Chondrosarcoma in Dogs

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A tired dog lays on the ground in front of a shore

Dr. Erica Irish author of Chondrosarcoma in Dogs

We’ve previously discussed various types of bone cancer in dogs. Osteosarcomas are the most common type of bone cancer and are often discussed in numerous blogs and forums. Chondrosarcomas are the second most common type of bone cancer in dogs and don’t appear to be discussed as often. How do chondrosarcomas compare to osteosarcomas, and how are they treated?  


What is chondrosarcoma?

Chondrosarcomas are a type of bone tumor that comes from cartilage. Cartilage is a type of connective tissue that is located all throughout the body. Cartilage can be found on the ends of bones to act as cushions or shock absorbers, and it also provides some flexibility. It comprises your dog’s ears and nose, and cartilage can also be found around the windpipe (trachea) and ribs.

When a bone tumor develops, there is a 5-10% chance that the tumor is chondrosarcoma. When chondrosarcoma tumors develop, they primarily affect flat bones in the body. The nose is the most commonplace to be affected but it can also occur in both bony and non-bony locations. The skull, ribs, and pelvis are also commonly affected.

Like with osteosarcomas, chondrosarcomas primarily affected middle-aged medium and large breed dogs such as German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers. However, chondrosarcomas can still affect all breeds and dogs of all ages. Once the tumor develops, it can grow very rapidly and can quickly spread to other parts of the body.


Symptoms of chondrosarcoma in dogs

In some cases, the first signs may be as subtle as having a decreased appetite or seeming a little more tired than usual. If your pup seems painful but there isn’t any history of having injured himself, it is important to make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. 

Localized swelling around an affected bone may be the first clinical sign that you notice. This swelling can gradually increase and cause very obvious abnormalities such as swelling around the nose or eyes or ribs. If the pelvis or any of the long bones are affected, you may notice limping on the affected limb. Swelling around the nose can result in nose bleeds (epistaxis) and frequent sneezing. 


Causes of bone cancer

There is no one true cause for chondrosarcomas. Researchers feel that a combination of environmental and genetic factors can cause chondrosarcomas or at least increase the likelihood that chondrosarcoma or other bony tumors will develop. 


How is chondrosarcoma diagnosed?

If your dog’s symptoms are subtle at first, your vet may recommend baseline lab work such as blood and urine testing. However, bony tumors may not cause obvious changes to these tests, and so imaging is often necessary. Swollen areas can be radiographed to look for evidence of a bony tumor, and the lungs can be visualized to rule out signs of metastasis. 

To ultimately determine which kind of bony tumor is present, a fine needle aspirate test or a bone biopsy can be performed. Cells are collected from the tumor and a veterinary pathologist can evaluate them to see if there are signs of osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, or something else. 


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Treatment for bone cancer

The most effective treatment is the surgical removal of the tumor. If the chondrosarcoma is on a forelimb or hind limb, then amputation is necessary. If the tumor is in a location that is difficult to remove it in its entirety, then radiation may be another treatment option. This is typically the case with chondrosarcomas that affect the nose, but if the tumor is detected early, then surgical intervention may be a treatment option. Keep in mind that more complications can arise when surgery is performed in this area.

If chondrosarcoma is not completely removed, there is a slight chance that it could grow back. Without surgery or radiation, chondrosarcomas can be very painful. If you choose to focus on more palliative care options, you can discuss various pain medications with your veterinarian. Remember that pathologic fractures can occur when the entire bone eventually becomes diseased. These fractures are extremely painful and can greatly impact your pup’s overall quality of life.

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Chondrosarcomas are the second most common type of bony tumors in dogs. Chondrosarcomas can be extremely painful, especially if they result in a pathologic fracture. Early intervention is critical so that it does not become so enlarged as to be considered inoperable, and survival time odds can greatly improve if you act quickly. Whenever you see a suspicious lump or bump, be sure to discuss it with your veterinarian at your dog’s next appointment.


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Meet The Author 

Dr. Erica Irish author of Chondrosarcoma in Dogs

Dr. Erica Irish

Erica has worked in the veterinary field since 2006, starting out as a veterinary technician before graduating from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. As a general practitioner in an animal hospital, she has many interests and is especially interested in dermatology, cardiology, internal and integrative medicine.