Short Answer: Unfortunately, the answer is yes it can. Asbestos fibers are like tiny, durable needles, and when inhaled, they embed in the body. Over time, these fibers cause scarring and are toxic to the body’s defenses and regulation of cell growth, leading to diseases including lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Dogs can develop many of the health problems caused by asbestos exposure.
Asbestos poses a danger to animals, including dogs.
It is important to have older buildings and antique products tested for asbestos to protect our best friends. Don’t skimp, and use a professional and licensed asbestos abatement company.
Asbestos is the name given to a group of six naturally-occurring fibrous minerals that were commonly used in the past in the manufacturing and insulation process of building structures. Though no longer used in new building projects, asbestos can still be found in homes and buildings that have been around since the 1980s.
These fibers are resistant to heat, electricity, and corrosion which makes them durable enough to withstand the test of time. These days, there is public and governmental awareness of the damage these fibers can do when inhaled into the lungs and chest cavity. They can cause a host of carcinomas, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. These diseases are potentially fatal to both humans and animals.
Can Asbestos Affect Your Dog?
Unfortunately, the family dog isn’t immune to the sometimes severe effects of asbestos. They may be even more susceptible to developing symptoms within a shorter timeframe. While humans may take decades to present signs of mesothelioma, dogs can see the effects as soon as 12 months after exposure.
Dogs that lick or otherwise inhale asbestos are at risk. It’s never recommended to have your dog present at a remodel, as they could get into material containing harmful fibers. Asbestos can frequently be found in old attics, as it was commonly used as a form of insulation.
When Are Dogs At Risk of Contact With Asbestos?
Dogs don’t have to be present at the site where asbestos was found to develop symptoms. If an owner brings home microscopic fibers on their clothing, these can end up airborne within the house. At this point, everyone else in the home, including animals, will be at risk of breathing in the fibers and developing symptoms of mesothelioma years later.
This is known as secondary exposure and it can be just as damaging as inhaling asbestos directly from the original source. While some breeds are more at risk of developing mesotheliomas, such as German shepherds and Irish Setters, all breeds should avoid inhaling the fibrous asbestos. Male dogs have also been shown to have a higher likelihood of contracting cancer.
Asbestos materials in homes can release asbestos fibers that are harmful to dogs.
For most of the twentieth century, asbestos was used in buildings of all kinds. Asbestos fibers are extremely durable and resistant to heat, corrosion, oxidizing and dissolution, and they were often mixed with building materials like vinyl or cement to strengthen and fireproof them.
Most homes prior to the 1980s had some asbestos product or material in them (often – in attics, ceilings, floor tiles, roofs, ducts and older electrical wiring. Dogs often poke and around and sniff in the hardest to reach places.
Asbestos materials degrade over time, and they can release harmful asbestos fibers that may be breathed or swallowed by a dog. Dogs in particular touch their noses to walls, floors and virtually anything to examine them, so they are particularly in danger if asbestos fibers are airborne and coat surfaces.
Even if their own home is asbestos-free, dogs can be exposed to asbestos by wandering into a neighboring building.
What to Do When Your Dog Has Possibly Inhaled Asbestos
If you’re concerned that your dog has come into contact with asbestos, there are a couple of steps to take. Unfortunately, depending on the severity and the number of fibers that were inhaled, there may be nothing to do but wait and keep an eye on any symptoms that may develop.
Asbestos diseases in dogs develop faster than they do in humans, but still may take some time to appear.
When the fibers are inhaled, they can attach themselves to the lining of the lungs. This is a common precursor to lung cancer, which can be fatal in both humans and dogs. Once embedded into the lining, asbestos can cause inflammation and when the immune system attempts to respond, this can develop cell mutations that may lead to mesothelioma.
Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma in Dogs
Mesothelioma is an aggressive type of tumor and its primary risk factor is exposure to asbestos particles. Potential symptoms that can develop in canines are similar to those in humans. If you notice your pet developing any of the symptoms below, contact a vet immediately to start a treatment plan.
Symptoms of mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases in dogs can include:
· Trouble breathing
· Fatigue or lethargic behavior
· Swelling of the abdomen
· Skin lumps, also known as “hotspots”
· Enlarged testicles
· Weight loss
· Abnormal sleeping patterns
How to Diagnose Mesothelioma in Dogs
To properly diagnose mesothelioma in a dog, a visit to the veterinarian is required. The animal can then be thoroughly examined and the owner may be asked some background questions. If the vet knows that the animal likely came into contact with asbestos within the past several years, this is a key indicator that a mesothelioma diagnosis may be on the table.
Veterinarians can look for asbestos-related infections and respiratory problems in dogs.
The vet will take a sample of the dog’s blood to run tests for the presence of an infection. Vets will often use stethoscopes to determine whether the animal is having trouble breathing or if there are any abnormal sounds in the chest cavity.
The vet may also want to take an X-ray of the dog, as this can show any masses or growths within the animal’s body. During the diagnostic phase, this is a critical piece to the puzzle and can indicate how far along the disease is if abnormalities are present. If mesothelioma is discovered, X-rays may be used continuously to track the progress.
Treatment and Recovery Prospects for Dogs with Asbestos Diseases
There are medications and treatment options that can enable a dog to live a higher quality of life after its diagnosis. Your veterinarian can provide individualized advice that will enable your dog to be as comfortable as possible.
Much of the treatment for asbestos exposure and mesothelioma is focused on alleviating the symptoms as they arise. Depending on the spread of cancer, chemotherapy may be an option that’s put on the table. Mesothelioma tumors can rarely be removed due to their size and how apt they are to spread.
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Lawrence T.Glickman, Linda M.Domanski, Tobi G.Maguire, Richard R. Dubielzig, Andrew Churg (1983). Mesothelioma in pet dogs associated with exposure of their owners to asbestos. Environmental Research, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp. 305-313.