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X-rays vs. CT Scans for Canine Bone Cancer Staging

X-rays are one of the next steps to take after your vet gives you the dreaded canine bone cancer diagnosis, but sometimes x-rays don’t tell the whole story.

Digital chest x-ray shows reduction of osteosarcoma lung metastasisRadiographs will typically show if the cancer has metastasized to the lungs. If it has, amputation is discouraged due to the poor prognosis of this condition.

While x-rays are standard protocol, they are imperfect. As Dr. Hady says in this Tripawds blog post, radiographs can only pick up lesions larger than 3 mm.

Another problem with radiographs is that it may be hard to distinguish between a lung met and an alveoil. With X-rays, a tumor can only be seen from a few angles. If possible, always choose a vet who uses digital x-rays over film, which will show more detail.

Vets tell us that even if lung metastasis isn’t seen on x-rays, it’s there, but in microscopic size (known as micrometastasis). Still, if mets are invisible on x-rays, amputation and chemotherapy is usually encouraged because it’s assumed that even with micrometastasis, our dogs have a fighting chance at beating the odds.

What if CT Scans are an Option?

If you want a more accurate picture of what’s happening in your dog’s lungs, you may want to consider a CT scan before amputation. CT scans are more expensive than radiographs, but they’re best at detecting small abnormalities, such as metastatic cancer in the lungs. CT scans require general anesthesia and sometimes contrasting agents must be injected into the body to enhance the images.

Zeus recovers from AmputationWe bring this to your attention because recently, Tripawds member Zeus posted in his blog about what happened when his pawrents opted for a CT scan instead of radiographs.

If you are in the early stages of diagnosing bone cancer and considering amputation for your dog, we advise you to read Zeus’ post about what happened when the CT scan results came back, and his pawrents had to decide whether or not to proceed with treatment anyways.

Here’s an excerpt from his blog post,  “Zeuspod: The Story Begins”

” . . . A few days later the vet called with the devastating news that the radiologist reported a lesion on a lung and a lesion on the liver.  Without further biopsies, the lesions could not be confirmed as cancer, but it is likely cancer.  Obviously, this led us down the road of thinking “the mets are visible so chemo will likely not help.”

We thought we were part of the unlucky bunch that would only have, according to the statistics, three or four months (or less) with our baby.  Additionally, we couldn’t leave the leg on due to the immense pain and the risk of it breaking just during walking and causing even more excruciating pain.

Was it fair to Zeus to remove the leg and go through the pain and recovery when he would only just recover before succumbing to the cancer?  I will admit that euthanasia was on our minds. Then something occurred to us. . . “

continue reading Zeus’ story here

We hope this will help you as you decide the best option option for your pup and your pack. Always keep in mind that there are no “right” decisions, just the one that works best for all of you. And whether or not you choose to amputate, we are here to help any way we can. Since we’re not vets, if there is any information here that you want to add to or clarify, please don’t hesitate to do so in the comments below. Thanks!

Recommended Reading:

ZeusPod: the Story Begins
Tripawds News Blog: Dr. Hady Demystifies MRIs and CT Scans

Dr. Dressler’s Dog Cancer Blog: Can a Dog Cancer Diagnosis Be Wrong?

Dr. Dressler’s Revised Dog Cancer Guide

 

 

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