During the latter half of the 20th century, the connection between asbestos exposure and certain types of cancer became more known among the general public. Although scientists have been aware of this link for decades, awareness spread even more as people heard about asbestos-related diseases such as malignant mesothelioma affecting veterans, shipyard workers, construction company employees and individuals from other industries.
As a result, consumers started being on the lookout for asbestos around the home in order to protect themselves and their children. However, people need to know that asbestos can also be harmful for their pets.
Dogs and cats can develop mesothelioma
Humans who have malignant mesothelioma have a disease that can start in the tissues that surround the lungs, abdominal organs, heart or other tissues. Symptoms may include difficulty breathing, fluid buildup in the lungs or pain that strikes under the ribcage or the abdomen. Asbestos exposure is almost always the cause.
According to several studies, the hazardous mineral fibers can have the same effect on pets. In 1983, one team of scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital reviewed the medical cases of six dogs, all of which were diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma that affected the pleura, pericardium and peritoneum. They found evidence of the presence of asbestos in the bodies of three of five dogs, an observation that was rarely true for dogs that served as healthy controls.
Experts from the Environmental Working Group say that dogs and cats are likely to come in contact with asbestos because of household insulation or the presence of fibers on the clothes of owners who bring home contaminated work clothes.
Disease shares unfortunate similarity with human cases
Aside from asbestos exposure, malignant mesothelioma in pets has one more unfortunate commonality with human cases of disease: neither illness can be cured. However, scientists are trying to develop better treatment regimens.
One team of researchers from Italy conducted an experiment to evaluate the combination of platinum-based chemotherapy with the drug piroxicam. They administered this combination to two dogs and one cat, all of which had mesothelioma.
“The combination showed remarkable efficacy at controlling the malignant effusion secondary to [malignant mesothelioma] in our patients and warrants further investigations,” the scientists wrote in the Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research.
Inspect the home to protect your pets
At Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, we want to make sure that you are able to protect the most vulnerable members of your family, including your pets. Fortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has several tips about what to do in case you find asbestos in your house.
Because of the mineral’s ability to resist heat and friction, asbestos is likely to be found in insulation materials, particularly in older homes. It may also be present in floor tiles and roof shingles.
Generally, asbestos does not pose any harm if it is intact and undisturbed. If you are not sure if a product in your home contains asbestos, it is best to assume that it does. Without touching it, try to inspect it for any damage. If there appears to be minimal damage, limit all activities that take place around the material.
When you find debris that may be contaminated, do not dust, vacuum or sweep it up. You can clean small amounts of debris with help from a wet mop.
Never remove asbestos-containing products from the home yourself. Instead, hire a licensed and trained professional, especially if you are planning on making any major repairs or renovations.