Zeus Our Great Dane Dying of Bone Cancer

Zeus Our Great Dane Dying of Bone Cancer

by Colette
(Cottonwood AZ)

We have a Great Dane named Zeus who is 6 years old. He is built so gracefully with shiny black hair; he holds his tail up like a scorpion as he runs around. He is a majestic creature. He had a beautifully-shaped head with what I call "the smart knot" - the bump at the top of the head, just perfect! We taught him tricks such as sit, shake, lay, bark for a treat, etc. He can catch popcorn faster than you can throw it to him.

He loves life, and our family. He loves to go camping with us in our R.V. He sleeps on the top bunk bed, he knows it's his bed.

A lump appeared on Zeus's head this May of 2012, it seems like it appeared overnight. I had not noticed it before, so I felt it, showed it to my husband, and looked it up online. I thought he may have bumped or hit his head, got a thorn or something stuck in it that caused it to swell around the object... I waited to see if it would go away, after about 10 days, it was getting bigger instead of smaller.

So I took Zeus to the vet. It felt soft so the vet stuck a syringe into it and sucked a bunch of fluid out that caused the middle of the lump to sink in. He was not real sure what it could be either. He told me he needed to open it up and see if there was a foreign object in the lump causing it. He let my husband and I come back while he put Zeus out and a breathing tube down his throat. He covered all but the lump with a dressing, and began cutting into it. He had to cut a lot harder than he thought and once he got into it he knew. He told us "this does not look good", not at all what we were thinking it was.

The vet said he had never seen a tumor form on the skull like that before. He took as much off of it as possible but it was tough - very hard cutting, once close to Zeus's skull you could see holes in the bone that this was growing out of. He finished and stitched him up and inserted a tube for drainage.

After the surgery the vet informed us he was 90% sure it was Osteosarcoma, an aggressive type of bone cancer. He said it is usually formed on a leg and they could amputate the leg, but not a head.

I was crushed, at first I thought let's just put Zeus down right now before he can ever suffer, I love him so much. The vet had to send off a sample to verify the result. He also told us Zeus still had a a couple of good months in him and he could enjoy life and we could enjoy him, he was not suffering yet.

I am so thankful we found the vet we have now! He is a rare type to find that truly cares about the animal. So when Zeus woke up we took him home.

The vet called a couple of days later and said his suspicion was correct. Zeus has Osteosarcoma. On a scale of 1-10 aggressiveness it's an 8! I was crushed again. I also thought about getting him radiation or chemo. I guess it's still experimental with dogs, and costs thousands of dollars and would only maybe give Zeus a year or two more of life, if he survived it being the cancer was right on his skull!.

Right now I am so glad to have Zeus with us as long as we can, he had no idea at first. Then the tumor grew toward his left eye and pushed the eye back in to where he no longer has sight out of that left eye. I have taken him back to the vet and he says he is doing okay. The best thing for Zeus is to not do more surgery, he would just be recovering as it rapidly grew back the last month or so of his life.

The tumor has gotten very big and I know it must feel heavy, as he takes his bug paws and rubs on it. I get a soft towel and rub it for him sometimes. The skin is so stretched, it is uncomfortable to him. He can still eat, drink, run, and bark, but is starting to bump into things, then will look back with his good right eye to see what it was he bumped. He sleeps a lot more, and the cancer has started growing down into his sinus, the left one especially, and he gets on sneezing fits. It must feel like something that needs to come out to him in his nose.

I know the time is nearing, he looks thinner. He snores very loud now, and his head looks horrible with this growth on it, but I could care less, I love him, and so do my teenagers, and husband. He is a member of our family. It's the middle of July 2012 now. I will not let him suffer, the vet said it could get to the size of a soccer ball - it's about half that size now. I love him to much to make him live because we don't want to be without him.

Things I should have known and did not want to face before this lump occurred:

1) My aunt had an Irish setter that got a bald spot on his tail and he had cancer and had to be put down.

2) Years ago while I was growing up we had a standard "Royal King" Poodle that started throwing up for no reason off and on, he had cancer, and had to be put down.

Zeus had both of these, he threw up clear fluid and has a bald spot where hair won't grow on his tail. I did mention these to my husband, before the lump ever formed, but we both decided it just couldn't be the case. Zeus is so active, and his fur is so shiny, he looked and acted to healthy so we concluded it was not.

Little did I know those were the first signs!

I have been reading up quite a bit online since the cancer diagnosis. I found if a purebred dog is neutered they have a 65% increase of getting bone cancer. "The risk of bone cancer is slightly higher in male dogs than females. In addition, the risk of osteosarcoma is about 65% greater for neutered males and 34% greater for spayed females. For dogs spayed or neutered before one year of age, the risk seems to be even higher." (Bone Cancer in Dogs). I could kick myself because I had Zeus neutered and dew-clawed at 4 months old!

Most vets tell you how good it is for the dog and cancer prevention to get spayed or neutered. With a mixed breed that can be true or as they get older, but for a large purebred dog it leads to cancer if they get spayed or neutered in their young years!

I didn't want him to learn to lift his leg, he still does not! But at the cost of him getting cancer! The hormones that they have if not neutered protect them from the bone cancer! I had never read this before and had no clue! Now I know!

It's good to still have Zeus around to try and except the fact that we are going to lose him, and spend as much special time with him as we can!
I cry though sometimes when I see him rubbing the ball on his head, and he gets upset I can tell, so I try not to for his sake. Dogs may not be able to talk but they know how to communicate and DO FEEL emotions, from others and their own.

I will put my final post on when Zeus is gone. I hope it's not too soon, but I have a bad feeling it may be. That dang tumor seems to grow bigger overnight! I still love this breed and someday will get another Dane, I will not get them spayed or neutered until later in life.

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Nov 18, 2017
Considering being a dog owner again...?
by: Catherine

Have commented before on this page, and reading other's comments really bring back the despair of losing a beloved soulmate to this terrible condition.

Twiggy our Lurcher was put to sleep years ago now, (osteosarcoma) and a year later my son's Whippet had to be put to sleep after a splenic tumour at aged 12yrs 8 months. The double whammy of these griefs, other devoted dog owners will so understand.

Reading the stories of other people brings it home again -
dog owning is great, but the pain of losing them is greater.

However, today, looking through a book on Lurchers, a letter from the Author fell out from the pages (I'd written to her about Twiggy's Osteosarcoma years ago). Jackie Drakeford said she is sure we get more than one 'Soulmate' dog in our lives, which teaches us different things, that we will love in different ways.

The Mum whose son is in Military training, I so feel for you not wanting to tell your son, and wonder how your dear dog is getting on after amputation.

Every case has to be taken on its merits, as long as the dog is happy, and pain free, that is all that matters.

Dogs are family, their loss is deeply felt, years afterwards, but the pain mercifully eases with time, and we can fondly remember them without breaking down (but crying now reading the stories people have left)...

Bless you all and your dogs, past and present.

Would love to get another dog, have had my garden re-fenced, it is secure for a dog.

Jun 24, 2017
Cancer sucks!
by: Love my baby Danes

I can imagine what you are going through... My Isabella was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma about 1.5 weeks ago. She is 3.5 years old... Never expected the diagnosis when I took her to the vet. I thought she sprained her ankle, but it wasn't getting better.

We have an appointment this coming Wednesday to have her leg amputated. The chest em ray doesn't show any obvious mets, but they tell me they are most likely already there. I feel guilty for putting her through the surgery, but she is still so young, and I am hoping she will feel better with the pain taken away.

I know it will be a long road, but I'm hoping for a miracle. My son is currently in boot camp for the Army, and I can't bear to tell him during his difficult undertaking. So with the surgery, I'm hoping for a few more months so that he has some time with her too. He loves her like a sister, as I love her like a daughter.

Her sister, literally, from the same litter, is going to be lost without her, as we all are. I hope she can forgive me for the surgery. I'm hoping it helps her have a little but more normal life, whatever she has left.

I'm heartbroken and devastated, to say the least. I love my Bella Bean, and my Lilah Lu. Prayers are welcome from anyone.

Love from Heather Bella and Lilah

Mar 10, 2017
I will love my Dane forever and ever
by: Susan R. Schaeffer

My heart is heavy! My great Dane mix King Marmaduke has been limping with his front left paw since January 31, 2017.

We have been to the vet several times since then.

We've tried anti-inflammatory and pain meds but nothing has been helping.

March 06,2017 we finally did an x-ray and, you guessed it -
bone cancer - a tumor in his foot. I can't believe it!! I'm still crying.

We went to an oncologist Thursday. She says either radiation, chemo, amputation, or pain meds to keep him comfortable. It's already throughout his body so we are not taking his foot.

He is still a very happy go lucky pup. We are trying to be happy for him, enjoy what time we have. we were not given a date or expectancy. We are doing everything every day to the fullest extent.

I'm sorry if I offend anyone but here's the facts: He's my son and I'm his mom and he has his dad, nana, aunts, uncles and cousins - he's not part of my family, he is my family. I am broken hearted because my son is not an ordinary common breed - he is great Dane, terrier, pitbull, and Labrador. He will be 8 August 04, 2017.

We love him so much. I will keep you informed and we will love him through the end and meet again at the rainbow bridge.

Mar 05, 2017
Our Birkley
by: Deb

Hello, I can relate to you in more ways than one!

I have a great Dane, Birkley, and he is seven years old. We just came from the vet this morning and quite possibly may be facing going down this awful path as Birk has a lesion on his hind foot which suddenly appeared after a week of a swollen foot.

We just lost our golden retriever, Jake, to cancer only 3 short months ago!

It breaks my heart to read how others such as yourselves are going through this hardship but always remember all the good memories you have had with Zeus!

Feb 27, 2017
My Sympathy
by: TinaMarie

Thank you for sharing your story. Dogs are such wonderful companions, they are very much part of the family.

My boy, Vasyl, went to a specialist today due to a persistent limp. X-rays show lesions on his upper humerus. We (specialist & I) are fairly sure its osteosarcoma, but awaiting word from radiologist.

I have decided that once we have confirmation, I will allow palliative treatment only. He is 8.5 years old and otherwise in good health. I do not want him to suffer and I believe if we go the route of amputation and chemo, his last part of life will be lived in pain, sickness and depression. He is still very ambulatory. I will try to keep him happy for the rest of his life.

Dec 28, 2015
Osteosarcoma affects crossbreeds too
by: Catherine

Greyhounds frequently get osteoscarcoma, as well as Danes and Wolfhounds.

Long legged breeds seem particularly prone [but oddly, Whippets don't seem to be as affected from what I have heard so far-despite being long legged]

Twiggy our Lurcher [a Lurcher isn't a purebred, but a 'type' , a crossbreed of a sighthound and a terrier/ collie- a melange of mixtures.

Twiggy was 'small' at just 23'' to the shoulder, looking like a rough haired small greyhound.

She had developed a small limp, [aged approx 11/12 yrs] which didn't respond to rest.

The vet took an x ray and a blood test- and the dreadful diagnosis was announced.

It was in a very hot summer, [rare for UK] but the vet's news chilled my marrow, and goosebumps broke out. The shock will be known to any dog owner who has had a similar diagnosis.

The vet said osteosarcoma progresses fast, and amputation ''could'' be done, but the cancer would have probably spread, and all too often a dog recovers from amputation, only for the cancer to have spread to the lungs.

But, each case is different, and every owner must be guided by their vet and dog.

Twiggy was euthanised at home, after a few weeks on prescribed painkillers, and Twiggy let us know when she was ready. [Home euthanasia was such a help emotionally - because it caused less stress for Twiggy]

The spaying - as others have said, spaying does protect against other cancers, so it is a like a health lottery.

Rescued dogs have to be spayed/castrated as part of their adoption process, obviously dogs bought from breeders can make a choice.

Years ago, early spaying before first season was touted by some vets as it protected almost 100% against mammary tumours.

If a dog then dies of osteosarcoma, it seems pointless.

But spaying does protect against pyometra, phantom pregnancy and unwanted puppies.

Dog owning is a lottery- none of us knows how long our beloved pets will live - luck also plays a part [even the best cared for dogs can get ill].

Zeus, Twiggy, and the other beloved dogs mentioned here are not forgotten; maybe in future decades, osteosarcoma and other serious cancers will be curable.

In U.S. there are vets who do give chemotherapy to dogs with Osteosarcoma, but this wasn't offered as an option for us [in UK].

Sep 12, 2014
Purebreds and osteosarcoma
by: Anonymous

It's very sad to hear about your Danes, everyone. When you get a Dane, it's best to have a good conversation with your vet and ask them to do some research about cancers and neutering/spaying. For some cancers, neutering and spaying are very protective, but for others, not so much. It's best to balance the risk to where you feel comfortable.

Most purebred dogs and Danes in particular are more osteosarcoma-prone than mutts, and it's incredibly common for Danes to get this horrible cancer, neuter or no. My best advice is not to be hard on yourself for making the decision to neuter/spay your dog - it is likely they would have gotten the cancer anyway. Danes and Wolfhounds have an almost 200x chance of getting osteosarcoma than other breeds. It's very common. The same breeding we did to create these magnificent breeds increased their risk of cancers dramatically, so it's up to us humans to help breed the cancer genetics back out of them.

May you always have happy memories of your sweet pets. I miss mine too (died of osteosarcoma in 2006).

Mar 24, 2014
Thanks for sharing
by: maria and phil

Thank you for sharing this. We just had Max, our black lab mix, put to sleep on Friday and he had the exact same thing happen to him. Your story is identical to ours except Max always had cysts and bumps on him for most of his 9 years. He always had bad allergies too. We didn't realize it was bone cancer though, as it came on so fast, the bump that appeared on his skull grew so rapidly and his sight went so fast, about two months, we knew it was nearing his time. We didn't do a biopsy. He enjoyed his life and family right up until the day before we took him. I am sorry for your loss and mine.

Jan 02, 2014
by: Anonymous

Thank you for sharing your story.

I understand your love for Great Danes and feel the same, but unlike you, I will not have another. My Dane Max has been diagnosed with the same Cancer, his lump, also on the head, is about the size of a golf ball, and he has been running a consistent fever of 103. I had to put my last Dane down with lung cancer just before he turned 5, it's way too hard.

Aug 03, 2013
It seems that Astro is suffering the same thing
by: Daniel

It seems that my great dane Astro is suffering from the same. He developed this big lump on his skull in the upper left side that is the size of a tennis ball now. His head looks deformed. Took him to the vet this Friday and they took a biopsy. We are just waiting for the lab results.

My poor boy is just sad.

The curious thing is that he is not neutered, so I don't know what to say about that. He does have that bald spot on his tail. He suffered from mange when younger, and the vet told us that his immune system was low.

I don't want him to suffer. We love him to death and he is the best dog ever. I think we will be confronted with a very hard decision soon. It hurts just to think about it.

Jun 21, 2013
I am so sorry to hear of others going through this!
by: Colette

Thank you to all of you who have also been through this and who understand for all the kind words! Sharing helps heal a lot! To those of you who are going through this currently I am deeply sorry!

I did have my beautiful Zeus put down last Aug of 2012 - he went peacefully - the vet let me be with him up to the very end. We buried him in a special place behind our home. I will never forget him and his loyal love up to the very end.

He started to go blind in his only good eye, the lump got huge, bigger than a softball, and he was not eating. I knew it was time.

I love Great Danes. We did get another male harlequin puppy, he is so much different than Zeus but I am learning to love him for his own special uniqueness. It takes time to heal and love again, but I still believe it is the best way.

Please people just be aware about the high increase of bone cancer in getting your large pure bred dog spayed or neutered. If you have to do it wait two or three years or as long as possible - the hormones protect them against this ravaging type of cancer, especially the males. I am not getting our new Dane spayed at all if I can help it.

Jun 11, 2013
Our Blood Hound Max Has this Also
by: kirk C.

Our Max, like your Zeus, also has a large knot growing on his head. At this time it is the size of a half ping pong ball. His symptoms sound depressingly similar to Zeus's symptoms. It's very sad.

Apr 28, 2013
by: Anonymous

I am so sorry to hear about Zeus. My dog has a large lump too. I'm extremely worried about her head. I am hoping that we can bring her to the vet this week and find out what's going on.

Mar 09, 2013
Re: Bone cancer
by: Anonymous

I just lost my Great Dane mix to bone cancer; he was also diagnosed in July of 2012. Like you, I am more knowledgeable to the prevention and spread the word to all Dane owners and other large breeds. I have heard that in lieu of neutering, vets can also perform a vasectomy. Bone cancer is horrible.

Feb 01, 2013
A fellow sufferer of grief from Osteosarcoma.
by: Catherine

I am so sorry to hear of Zeus's cancer. It brings tears to my eyes, as Twiggy, our lurcher had osteosarcoma too (dogs with long bones tend to get it, and I remember reading up in books when Twiggy was ill, that Danes also suffer).

What I didn't know was that early spaying was likely to make a dog more susceptible to this terrible condition.

We had Twiggy spayed at 6 months, to help prevent her from getting mammary tumours in later life!

Don't beat yourself up - but as owners, we do... You took Zeus to the vets early, and I, like you, offered to get Twiggy put to sleep then and there when she was initially diagnosed - but the vet said she could have a few weeks of life left.
Animals don't like to show their pain, but they communicate deeply with those they love.
I was worried that I wouldn't know 'when' to get Twiggy put to sleep, but more experienced owners said 'you will know-she will let you know' -she did.

I expect Zeus is in Animal Heaven now - and you will be re-united one day - our animals just don't live long enough.

Zeus sounds like a lovely brave boy, and animals are so brave - unlike their humans!

Jul 22, 2012
So sorry
by: Jacqueline

I am so sorry for what you're going through. I so understand your love for your boy. All my dogs have been so precious to me and I miss them all - if only they could be with us longer.

Good luck with Zeus - yes, the inevitable is approaching but at least you can say your goodbyes, cuddle him and be his friend. You'll meet him again, I'm sure.

My thoughts are with you. xxx

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