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How Dogs are Exposed to Asbestos

Updated on December 1, 2017
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Discarded asbestos roofing is a common way dogs become exposed.
Discarded asbestos roofing is a common way dogs become exposed. | Source
Tora before he started losing weight.
Tora before he started losing weight. | Source

How are dogs exposed to asbestos?

Often they are exposed the same way people are, by being around old houses that are being repaired or remodeled. My dog was exposed by being around a junkyard where people disposed of old asbestos roofing.

They can also belong to people working in asbestos production, shipbuilding, or asbestos mining. Actually it is even worse for dogs around repair sites because they get the asbestos on their paws and then inhale the particles when they lick them. They sniff around their environment all the time and are more likely to inhale asbestos particles as well as herbicides, fungicides, wood preservatives, and other chemicals.

What will happen to a dog exposed to asbestos?

One of the health dangers from asbestos exposure is the development of mesotheliomas, a cancer that affects the linings of the organs in the chest and abdomen. Some breeds are statistically more prone to develop this type of cancer but maybe they were just exposed more often.

What can you can look for if your dog was in a dangerous situation? Most of the signs your dog will be due to which area in his body is most affected and it usually takes about a month between the owner noticing the problem and a veterinarian diagnosing it. If you think your dog has been exposed and may have problems look for coughing, difficulty breathing, and expect him to get tired a lot easier than he used to. When the mesothelium in the abdomen is affected you will notice his belly swelling and he might be uncomfortable when you touch him there. All dogs might show weight loss, fever, and a weak pulse.

Dogs that develop malignant mesothelioma are usually middle-aged, eight to fifteen years old. No veterinarian can diagnose this disease with just a physical exam; he will need to run a complete blood cell count, chemistry profile, urinalysis, and if your dog has fluid on the abdomen or chest it can be drawn off and sent to a reference lab so they can look for cancer cells. Finally the vet can do an ultrasound and see the tumor but sometimes they don’t show up since they grow into the heart, lungs, liver, or whatever else is affected.

A swollen abdomen can be caused by many diseases
A swollen abdomen can be caused by many diseases | Source

How can mesothelioma be treated?

If your dog has mesothelioma he can be treated surgically or medically.

Surgery doesn’t work well since the tumors are invasive and usually have spread throughout the body by the time diagnosis is made. His chest or abdomen can be drained when needed to make him more comfortable but as the disease grows worse he may need it every few days.

There are also several chemotherapy protocols for this disease but a lot of owners choose to euthanize their dogs when diagnosed so the protocols are really just human medical treatments that have been tried on dogs.

Your dog cannot read this sign.
Your dog cannot read this sign. | Source

Asbestos exposure in people is uncommon now except during repairs to older homes but in the area I live in asbestos is still used in roofing and dogs are exposed quite often.

Last year I lost one of my best companions to asbestos. (I had adopted him as an adult and he had been exposed for several years. The workers were afraid to go in the pen with him and they used the area to dump old asbestos roofing.)

Mesothelioma spreads quickly and since it takes so long to diagnose is often quite advanced even before treatment starts. The best thing you can do is help him avoid exposure and protect him from this horrible cancer.

© 2012 Dr Mark


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    • ktnptl profile image

      ktnptl 3 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Very informative, Mesothelioma is bad for pets just as it is for humans. Asbestos exposure should be prevented to pets. Here I have mentioned some symptoms for Mesothelioma which are same for pets also.

    • annm777 profile image

      Ann-Marie 5 years ago from High Peak

      I have a friend that has a dog that died from mesothelioma last year . . her story can be found here:

    • profile image

      Mesothelioma Help 5 years ago

      Interesting Hub. Raising awareness of mesothelioma and asbestos benefits more than just humans it seems.