Mesothelioma & Your Pets
Pets are wonderful! For many, they are a saving grace; a comfort in time of need. Playing with them is a way to reduce stress and forget about the cares of the world, including a diagnosis of mesothelioma.
If you have mesothelioma, you may have wondered whether or not your pet might be at risk for developing the disease as well. These days, unfortunately, more and more cases of second-hand exposure to asbestos dust have resulted in diagnosis of mesothelioma for members of households where at least one member worked with the toxic mineral and brought it home on their clothes. Wives, siblings, children...anyone who may have breathed in the dangerous dust is at risk for developing an asbestos-related disease.
But what about your pet? Can dogs and cats develop mesothelioma? According to veterinarians, the answer is a resounding "yes". Though mesothelioma, like any cancer, is not contagious, animals are prone to inhaling asbestos fibers and may eventually develop the disease. As a matter of fact, just like humans, most cases of mesothelioma in dogs can be traced back to some sort of asbestos exposure.
Not only can dogs inhale asbestos brought in by their owners, but dogs can also drag asbestos dust into the home on their fur or feet if they've been in a location where asbestos is present, such as near an older building that's being demolished. That's why it's always necessary to keep tabs on the whereabouts of your dog, as it may impact his health and that of your family.
Of course, the disease may manifest itself differently in animals than it does in humans. For example, in a human body, asbestos fibers lodge in the pleura and remain dormant for anywhere from 20 to about 50 years, with symptoms eventually emerging several decades after exposure. With dogs, the average age of onset is 8 years old, though mesothelioma has been diagnosed in both younger and older dogs.
Veterinarians who've studied dogs with mesothelioma have also come to the conclusion that exposure to other toxic materials may also increase the risk of the animal developing mesothelioma. Those substances include pentachlorophenol, often used as an herbicide, algaecide, defoliant, wood preservative, germicide, or fungicide.
Studies have shown that Bouvier des Flandres, Irish Setters, and German Shepherds are at greatest risk for tumor development and the disease is more common in male than in female dogs.
Not unlike humans, meso in a dog or other animal most often occurs in the pleura, the lining that surrounds the lung. Rare cases have been found in the pericardium (lining of the heart) and the peritoneum (lining of the abdominal cavity).
Dogs exhibit similar symptoms to those of humans. Most symptoms are observable about a month before diagnosis is made. Shortness of breath is the most prevalent symptom and usually noticed after exercise. Pulmonary effusion--fluid around the lungs--is also a common symptom in both humans and dogs. A cough may be present, as well as abdominal discomfort, resulting in the inability to eat. The animal's sleep patterns may also be affected due to intense pain or breathing difficulties.
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Last modified: December 13, 2010.