A middle-aged Doberman presented with a firm, painful swelling at the top of the humerus in the right forelimb. Radiography of the affected limb revealed the typical features of a malignant bone tumour called an osteosarcoma. There were no masses visible in the lungs on X-rays at this time.
The owner, a professional dog handler, considered their options (see our website section “for owners”/ sub-section “fact sheets”/ information sheets on osteosarcoma and on carboplatin chemotherapy). They decided to go for limb amputation, and we removed the entire forelimb, including the shoulder blade. As well as giving the widest removal of the primary tumour, removing the shoulder blade too leaves a more cosmetic appearance. Once sutures are out and the fur has grown, this amputation leaves a lovely smooth contour to the chest wall.
Two to three weeks after surgery, this patient came in for the first of four chemotherapy sessions, and we were delighted to hear that she’d just enjoyed a 2-3 mile run down the canal tow-path! Some of our referring practices do the follow-up chemotherapy for their clients, and in other cases, we are pleased to help with this part of the treatment too. We only need the patient for half an hour or so, and we do it while the owner waits. Chemotherapy is generally much less onerous to animals than it often is in people.
Four cycles of chemotherapy were completed, to which she showed no adverse reactions. The long-term future is not good for osteosarcoma cases, but she probably has an excellent year of enjoyable, pain-free life ahead of her.
3rd October 2012