Protecting Your Pets from Mesothelioma & Asbestos Exposure

Boston terrier puppy with a veterinarian

It’’s bad enough when your loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma, but you don’t expect that your pet can develop the same rare cancer.

Unlike many health conditions, mesothelioma is not unique to just humans. While it’s uncommon, your family pets — including cats and dogs — are at risk of developing the aggressive, asbestos-related cancer.

A multicenter Italian study in 2008 involved three privately-owned pets (two dogs and a cat) diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. The small cohort underlines the rarity of the condition among domesticated animals.

Researchers found that “as with humans, pets cannot be cured of malignant mesothelioma. As with humans with down-staged malignant mesothelioma at the time of diagnosis, surgical excision can only be rarely performed in pets.”

Because surgery is usually not an option for most pet owners, it’s important to learn how to avoid exposing your pets to asbestos.

Keeping Your Furry Loved Ones Safe

Most owners will do anything for their pets. Whether it’s purchasing new toys or paying for an expensive veterinarian bill, our pets are a part of the family, and we take care of our families. This means making sure your pets are safe from harm’s way.

Similar to pet owners refraining from letting their pets eat chocolate, it is important for owners to keep their pets away from asbestos. Much like people, pets have the same reason to fear asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma, a cancer caused from airborne asbestos exposure, affects most mammals alike.

How Can Pets Be Exposed to Asbestos?

The most common way pets are exposed to asbestos is through secondhand exposure. When an owner brings asbestos home on their clothes or skin, pets can breathe in the microscopic fibers or ingest them by licking.

Pets, much like humans, can also be exposed to asbestos during home renovations or DIY projects. Millions of older homes contain asbestos-contained elements such as insulation, fireproofing or drywall. When these sites are disturbed, asbestos fibers are released into the air waiting to be breathed in or ingested.

Outdoor pets are at risk of exposure at construction sites or any building undergoing asbestos abatement.

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Who Is at Risk?

Mesothelioma typically results after prolonged asbestos exposure, so pets with owners in an asbestos-related field are most likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma.

  • Species: Dogs are more likely to be affected than cats.
  • Breeds: Irish Setters, Bouvier des Flandres and German Shepherds are most likely to develop canine mesothelioma.
  • Age: Older dogs are affected most often; the average onset of canine mesothelioma is eight years old because of the long latency period, but there have been cases confirmed in dogs as young as seven weeks and as old as 15 years.

Types and Symptoms of Canine and Feline Mesothelioma

There are several different types of mesothelioma that can be found in a variety of pets.

In most cases, symptoms will not show until the late stages of the condition, but they present themselves in ways similar to humans. The most common symptoms include:

  • Respiratory distress: Painful, difficult breathing, abnormally rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Difficulty moving or aversion to exercise
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Sleeping problems or lethargy
  • Muffled heart, lung and abdominal sounds
  • Enlarged scrotum
  • Vomiting

What Should You Do if Your Pet Has Mesothelioma?

The first thing you need to do is take your pet to the vet. At that point, your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam. It is important to mention any possible asbestos exposure.

As with humans, chest and abdominal X-rays are the most important diagnostic tools for mesothelioma, but a biopsy will be required for an official cancer diagnosis.

At this point, your veterinarian will guide you through the process of choosing the correct treatment option. These options include surgery and chemotherapy.

Back home, if your pet is experiencing difficulty breathing, it is important to limit your pet’s activity by taking shorter walks, engaging in gentle playtime and providing a quiet space away from children and other pets for rest.

Keeping your pet away from asbestos is the number one way to prevent mesothelioma.

  1. Spugnini, E., Crispi, S., Scarabello, A., Caruso, G., Citro, G. & Baldi, A. (2008, May 19). Piroxicam and intracavitary platinum-based chemotherapy for the treatment of advanced mesothelioma in pets: preliminary observations. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2438333/
  2. Elliott, P. (2014, August 2) Mesothelioma in Cats and Dogs. Retrieved from http://www.petful.com/pet-health/mesothelioma-cats-dogs/
  3. Petmd.com (n.d.). Mesothelioma in Dogs. Retrieved from http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/cancer/c_multi_mesothelioma

Cara joined The Mesothelioma Center as Social Media Specialist in July 2015 to continue her mission of making a difference in world. Every day, Cara speaks with survivors, caregivers and their loved ones in the online mesothelioma community to answer questions and offer emotional support. If you have a story idea for Cara or you'’d like to learn more about social media, please email her at ctompot@asbestos.com.

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