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Get the Canine Osteosarcoma Vaccine Facts

The internet is filled with chatter about the Canine Osteosarcoma Vaccine, a promising new immunotherapy that can help a dog’s body fight back against metastasis. But like many things found on the web, there is also a great deal of misinformation about the treatment. We want to clear up the confusion, so we turned to Dr. Andrew Vaughan DVM, MS ACVIM (Oncology) of the Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center.


Canine Osteosarcoma Vaccine Facts

Dogs are Living Longer with New Treatment

Recently we told you about Dexter, who was one of the earliest participants in the Canine Osteosarcoma Vaccine clinical trial. Dexter has thrived while under the care of the scientist who developed it, Dr, Nicola J. Mason, BVetMed, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and pathobiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

Thanks to Dr. Mason’s groundbreaking research, Dexter is now an incredible five years past his bone cancer diagnosis and still going strong. The astonishing treatment results of Dexter and many others who participated in the original study helped to move the treatment into the next step of research.

Late last year, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Center for Veterinary Biologics granted conditional approval for the vaccine’s manufacturer, Aratana, to conduct an extended field clinical study in 2018 at about two dozen veterinary oncology practice groups across the United States. The final results of this study may support a regulatory (USDA) filing for full licensure of the vaccine.

The Canine Osteosarcoma Vaccine Facts

canine osteosarcoma vaccine facts
Bowie prepares to receive the canine osteosarcoma vaccine in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The extended field clinical study is slowly taking shape but it will be several weeks until all two dozen oncology clinics join the Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center in treating new patients with the vaccine.

One of Dr. Vaughan’s new patients is Bowie, the beautiful retired racing greyhound shown in the video. During Bowie’s appointment we had the opportunity to learn the basic Canine Osteosarcoma Vaccine facts and now we want to share them with you. Sit back to learn more from Dr. Vaughan:

What  You Need to Know About the Canine Osteosarcoma Vaccine

There are many different types of vaccines. This vaccine will not prevent or cure osteosarcoma.

The Canine Osteosarcoma Vaccine is a therapeutic vaccine. The goal is to stimulate the patient’s immune system to attack the cancer.

Patients receive three separate injections, three weeks apart. The injections don’t take long to administer. Patients must return for a final exam three weeks after the last injection in order to get an “all clear” by the vet.

The injection time is short, but in-clinic monitoring is required to ensure tolerance.

Like any immunotherapy, the vaccine may have potential side effects such as fevers, lethargy and gastro intestinal upset. These reactions are not unusual, they happen whenever a body reacts to the presence of an immuno-stimulant therapy.

Side effects of the Canine Osteosarcoma Vaccine are similar to chemotherapy side effects, but with a slightly higher incidence rate. Most of these issues happen immediately after the treatment is given, while the patient is still in the clinic.

The ideal candidate for the vaccine is an otherwise healthy dog who has undergone amputation and completed a course of chemotherapy for osteosarcoma, such as carboplatin or doxorubicin treatments.

The vaccine does not take the place of amputation or chemotherapy. Scientists don’t know if it ever will, because so far all studies have only involved dogs who had an amputation and chemotherapy. However Dr. Vaughan is confident that over the years, dogs with different osteosarcoma treatment backgrounds (such as those who didn’t undergo amputation) who receive the vaccine will reveal the effectiveness of this treatment in other patient populations.

Can Your Dog Receive the Canine Osteosarcoma Vaccine?

canine osteosarcoma vaccine facts
More osteosarcoma dogs like Dexter will start beating the survival odds.

To learn more, ask your veterinary oncologist or call Aratana’s Customer Care team: 1-844-ARATANA (272-8262).


We are sad to report that this vaccine is no longer available. Dr. Sue Ettinger explains why:

Recommended Reading

1/27/20 UPDATE: Vaccine strain Listeria monocytogenes abscess in a dog: a case report

09/20/18 UPDATE: Veterinary Practice News: 20-plus clinics to participate in expanded osteosarcoma vaccine clinical trial

AT-014 Canine Osteosarcoma Vaccine Helps Dogs Like Dexter Beat the Odds

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41 thoughts on “Get the Canine Osteosarcoma Vaccine Facts”

  1. Just a quick update. Bowie is still with me, doing well and very very happy. In early May she developed 2 soft tissue nodules that were determined to be osteosarcoma. She’s stable, happy, running and playing, with a good appetite, so that works for me. Every day she’s happy and healthy is a true gift. ❤️

  2. This gives me so much hope for Rex. He had such a rough start to life he doesn’t deserve to have his best years behind him. I’m so grateful for this study being an option. We leave in about 3 hours to see if Rex gets into the osteosarcoma vaccine trial.

    Pray for him.

  3. My dog had cyber knife radiation instead of amputation. And as almost finished with the IV treatments of chemo therapy. I assume he wouldn’t be allowed on the trial but mighty hev get a vaccine elsewhere?

  4. Any thoughts/advice on off-label use? that is, perhaps going the vaccine route instead of chemotherapy? I know the study is focused on those who’ve undergone amputation and chemo, but I wonder if it could be an option, or worth considering… My precious Buster had his left hind leg amputated and I’m struggling with the decision of chemo.

    • Johh, as Dr. Vaughn mentions in the video, nearly anything is possible in the future about how the COV will be used in different treatment scenarios, but for now this is how it is being tested while it is still in the controlled study phase. Best wishes to you and Buster.

    • Why are u struggling with chemo? Cost or side effects? If side effects my dog has done 3 rounds with zero side effects

      • Luke, vaccine trial participants are not at liberty to discuss their participation in great detail. Please consider posting in the forums for much more feedback from others than you will receive here in blog comments.

    • They are allowing dogs who don’t fit the criteria for the expanded field study to get the vaccine, it’s just a bit more expensive as certain things aren’t covered as they are in the expanded field study.

  5. My dog, Cody, has a consultation for inclusion in this study. I am interested in what to expect if e are eaccepted. Mostly how the dog felt during the trial.

    • Melanie, we hope Cody gets in. As we mentioned earlier, however, Connie (and all other study participants) are prohibited from disclosing any more details, so as not to skew the study results in any way. Thanks for understanding.

  6. This is incredible news, what a wonderful breakthrough! There are so many of us who have gone through the pain and horror of losing our beloved animal friends to this terrible disease – and now there is some real hope on the horizon. Even though I still mourn for my precious Connor, and upon hearing this could not help but give a bittersweet sigh – oh, too late to save him! – I mostly just want to shout and dance and sing, to think that this may be the start of the end of this nightmare, one that nobody should have to go through along with their precious pup. Furthermore, though this particular video did not mention it, in following the news I have learned that the positive results from this vaccine may in time lead to wonderful new breakthroughs in HUMAN cancers, specifically some cancers in children (evidently the canine and human child immune systems have strong similarities). How wonderful is that?!? Hooray for Dr. Mason, three cheers for Dexter, and may we – and our beloved fur-friends – live to see more and more happy endings in the canine osteosarcoma drama.

    • Thanks for reading Nina, we are also hopeful that this is the start of the end of that awful disease. There’s no doubt that sweet Connor is proud of the good work everyone is doing!

  7. My seven year old Leonberger, Vikahn was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma a couple of weeks ago in right radius area. He had his leg removed up into his shoulder and today is nine days post op. He’s 165 pounds and is incredibly athletic throughout his life, but that isn’t translating to his recovery. He had a little infection and temp spiked to 103.5 a few days after surgery and we brought him back to the hospital, but after a course of IV antibiotics and oral it came back down quickly.

    He’s had two physical therapy appointments to help him get his balance and core strength going but it’s been a rough go. It’s hard for my wife and myself to get him safely up and out to pee, but he’s gone at least once a day outside with a few accidents on his pad inside. He hasn’t had one bowel movement with us and the vets manually expressed his bowels twice at the hospital on two occasions.

    I know we’ll get through this rough period with optimism and determination leading the way but I’d be less than genuine if I said it’s easy. Small victories each day is what we hope for. Vikahn is a certified therapy dog who works with kids with cancer so I’m hoping he will be an inspiration when he’s wheeling himself down the hospital’s hallways some day…

    • Vikahn and family, we are glad he’s doing better but you’re right, it has been a rough road for your whole pack. Not every recovery is smooth and some have ups and downs. Yes, it will get better and your boy will go back to helping others in the hospital. Please consider coming to our Discussion Forums where you can find lots of great people you can lean on throughout your journey OK? We are here for you.

  8. My dog was diagnosed early March, we choose limb sparing. Removed 2/3 of the ulna bone. We will be doing chemo in Madison followed by the vaccine injections at Iowa state university animal hospital. My dog is not eligible for the trial, since we didn’t amputate, but we are still doing the vaccine. From what understand, he’s probably the first dog to do this without amputation. If anyone wants to keep info on how he does post vaccine (3 injections and a booster after 6 months), please email me, I’d love to have him help pave the way for knowledge and decision making for other owners of dogs with this terrible disease.

    • Hi Jon, where did you get the little limb sparing surgery?. My Dane may have bone cancer in her right front leg so looking into the limb sparing options and would like to know where it is available..

    • Jon. Please keep me updated with how your pup is doing. Ours was diagnosed April 13th, underwent amputation April18th. We are leaning towards not doing chemo and just the vaccine. Has anyone else tried this? Please let me know the results as I would be curious without the amputation.

      • Please keep in mind, as noted in the post and many of the comments, chemotherapy is required for this controlled study and participants are limited to the amount of information they can share.

    • Hey Jon, We live in Iowa and just had a diagnosis. Wondering if you can provide any insight into the process you took/about the vaccine.

      • Sorry for the diagnosis. Please be aware that as mentioned in the post, participants are not allowed to publicly discuss their dog’s experience in the study.

    • Hi Jon,
      My name is Darbie and our 8.5 yr old dog Samuel was just diagnosed with appendicular osteosarcoma in his right ulna this past March. He is a 125lb Pit-Mastiff rescue. He had a partial ulnectomy 4/1/19, 4 rounds of carboplatin chemotherapy, 15 days of radiation due to microscopic cancer at the surgical margins, and he is due to start the osteosarcoma vaccine next Thursday. Would you mind sharing your experiences with us further?
      Samuel did not have amputation, but he did have his tumor removed since it was his ulna. I haven’t found a ton of stories yet in my research of that scenario. Yours is one of the first. Most patients amputate or do not have any surgery at all. Thanks so much.

  9. Chuck, how old was Gracie when she was spayed? There are studies underway regarding age at neutering and subsequent cancer diagnoses. As I recall, Casey was neutered at six or eight months. My younger Golden, Jet, was neutered before six months and shows clear signs of early neutering, unusually long legs, an elongated snout, and extremely deep chest. It is believed these characteristics are attributable to the absence of certain hormones that would, in the normal course, “turn off” the growth process. I will never neuter a dog again before puberty.

  10. Chuck, the Oncology Service in Springfield VA is where Casey is scheduled to participate. They are accepting dogs with metastasized osteo for treatment, but they are not eligible for the study itself, and I was told the cost would be significantly higher than what I indicated previously.

    Penn is starting a new study, with a modified vaccine, but they require they do the amputation and chemo there. There is another study underway at the University of Florida. I’m unsure whether either study would accept a dog with metastasized osteo.

    Wishing you and Gracie the best.

    • Hi,
      Does anyone have a list of the clinics that are participating in the field trial of the vaccine?
      I would appreciate any information you can offer. My vet and myself are in Singapore (our oncologist is in Australia and is somewhat useless) and we desperately want to get our hands on this vaccine – even if we have to fly to the US and hand carry it home. Please let me know if any of you have any ideas. My baby, Rooibos, has been dealing with osteosarcoma for 5 months and has just finished chemo (epirubicin lastly, carboplatin first) and is now on palladia. He has mets in his lungs that are visible on CT (reason for switching to epi) but not yet on x-ray.

      • Barbara, new clinics are being added but the only way to get the most current list is to contact Aratana via the phone number listed in our article, they can tell you where the closest one might be. We hope you and Rooibos get to participate. Best wishes to you both.

    • We received an amputation but are not sure about chemo. Would the oncology service in Springfield still allow us to do the vaccine do you think? We work in Springfield.

      • As Dr. Vaughan stated in this video, completing a round of chemotherapy is a requirement for participation in this controlled study. There may be other trials in the future with different control groups.

  11. Did they provide any info regarding cost in their clinic? Casey is scheduled to participate in this extended field trial, and will undergo a comprehensive exam next week before his first “vaccination” on April 6.

    They called five weeks ago to advise that his three treatments would be $1,000 each. Yesterday, we were told that the initial exam, with X-rays, will be $460, and each treatment will be $1,200. They didn’t quote a price for follow-up exams.

    With $ thousands already invested in amputation and chemo, we’re really questioning whether we can proceed with this wonderful (but expensive) opportunity.

  12. Gracie, 7 yo, Great Pyrenees, spayed, was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma day before yesterday, Monday, March 19, by Palmetto Veterinary Medicine & Surgery located in McConnells, South Carolina. The cancer cells appear around the lung and were first noticed the day before by a large bubble formed on her left front leg around the wrist. Would Gracie be a candidate for this vaccine? As the cancer has spread from lung area to leg, Vet Dr. Ashley Armstrong indicated no need for biopsy or amputation. He prescribed prednisone and tramadol. Please advise.

    • Sorry to hear about Gracie! Please watch the video Chuck and review the transcription above, in which Dr Vaughan describes the ideal candidate for this vaccine trial – dogs must have already undergone an amputation for osteosarcoma diagnosis and completed a chemotherapy regimen.

  13. This is awesome news. I hope it continues to show longevity and these pups participating live long lives 🙂

    Michelle & Angel Sassy


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