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Bisphosphonates: When Amputation isn’t an Option

What does a pawrent do when their dog, who has just been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, isn’t a good candidate for amputation?

The most common advice given by veterinary professionals would be to explore pain management options, such as Fentanyl combined with a non-steroidal such as Deramaxx. The downside is these types of drugs can leave dogs in a fog, and rarely do they provide permanent pain relief from bone cancer. Plus, the side effects of long-term heavy use, such as gastrointestinal damage, may reduce quality of life.

Another option for some is radiation therapy, a pain management technique that aims intense beams of radiation at tumors to help shrink them and reduce pain. Unfortunately, this is only available in a few select clinics.

More recently, there is a promising new option for non-amputation candidates: bisphosphonates. You’ve probably heard of them: Fosamax and Boniva are two. This class of drugs is used in human patients with osteoperosis, or those with prostate or breast cancer that has metastasized to bone.

Now, many veterinary oncologists are using bisphosphonates for canine patients, to build and stabilize bone, and effectively manage pain. In some cases, bisphosphonates can also be used for dogs with osteosarcoma metastasis to bony areas such as the spine or skull.

Typically, non-amputee dogs being treated for osteosarcoma are given the bisphosphonate drug Pamidronate. This drug is given as a two hour IV injection every four weeks. Pamidronate may also be given in conjunction with radiation therapy for pain control.

At the Veterinary Cancer Center (VCC), dogs have the most powerful bisphosphonate available; Zoleddronate. For the last year, the VCC team has conducted a Zoledronate clinical trial on dogs with bone cancer, and so far, the results are promising.

Zoledronate Bisphosphonate Trial in New Mexico

Zoledronate is one of the most promising bisphosphonate drugs available in veterinary medicine. Zoledronate is administered as a quick 15 minute IV drip, and can provide long-lasting pain control within 24 hours of the injection. The effects can last up to one month, and can even increase bone production to help form new bone. Dogs can stay on this treatment indefinitely. Several studies indicate that Zoledronate can also kill cancer cells locally and possibly prevent metastasis to other areas.

At over $1,000 per dose, Zoledronate is also one of the most expensive bisphosphonates. Which is why Dr. Kelly is so excited that her clinic was able to provide this drug at no charge to qualified canine candidates as part of their VCC Clinical Trials. After a year of studying its effects on patients, she says that so far the results have been “beautiful”:


The Veterinary Cancer Care center looks forward to helping as many bone cancer dogs as they can while funds are available for this trial. If you know a dog with osteosarcoma who is not a candidate for amputation, be sure to contact the VCC and ask them about the Zoledronate trial.

For further reading, please see:

Many thanks to the good people at the Veterinary Cancer Care for sharing this information with us. Catch our other interviews with the VCC:

Veterinary Cancer Care P.C. is committed to providing compassionate, high quality treatment to all pets with cancer. Using state of the art therapies, nutrition and kind care, we treat the whole patient, not just the cancer. To alleviate the hardships of cancer, our staff provides a positive family atmosphere, filled with love and hope. We hold a great respect for the human-animal bond, and will always honor your relationship with your pet above all.”

13 thoughts on “Bisphosphonates: When Amputation isn’t an Option”

  1. I live in San Diego California I go to a VCA place for my dog to get the drug Zometa drug. He has been taking it since October 2020 he has cancer on his spine I would like to know if there is any place that they are doing a trial for this drug it’s costing a lot of money.

  2. My dog, Canela, just got her dose of zoledronate today at the Vet Cancer Group, L.A. I did my research beforehand and it sounded promising! She has been limping for a few months and hopefully she forgives me for not doing this soon!

    • It’s been a while Sandra so I’m not really sure but I’ll bet if you contacted VCC they might be able to tell you. And if you do find out please let us know OK? Also, please scan our Discussion Forums for this treatment, we’ve had members use bisphosphonates through the years.

    • Please contact the clinic directly for an answer. Many trials do require patients to be local. If so in this case, they may know of other participating clinics. Good luck!

    • No, but VCC has a clinical trial for Zoledronate which is apparently pretty new, therefore costly and fairly unknown. Ask your vet. Pamidronate is more common.


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