jump to the worst-case scenario. However, the signs listed above could signal anything from osteoarthritis to an infection.
Chondrosarcoma is typically seen in middle-aged dogs. Average age at diagnosis is 6 – 8 years old.
Veterinarians often start with a physical. The doctor will look over the dog for any obvious abnormalities. He/she will manually scan the dog for signs of pain, lumps, and signs of swollen lymph nodes.
The veterinarian will look for signs of nasal discharge, bulging eyes, and signs of lameness. This procedure is part of an orthopedic exam.
Urinalysis is a commonly used screening tool that can detect the presence of abnormal cells.
Complete Blood Count
Blood tests are another way veterinarians can screen for abnormalities.
Blood tests are useful in determining the general health of the dog. This helps the veterinarian when deciding on the safest treatment options.
Biochemistry screening also provides information on an enzyme called alkaline phosphatase. The levels of this enzyme help a doctor better understand the dog’s prognosis.
Radiographs may show evidence of a mass located on the bone or soft tissue.
Fine Needle Aspirate (FNA)
This procedure involves taking a small needle with a syringe and removing cell samples from the tumor. Once this is complete, the cells are viewed under a microscope by a veterinary pathologist.
In some cases, a biopsy may also be necessary. A biopsy involves the surgical removal of a piece of the tumor.
Histopathology occurs when a veterinary pathologist examines biopsied tissue under a microscope. This test is very useful in identifying chondrosarcoma.
An important distinction is how this test can help determine exactly how the tumor will behave.
Breeds At Risk of Developing Chondrosarcoma
Chondrosarcoma can occur in any dog and there is no preference over male or female dogs.
However, large breed dogs are more susceptible and can include:
- German Shepherds
- Golden Retrievers
Why Staging is Done Before a Treatment Plan
Staging is a useful tool to rule out metastasis (spread) of the tumor to other parts of the body.
Once the diagnosis of bone cancer is made, additional tests that could include more bloodwork, urinalysis, x-rays of the lungs, and abdominal ultrasounds may be conducted.
Low-grade. Cancer is contained within the bone.
Low-grade. The cancer extends outside the bone and into the soft tissue spaces (nerves and blood vessels).
This is considered high-grade where the cancer is contained within the hard coating of the bone.
At this stage the cancer can be low or high grade. It can be found within the bone or outside the bone.
At this stage it is likely that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Nasal Chondrosarcoma Dog Life Expectancy
The nasal cavity is susceptible to chondrosarcoma.
When this happens, the tumors fill the cavity by destroying turbinates. The turbinates are the narrow, curved bone shelf that extend into the breathing passages.
Unfortunately, nasal chondrosarcoma tends to spread to the sinuses, invade overlying bone, and/or penetrate soft tissues.
The National Canine Cancer Foundation reports that the average survival time for dogs with nasal chondrosarcoma can be anywhere from 210 days to 580 days with treatment.
Treatment includes radiation therapy and rhinotomy. Rhinotomy involves making an incision into the nose to drain pus.
Chondrosarcoma of the Ribs Life Expectancy
Amputation (surgical removal of affected ribs along with a large margin of lung tissue in case the cancer has begun to metastasize) may bring the average survival rate to about 1 1/2 years.
Radiation is sometimes used. Chemotherapy is thought to not work adequately.
Chondrosarcoma of Limb Prognosis:
Long-term survival appears to be related to having no metastasis of the cancer (hasn’t spread) and having the affected limb amputated.
In this scenario, the addition of radiation isn’t necessary and the dog could go on to live a full life. You will want to talk to your veterinarian about ongoing tests and follow-up examinations.
Unfortunately, if the cancer has spread beyond the limb, survival rate declines.
When to Euthanize a Dog with Chondrosarcoma
The unbearably painful decision to euthanize a dog does not come easy. It is reasonable to assess the cost of treatment versus long-term prognosis.
Deciding to euthanize a dog with cancer can also be considered based on the dog’s quality of life. Is your dog in considerable pain? Is surgery going to be too risky for an older dog? Is your dog able to enjoy life or is he/she not eating, drinking, etc.
Ask the veterinarian for an honest assessment of life expectancy. Again, this will depend on where the cancer is and whether it has spread.
No dog owner ever wants to make this decision. However, sometimes it is the best thing we can do for our dogs.
Know that the decision you make is based out of love for your dog. You may feel guilt, confusion, anger, frustration, and fear. These are all normal feelings to have. Dogs are part of our lives and our families. Please do not go through this alone.
Seek help if you need it. Talk to friends and family members. Seek counselling. Ask for resources.
READ NEXT: Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs
You love your dog and you want to do whatever it takes to keep her/him with you for years to come. Cancer is a complicated and gut-wrenching experience. I hope the information here has helped you gain a deeper understanding.
Please consult a veterinarian for the most up-to-date information on chondrosarcoma in dogs. This post is not meant to diagnose or advice on treatment options.