Pets and Asbestos Exposure

By Cristina M. in Health

Asbestos, the toxic mineral, has claimed millions of lives over the years. However, since the 1970s, when it was discovered how dangerous exposure can be, production and use have massively dropped. Unfortunately, as you may know, mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer which can develop after someone came in contact with asbestos, can take decades to ensue and spread throughout the body. This is why approximately 43,000 people die annually from this extremely aggressive form of cancer worldwide.

What many people do not know is that pets are just as susceptible to mesothelioma as humans. If cats, dogs, or any other animals come in contact with asbestos, there is a significant risk of suffering from this disease in the future. Dogs are the most prone to developing it and studies found that it can take anywhere between 1 and 10 years for symptoms to appear.

What are the symptoms of mesothelioma in pets?

This disease affects animals the same way it does humans. Asbestos particles enter the body and attach themselves to the mesothelium, a membrane which covers the thoracic cavity. There, scar tissue will form and the organs will gradually become severely damaged, which increases the risk of developing cancer. Mesothelioma can also wreak havoc on the heart, the abdominal region, and the testicles, but it most often takes place on the outer lining of the lungs. The symptoms our pets may experience are extremely similar to those occurring in humans, namely:

  • Difficulty breathing;
  • Coughing;
  • Lethargy and difficulty walking;
  • Vomiting;
  • Muffled heart sounds;
  • Enlarged testicles;

The awful part is that most of these symptoms appear to be very similar to those of other, more common diseases. This means that in the majority of cases, both the owner and the vet will overlook or misdiagnose the disease, which will regrettably be discovered too late.

How to avoid exposing your pet to asbestos and what to do if they developed mesothelioma

Asbestos particles are extremely toxic when breathed in or swallowed. Thereby, it is very important to avoid construction sites and any type of workplace which involves asbestos. If a person handles asbestos on the job, they need to change their clothes afterwards, as particles can stick to fabric very easily. When proper hygiene measures are not followed, the person will pose a threat to both their family and pets. Conversely, animals can get asbestos particles stuck to their fur or paws and bring the carcinogen in the house, subsequently exposing inhabitants.

If your pet was diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is extremely important to seek professional help from a veterinarian. Explain the situation and they will decide what the best course of action would be. In most cases, surgery and chemotherapy will be used to slow down the progression of the disease. Your pet should get plenty of rest and quiet, as its body will become extremely weak because of cancer. Regrettably, cases in which mesothelioma can be treated are extremely rare, so there may come a time when you will have to take the incredibly difficult decision to let your pet go.

Why Should I Test Products in My Home for Asbestos?

It is often impossible to tell whether asbestos is embedded in a material, as the fibers are too small to be observed with the naked eye. Exposure to asbestos is responsible for serious respiratory conditions, so thorough testing is required to ensure your home is asbestos-free.