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 is a mineral found in nature composed of long fibrous silica crystals. It was once widely used in construction for insulation, shingles, and cement products.3
In humans and pets, asbestos exposure 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 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 depend on the affected area of the body.
Asbestos Exposure Can Cause Mesothelioma
Dogs can develop primary lung tumors, mesothelioma, and other conditions from asbestos exposure.
Mesotheliomas are rare tumors derived from mesothelium cells. The mesothelium lines the body’s cavities and internal organs. (In other words, they are everywhere.)
The cancerous mesothelial cells quickly migrate (metastasize) to other tissues in the body.
- Mesothelioma can occur in the chest, abdomen, and the pericardium, the protective sac around the heart.
- Mesothelioma tumors generate a significant amount of fluid. Microscopic evaluation of this fluid can help diagnose mesothelioma.2
- Mesothelioma in the chest may cause clinical signs of difficulty breathing and coughing.
- Mesothelioma in the abdomen may cause vomiting and fatigue.2
Treatment options are limited and typically aim to improve quality of life, not cure.
- A small study has shown promising results for treating mesothelioma in dogs using a combination of 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?
Just because you or your dog are exposed to asbestos does not mean that you or your dog will develop cancer. Mesothelioma is rare but linked to asbestos exposure in people and dogs.2
Asbestos exposure may also cause asbestosis, a non-cancerous but progressive condition affecting the lungs.3
Increased exposure to asbestos is associated with a greater risk of developing health consequences.3
Dr. Demian Dressler explains why it took Renee so long to get a mesothelioma diagnosis on DOG CANCER ANSWERS.
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 eight years old, but mesothelioma has also been detected in younger dogs.
Common risk factors for asbestos exposure in 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 asbestos exposure. Therefore, fewer breed-related risk factors exist. A few breeds have been identified as more susceptible to developing mesothelioma. They include:
- German Shepherd Dog
- Bouvier des Flandres
- Irish Setters
Evidence also supports that male dogs are more likely to develop mesothelioma from asbestos exposure than female dogs.5
How to Reduce the Risk of Mesothelioma
Dog owners can reduce the risk of mesothelioma by being aware of the common routes of asbestos exposure.
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 the risk of exposure to pets.2
Dogs may chew on home materials that contain asbestos, so care should be taken to prevent this.
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 temporarily keeping them out of the home until the work is complete.
Exposure to asbestos at construction sites, mining sites, and demolished buildings presents a rare risk to dogs who go outdoors for walks near these areas.2
If a dog’s owner works with asbestos, the dog can inhale or ingest the fibers on their clothing.2
Risk can be reduced by showering and changing into clean clothes before leaving work or before entering the home.
Veterinarian and cancer researcher Dr. Lauren Trepanier joins us on DOG CANCER ANSWERS to discuss her research into pollution and its connection to dog cancer.
- 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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