Dog Asbestos Mesothelioma Cancer
Just like humans, domesticated animals are affected by illness, some minor like a common cold or sneezes, to much more serious diseases like cancer. Cancer can develop from toxic exposure to asbestos. The name of this disease is malignant mesothelioma. It can develop in dogs exposed to asbestos, yet rarely in cats.
Dogs generally exhibit similar symptoms to humans about a month before diagnosis is made. Shortness of breath is the most prevalent symptom and usually occurs after exercise. A common symptom of developing mesothelioma in pets is vomiting and diarrhea. Another indicator of mesothelioma cancer is finding lumps or “hot spots”. These areas on your pet are extremely sensitive and hard. Fluid around the lungs (pulmonary effusion) is also a common symptom in both humans and dogs. Your pet may have a cough along with abdominal discomfort resulting in the inability to eat (weight loss). Sleep patterns may also be affected due to intense pain or breathing difficulties.
If your pet has these symptoms, the problem may be something minor, or it may indicate a disease such as mesothelioma cancer — especially if a member of your family has worked with asbestos and carried it into your home, your dog may have an asbestos related disease.
Dogs can be victims of second-hand asbestos exposure by inhaling asbestos brought in by their owners, or direct asbestos exposure where dogs drag asbestos dust into the home, on their fur or feet if they’ve been in a location where asbestos is present, such as an older building that is being demolished.
This illness usually occurs in older dogs about 8 years of age. However, cases have been reported in puppies as young as 7 weeks to much older dogs such as 15 years. It can affect any pet that’s been exposed to asbestos but tends to occur more often in dogs than in cats, in males more often than females, and more commonly in certain breeds — German Shepherds, Irish Setters, and Bouvier des Flandres. Life expectancy will be severely shortened, and quality of life will be compromised to a great degree.
Unfortunately, there is no cure at this time, for humans or for pets.
If your dog has breathing problems, wheezing, difficulty exercising, coughing, pain in his abdominal area, sleep problems, and an inability to eat, then it’s important to discuss with your veterinarian if someone in the family has been exposed to asbestos. Telling the veterinarian about asbestos exposure may result in fewer invasive tests for your dog, and less money spent on unnecessary diagnostic procedures.
If your veterinarian suspects your dog might have an asbestos related disease, he will probably order several tests. He may begin with an X-ray, which will show some abnormalities in your dog’s pleural area (the lining of the lungs) if he is affected by such a disease. If something suspicious appears on the X-ray, then your veterinarian will suggest a CT scan or ultrasound, along with a complete blood count, urinalysis and a biochemical profile.
The veterinarian may also try testing the fluid that has gathered around the dogs lungs. However, this does not always produce accurate results, so he will perform a biopsy, where a piece of the tissue from the pleural area is removed and sent to a pathologist for study. In humans, biopsies are the best way to diagnose asbestos related diseases.
If your dog is diagnosed with mesothelioma, the veterinarian may recommend a variety of courses of action. Unfortunately, euthanasia is often suggested, because your dog is bound to suffer greatly and treatment may be very costly. Whatever option you choose will be entirely up to you.
Surgery, as in human patients, is usually not an option, though the veterinarian may suggest a thoracentesis, to remove excess fluid from around the lungs — this can be performed as many times as necessary.
The more preferred method for treatment in dogs is with intracavitary chemotherapy — chemo drugs implanted directly into the tumor. Intracavitary cisplatin is currently recommended by most veterinary oncologists for dogs (cisplatin is fatal to cats), though some experts have indicated that treatment with mitoxantrone and doxorubicin has resulted in total remission — however, it is rare.
Many treatments performed are for palliative purposes, to keep the animal comfortable and ease the symptoms of the disease. The study of treatment of dogs with mesothelioma is limited because many dog owners choose to euthanize when they find out he has a fatal form of cancer.