Greyhounds are very distinctive large and lean dogs that are very versatile, making for great pets and companions as well as being popular for racing, although this latter role is something that has fallen out of favour within the UK to quite some degree over the last decade or so.
Often referred to as the world’s fastest couch potatoes, greyhounds have the highest running speed of any dog breed, but they are also surprisingly lazy and quite happy to curl up and sleep for hours on end after having a chance to stretch their legs and run around.
Whilst greyhounds tend to be healthy, happy dogs that aren’t prone to developing a wide range of health problems, they do have higher than normal risk factors for a range of hereditary health conditions, as is the case for many pedigree dog breeds. Some such conditions affect the feet and limbs, like foot corns, which are very unusual in other dog breeds – and greyhounds also have increased risk factors for a type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma, which can affect individual limbs or potentially, other parts of the dog’s skeleton too.
In this article we will look at osteosarcoma or bone cancer in greyhounds in more detail, covering the risk factors for the condition, how to identify a problem, and what treatment options are available. Read on to learn more.
Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer, and it is the most common type of bone cancer that dogs of all types can develop. It is one of four types of bone cancers that are together referred to as primary bone cancers, with the other three being fibrosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma and chondrosarcoma respectively.
Over 85% of bone cancers that develop in dogs are osteosarcomas, and this type of cancer most commonly affects a leg, although it may instead begin in another bone, such as the pelvis, spine or jaw.
Osteosarcoma is usually malignant, and will spread over time and potentially begin to affect other limbs or bones as well as its point of origin.
Whilst bone cancer is not hugely common in greyhounds, the breed does have more than its fair share of diagnosis of the condition and so, is considered to be something that greyhound owners should be aware of. Whilst there are no formal published figures for the occurrence rate of osteosarcoma in greyhounds, some studies suggest that up to 22% of fatalities of older greyhounds result from osteosarcoma, making it serious and prevalent enough to warrant a reasonable level of concern from greyhound owners.
Osteosarcoma is more common in male greyhounds than females, and is equally common in both neutered and unneutered dogs of the breed. The condition most commonly develops in mature and senior dogs between the ages of around seven and nine, although the window of time between the ages of one and two also produces a notable albeit smaller number of cases too, although it is rarer in younger dogs than older ones.
The symptoms of osteosarcoma in greyhounds can be diverse and variable, which can make it hard to reach a formal diagnosis and which can in turn lead to a delay between the onset of symptoms and the commencement of potential treatment.
The very first symptoms you are likely to notice at home include a limp on one limb, or apparent tenderness in one leg, which may appear worse after exercise or make your dog more reluctant to exercise in the first place. You may find a lump or swelling in the affected limb, or pain and inflammation in the soft tissue surrounding the bone.
In terms of more general symptoms, your dog may be more lethargic than usual, and may appear flat and depressed, as well as potentially going off their food.
If the osteosarcoma develops in a bone other than one of the limbs, the symptoms may vary accordingly – and even though they may be subtle and generic, it is important to book an appointment with your vet ASAP if you have any concerns.
When you take your dog along to the vet, they will need to examine them, ask you about the symptoms you have noticed, and run some tests to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of osteosarcoma.
These tests might include an x-ray, biopsy, and blood and urine panels, among other things.
Whether or not osteosarcoma in the greyhound can be cured or put into remission depends on a huge range of variables, including where the cancer is, how far it has progressed, and your dog’s general health and condition.
If the cancer is isolated to one limb and has not metastasised, your vet may recommend surgical amputation of the affected limb to ensure that all of the cancer is removed and cannot spread to another area of the body.
Chemotherapy may be required as well if the cancer has spread or if there is a risk that it cannot be completely removed with surgery; or in order to shrink the tumour in order to make it operable in the first place.
If surgery is not an option chemotherapy may be used alone in order to shrink the tumour or place it into remission, to extend the dog’s lifespan and improve their quality of life.
Not all osteosarcomas in greyhounds can be treated effectively but the sooner the condition is diagnosed, the greater the likelihood of achieving a successful resolution, so make sure you contact your vet as soon as possible if you have any concerns.