Pets can be an enormous comfort for those diagnosed with mesothelioma. However, individuals suffering from this disease may also be concerned about the health of their pets. Unfortunately, more and more evidence is being discovered proving that mesothelioma can be contracted through secondary exposure. Those who live in households where one or more members of the family worked with asbestos may have been exposed through fibers which were carried home on the clothes of the person who worked with the harmful substance.


Unfortunately, pets are not immune to the risk of developing mesothelioma. Animals can suffer the same consequences as humans if asbestos fibers are inhaled. Similar to humans, most cases of mesothelioma in animals can be traced to previous asbestos exposure. Pets are not only at risk from inhaling asbestos fibers carried into the home by their owners, but also through direct contact where the harmful substance is carried in their hair after visiting a location containing this loose material.

Early Symptoms

Like humans, mesothelioma in animals typically begins in the pleura, which is the lining around the lung. The disease can also begin in the abdominal cavity lining or in the lining surrounding the heart, although this is rare. A dog’s symptoms will typically manifest in a similar fashion to those of humans. Most of these symptoms are observed approximately one month before the diagnosis of mesothelioma is typically made. The most common symptom, shortness of breath, is frequently seen after exercise. The presence of fluid around the lungs is also seen in both dogs and humans, indicated by a persistent cough.

Although the disease itself is the same, the symptoms can manifest quite differently in humans and animals. In human patients, the harmful fibers become embedded in the pleura of the lung where they remain dormant for many decades before symptoms become apparent. However, for dogs the latency period is much shorter, and the average dog’s symptoms will manifest by age eight.

Other Risk Factors

Veterinarians who have studied dogs with mesothelioma have discovered that additional exposure to various toxic materials add to the animal’s risk factor of developing the disease. These materials include fungicide, germicide, wood preservative, defoliant and pentachlorophenol, a substance often used as an herbicide. Additionally, German Shepherds, Irish Setters and Bouvier des Flandres are at a higher risk than other species of dogs. Male dogs also have proven more susceptible to the disease than females.


University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine

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