Dogs are exposed to asbestos in the same ways we are. Unfortunately, asbestos also affects dogs the same way it does people. Mesothelioma in dogs is rare, but it does occur. Make sure you protect yourself and your furry friends.
- Asbestos exposure is bad for dogs, similarly to people, leading to conditions like mesothelioma.
- Asbestos exposure can make dogs sick by causing mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer, in dogs.
- Dogs can get mesothelioma in the lungs, chest, abdomen, and the protective sac around the heart.
- Symptoms of mesothelioma in dogs may take a long time to develop and depend on where the mesothelioma is located.
- Common risk factors for asbestos exposure for dogs include living in old buildings, near industrial areas, and being a male German Shepherd, Bouvier des Flandres, or Irish Setter.
Asbestos is a mineral found in nature composed of long fibrous crystals of silica. It was widely used in the construction industry for insulation, shingles, and cement products.3
In both humans and pets, exposure to asbestos is associated with the development of mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer with limited treatment options and a poor prognosis.1
How Dogs Get Exposed to Asbestos
Asbestos fibers can be released into the air when construction materials containing asbestos undergo demolition, repair, and remodeling. Exposure typically only occurs when the material is disturbed, and the asbestos fibers are released into the air and inhaled into the lungs.3
The symptoms of asbestos exposure may take a long time to develop and are dependent on the area of the body that is affected.
Asbestos Exposure can Cause Mesothelioma
Dogs can develop primary lung tumors, mesothelioma, and other conditions from asbestos exposure.
Mesotheliomas are rare tumors derived from cells of the mesothelium, which lines the body’s cavities and internal organs. The cancerous mesothelial cells quickly migrate (metastasize) to other tissues in the body.
- Mesothelioma can occur in the chest, abdomen, and the protective sac around the heart.
- Mesothelioma tumors generate a significant amount of fluid. Microscopic evaluation of this fluid can be helpful in diagnosing mesothelioma.2
- Mesothelioma in the chest may cause clinical signs of difficulty breathing and cough.
- Mesothelioma in the abdomen may cause vomiting and fatigue.2
Treatment options are limited and are typically aimed at improving quality of life.
- A small study has shown promising results for the treatment of mesothelioma in dogs using combination chemotherapy with piroxicam and cisplatin.4
- Palliative treatments for an animal with mesothelioma include medications for pain and procedures to drain fluid from the abdomen or chest cavity. 2
Does Asbestos Exposure Always Cause Cancer?
Although rare, exposure to asbestos is linked to the development of mesothelioma in people and in dogs.2 Typically, increased exposure to asbestos is associated with a greater risk of developing health consequences.3 Exposure to asbestos may also cause asbestosis, which is a non-cancerous but progressive condition affecting the lungs.3
Mesothelioma Risk Factors for Dogs
There is not an abundance of data on the prevalence of mesothelioma in dogs. One source suggests the average age of onset for mesothelioma in dogs is about 8 years old, but mesothelioma has also been detected in younger dogs.
Common risk factors for asbestos exposure for dogs include:
- Living in an older building built before the 1980s
- Renovation of older homes, schools, and workplaces
- Living near mines, factories, and other industrial areas
The cause of mesothelioma is strongly correlated with environmental exposure to asbestos, therefore fewer breed related risk factors exist. Breeds more susceptible to developing mesothelioma include:
- German Shepherd Dog
- Bouvier des Flandres
- Irish Setters
Evidence supports that male dogs are more likely to develop mesothelioma from asbestos exposure than female dogs.5
How to Reduce Risk of Mesothelioma
Dog owners can reduce the risk of mesothelioma by being aware of the common routes of exposure to asbestos.
- In the Home: Many homes, schools, and workplaces built before the 1980s are likely to contain asbestos in many areas including the insulation, flooring, ceiling, and around pipes. When damaged, the asbestos fibers become airborne and can be inhaled by pets. Taking measures to identify, encapsulate, and prevent disturbance of asbestos at home can minimize risk of exposure to pets.2 Dogs may chew on home materials that contain asbestos, so care should be taken to prevent this.
- During Renovation: Remodeling projects can disturb asbestos and release it into the air. Workers wear protective equipment during renovations, but pets are often not considered.2 Dogs may also lick at damaged surfaces or asbestos dust that has settled. Protect dogs during home projects by keeping them out of the home temporarily until the work is complete.
- Environmental Exposure: Exposure to asbestos at construction and mining sites and demolished buildings presents a rare risk to dogs who go outdoors for walks near these areas.2
- Secondhand Contact: If a dog’s owner works with asbestos, fibers on their clothing can be inhaled or ingested by the dog.2 Risk can be reduced by showering and changing into clean clothes before leaving work.
- Pets, Asbestos Exposure, and Mesothelioma. The Animal Health Foundation. Published December 5, 2018. https://www.animalhealthfoundation.org/blog/2018/12/pets-asbestos-exposure-and-mesothelioma/
- Mesothelioma in Dogs. www.petmd.com. Accessed November 28, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/cancer/c_multi_mesothelioma
- US EPA O. Learn About Asbestos. US EPA. Published March 5, 2013. https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/learn-about-asbestos#asbestos
- Spugnini EP, Crispi S, Scarabello A, Caruso G, Citro G, Baldi A. Piroxicam and intracavitary platinum-based chemotherapy for the treatment of advanced mesothelioma in pets: preliminary observations. Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research. 2008;27(1). doi:10.1186/1756-9966-27-6
- Gorham ME. PETS & VETS: Mesothelioma can affect dogs and cats, too. Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Accessed November 29, 2022. https://dnews.com/slice_of_life/pets-vets-mesothelioma-can-affect-dogs-and-cats-too/article_a3ae68eb-0e05-5c98-90e9-0a6b5383a70c.html#:~:text=ANSWER%3A%20After%20inhaling%20asbestos%20fibers
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