What is Rib Resection?

A cancerous tumor is the most common reason for a rib resection in dogs. There are two common types of rib tumors. An osteosarcoma is a highly metastatic tumor, meaning it spreads quickly. The second most common type of rib tumor is a chondrosarcoma tumor. These spread less quickly but still need removal for the best chance of the dog’s survival. There are other types of tumors found on the ribs of dogs, but these are the most common. Because these are cancerous and can spread to other bones, tissues, and organs, resection of the ribs is the best option for the dog’s survival. Your veterinarian can recommend a veterinary oncologist for treatment.

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Rib Resection Procedure in Dogs

To perform a rib resection, your veterinary oncologist will have your dog fast at least 12 hours before the surgery, maybe up to 18 hours. Your veterinarian may also give medications to you for your dog in the hours prior to surgery. X-ray and/or CT scans will be performed to get a picture of the affected ribs and tumor. Your veterinarian may perform a biopsy on the tumor with a tiny needle to have it tested for malignancy. Even with this done pre-surgery, the tumor and resected bone will be tested post-surgery to give your oncologist more accurate information on the dog’s condition. 

Your oncologist and team will prep your dog with pain medications, anti-inflammatories, and general anesthesia. This is an invasive surgery, so your dog will be asleep during surgery and groggy and sleepy during recovery. The veterinary oncologist and team will open your dog’s chest cavity and determine which rib(s) need to be resected. Once this is done, and the ribs are removed, the surgeon will remove any tissue or muscle that may be affected by the tumors as well. Usually, a mesh is put in place of the missing rib to provide internal protection of the organs the ribs generally protect.

To drain the surgical area, your veterinary surgeon or oncologist may place a drain in the area, either under the muscle or under the skin before closing the site. 

Efficacy of Rib Resection in Dogs

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees with cancer. Removing the tumors as well as the ribs where the tumors were growing will give your dog the best chance for survival. Depending on the size and scope of the tumors, your dog could be well after recovery. Because each tumor is different, there is not a significant efficacy rate available for the resection itself. Your veterinary oncologist will be best at determining how well the resection in your case will work. There are always chances cancer cells are elsewhere in the body or a probability it may return. 

Rib Resection Recovery in Dogs

Total recovery after a rib resection in dogs can take up to two months. The first day or two may be spent in the veterinary hospital recovering with the oncology team with IV fluids and medications including pain relief, anti-inflammatories, and antibiotics. Once your oncologist allows your dog to return home, your dog will need to rest. You may be required to administer medications to your dog as well as change bandages at the surgical site. Be sure to check the incisions for infections as they heal. Have your dog refrain from licking the incision. A cone may assist in keeping your dog from licking the site. As the area heals, you may notice a change in the chest’s appearance from the missing bones. Over time, this appearance will improve, along with your dog’s ability to breathe heavier or more normally. Limit exercise for about six weeks. Walk on a leash, and only for elimination purposes if your dog is prone to running, during this recovery time. Your veterinarian and veterinary oncologist will want to schedule follow-up appointments for post surgical care. These appointments may include new X-rays or CT scans to view the site.

Cost of Rib Resection in Dogs

Cancer can certainly be an expensive disease to treat. You may need a specialist veterinarian or oncologist. Each office visit may cost between $50 and $100. X-rays can run between $45 and $200 depending on how many are necessary on each visit and the size of your dog. X-rays will be done pre and post-surgery. The rib resection itself can start around $1,500 and head upwards near $4,000 depending on the scope and specialty required. You will want to factor in all follow-up visits and medications into your budget.

Dog Rib Resection Considerations

Cancer is a scary diagnosis. Your dog depends on you and your veterinarian to make the best choices on their behalf. A resection of necessary bones is a difficult one to make. However, if your oncologist believes it will give your dog the best chance of survival, it may be the right thing to do. Talk to your doctor about the scope of the tumors your dog has as well as the rate of efficacy for your dog’s particular diagnosis. There are no exact rates of survival, only statistics on how many dogs have survived a rib resection and cancer overall. However, there are many factors which go into the diagnosis and surgical decisions. Your veterinarian will be able to discuss how your dog’s breed, age, tumor size, type, and location of tumors all play into what your dog’s survival rate could potentially be.

Rib Resection Prevention in Dogs

Cancer is not truly a preventable disease. However, some cancers are environmentally contributed illnesses. Moreover, some cancers are preventable with proper care, checkups, observations, and overall well-being. The best chance you and your dog have in the fight against cancer is to eat well, maintain a healthy weight, exercise, avoid prolonged sun exposure, avoid unhealthy habits such as smoking, and keeping second-hand smoke away from your dog. You may not be able to prevent a rib resection once a diagnosis has been handed down. However, with due diligence, you might be able to stop a small tumor from growing and spreading. As you groom your dog, pay attention to small lumps or bumps on or under the skin.  Visit with your veterinarian on a regular basis for vaccines as well as check-up visits for wellness or questions regarding your personal observations. Be vigilant about watching your dog’s gait and noting any changes in their appearance or demeanor.