Each year, mesothelioma kills an estimated 43,000 people worldwide due to asbestos exposure. Despite the fact that the dangerous carcinogen has been banned in 55 countries (not including the United States), and the majority of its use has been halted since the 1970s and 80s, individuals are still being diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases. As we continue to work toward a global asbestos ban, we still need to emphasize the dangers of any potential exposure to this toxic substance. Unfortunately, this concern does not just apply to humans, but to your pets as well.
How Can Asbestos Harm Animals?
Animals can be affected by asbestos the same way as people. Asbestos fibers, inhaled or swallowed, penetrate the surface of the mesothelium, a membrane that lines the pleural cavity where the lungs are. If the fibers damage the cells of the mesothelium, irregular cell division can progress into a malignant tumor within the mesothelium, known as mesothelioma. While asbestos-caused mesothelioma in pets is rare, there have been reports of it in various animals, especially dogs.
How Are Animals Exposed to Asbestos?
You may be wondering where and how animals could be exposed to asbestos, but the truth is that it could happen anywhere – even in your own home. Pets and humans can be exposed to asbestos secondhand, which means workers come home with asbestos fibers on their clothing. These fibers are then deadly to any living and breathing thing within the home.
Firsthand asbestos exposure is often the more common cause of mesothelioma in both humans and animals. In 2015, a dog owner in the UK was devastated when mesothelioma took her dog’s life. The owners assume that the dog was exposed to asbestos while sniffing around in the bushes or park. The challenge with mesothelioma is its latency period. In humans, symptoms might not show up for decades, whereas animals can be diagnosed around the age of eight. For humans, we can backtrack using their work history to define exactly when and how they were exposed to asbestos. With animals, it is often just a guessing game.
Mesothelioma Symptoms in Animals
Animals with mesothelioma often have difficulty breathing, abdominal swelling due to fluid build-up, fatigue, and vomiting. Diagnosing mesothelioma in animals may be difficult because the symptoms can be similar to other illnesses. For example, the dog owner in the UK was convinced that her dog had kennel cough. Diagnosis requires a thorough exam from a veterinarian, including X-rays of the chest and abdomen and a biopsy.
Here at Brayton Purcell, pets play a very important role in our lives. We understand that the strong bonds we create with animals can make for a more fulfilling life. Not only do we experience that with our own pets, we also see it in stories from our local humane society, of which we are avid supporters. In order to keep them safe, we encourage you to keep a close eye on your animals if you feel there is potential to come in contact with toxic substances.