Bone Biopsy for Dog Osteosarcoma: What to Expect and How Much Does It Cost?

Updated on March 19, 2018
Bone cancer in dogs often very evident on x-rays, making a bone biopsy unnecessary.
Bone cancer in dogs often very evident on x-rays, making a bone biopsy unnecessary. | Source

If your vet suspects your dog has bone cancer, your vet will run several diagnostic tests and a bone biopsy may sometimes be among them. Usually, a diagnosis for bone cancer in dogs starts by taking notes on the dog's history. The owner reports his findings. There may be swelling, limping, refusing to put weight on the leg, pain or in worst cases, a pathological fracture. While in young dogs limping is often caused by a sprain and in older dogs it's caused by arthritis, since bone cancer is so serious, the vet may decide to run some diagnostic tests to rule bone cancer out.

A physical exam often follows where the vet will examine the limbs (most bone cancers affect the dog's legs), the range of motion and observe the dog's gait and check for swellings. Subsequently, the vet may decide to do x-rays, taken from different angles of the affected limb, and if cancer is suspected, chest x-rays will be taken as well to search for any evidence of metastasis to the lungs. Additionally, routine blood tests such as a complete blood count, chemistry profile and sometimes a urinalysis may be run to check how well internal organs are functioning, especially if the vet decides to prescribe pain medications.

A bone biopsy is generally carried out when the x-rays come back without the classic signs of bone cancer. A specialist may be consulted to examine the x-rays, but if the x-ray appears abnormal but without clear-cut signs, a biopsy may help confirm or rule out bone cancer. According to Daniel A. Degner, a board-certified veterinary surgeon, a biopsy is overall pretty accurate in diagnosing bone cancer in dogs; indeed, it's estimated that a bone biopsy can be 90 percent accurate. A bone biopsy may be performed if you live in an area where Valley Fever, histoplasmosis or blastomycosis is present as a bone biopsy may differentiate these fungal conditions from bone cancer as they tend to appear quite similar on x-rays. These fungal infections can be treated with medications therefore, in this case, a bone biopsy can prevent an unnecessary amputation. Finally, a bone biopsy may be done when dog owners aren't sure whether they want to treat bone cancer at all and want a confirmed diagnosis to help them decide how they'll proceed.

What happens during a dog bone biopsy and how much may it cost? We will see in the next paragraphs.

Bonce Cancer in Dogs, the Areas Most Affected


What Happens During a Dog Bone Biopsy and How Much Does it Cost?

Choosing to perform a bone biopsy is a decision that isn't taken lightly as it's a painful procedure that can predispose to infections or in some cases, pathological fractures since samples of bone are removed. Some oncologists suggest to bypass the bone biopsy as it's not needed when x-rays show strong, obvious signs of bone tumors. According to veterinarian Charles Loops, biopsies with this tumor may also facilitate metastasis and increase the pain.

However, as mentioned, in the case of questionable results, a bone biopsy can help provide clear results to rule out bone infections and help differentiate it from a fungal infection. Also, as seen in the video below, it may be helpful in the case of a dog who despite showing signs of cancer on x-rays isn't clinically showing typical symptoms of osteosarcoma over time (osteosarcoma tends to quickly cause dogs to deteriorate causing strong pain, pathological fractures and when it progresses, signs of spread to the lungs).

For this procedure, the dog must be anesthetized as samples of bone will need to be collected so they can be examined by a pathologist. The sample is often collected with a large hollow needle, and the biopsy can help rule out fungal disease, but the puncture from the aspiration also can fracture weakened bone. To have a better idea on what happens during the procedure, you can watch the video below where a vet takes a bone biopsy from the leg of a dog. This video though is not for the squeamish, so viewer discretion is advised.

The cost for a bone biopsy is generally between $800 and $1,000 and may vary between one place and another. It never hurts to call around and ask as different place have different charges.

Disclaimer: this article is not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. Please consult with your vet for the best course of action. By reading this article, you automatically accept this disclaimer.

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Vet performs bone biopsy (not for the squeamish, viewer discretion advised)

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