Unfortunately, like many larger breeds, Great Danes are susceptible to a type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma. It’s an extremely aggressive form of cancer that can quickly metastasize to the rest of the skeleton, and commonly the lungs. It first manifests within the dog’s bones before growing into a sizable tumor, making early detection difficult.
Causes of osteosarcoma remain unclear. Some veterinarians believe that bone injury may increase a dog’s risk of osteosarcoma, as injuries require more cellular turnover to heal a fracture or infection. Increased cellular turnover leads to a larger margin of error for the dog’s DNA to “misfire.” Most osteosarcomas begin near bone growth plates, leading some veterinarians to speculate that Great Danes who went through a rapid growth spurt may be at increased risk.
Osteosarcoma is more common in males who were neutered before they reached one year of age, though females who were spayed before they turned one also saw an increase in cases.
It’s difficult to detect before a tumor grows large enough to see with the naked eye, but some signs a dog may be affected are…
- Pain. Your dog may avoid standing or walking on the affected limb
- If the osteosarcoma is in the jaw, they may have difficulty swallowing or eating.
- Swelling in the affected area.
In order to confirm your dog has osteosarcoma, a veterinarian will have to take an X-ray of the affected area. Once they make the diagnosis, there are a few treatment options they may offer.
- Amputation of the affected area. This may not necessarily cure your dog, as it may have spread to other parts of their body.
- Radiation therapy, to suppress the cancer from spreading.
- Chemotherapy drugs, as palliative care.