Signs a Pet Has Asbestos Exposure

By Peter DePaolis

Most people are aware of the serious and fatal risks of exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is a carcinogen for humans. Physicians have linked asbestos exposure to terminal illnesses such as mesothelioma – a type of cancer that takes an estimated 3,060 lives each year. No known cure for cancers and illnesses connected to asbestos exists. Not as many people realize that like humans, animals are also at risk of asbestos exposure. Recognizing the signs of this issue could help you get your pet the care it needs. If you’re seeking guidance, our personal injury attorney team can help.

When to Look for Signs

Signs and symptoms of asbestos exposure can appear more rapidly in animals than humans. Dogs are the most susceptible to asbestos-related illnesses. Dogs can show signs anywhere from 1 to 10 years after exposure. Humans, on the other hand, can show signs from 10 to 40 years after exposure. Asbestos affects pets the same way it does humans. The microscopic particles travel through the body and attach to the thin membranes lining the organs. They stay there and irritate the skin, forming scar tissue until enough irritation exists to result in noticeable symptoms.

Difficulty Breathing

Labored or rapid breathing could be signs of pleural mesothelioma or asbestos-related cancer in the lungs. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of this deadly cancer, accounting for almost 75% of cases. This is an aggressive cancer that can be difficult to diagnose until its later stages in pets. Other signs of pleural mesothelioma could include chronic coughing, difficulty eating, unusual sounds in the chest or signs the pet is in pain.

A pet may breathe in asbestos particles if it sniffs building materials that contain particles. Having pets in the house during a remodel, for example, could lead to asbestos exposure. Environmental exposure from particles in the home could also lead to related illnesses. If the asbestos particles have built up enough scar tissue in your pet’s lungs to narrow air passageways, a pet may start to huff, wheeze or experience shortness of breath. If you notice any trouble breathing, take your pet in for an examination of the lungs.

Abdominal Swelling or Discomfort

Another type of mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, affects the gastrointestinal system rather than the respiratory system. This could lead to signs of exposure in pets that involve the stomach, such as a swollen stomach, stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and weight loss. Tumors can press on the stomach lining and the esophagus to cause trouble eating and digesting food in a pet. Immediate vomiting, trouble swallowing or sounds coming from the abdomen could also be signs of asbestos exposure and peritoneal mesothelioma.


Check your pet for lumps, called hotspots, that may come from asbestos exposure. Hard lumps on the skin that appear to hurt your pet when touched could indicate the presence of mesothelioma. Hotspots are extremely sensitive and may become noticeable with petting. While a lump on your pet’s skin could just be a benign fatty tumor, if it changes in appearance or becomes more sensitive, it could be a sign of something more. If combined with difficulty breathing or stomach pains, see a veterinarian about potential asbestos exposure in your pet.

Enlarged Testicles

The third type of mesothelioma is the least common, but can still occur in pets. It is testicular mesothelioma, where cancer forms on the lining surrounding the testes. If you notice enlarged testicles or scrotum, it could be inflammation from testicular mesothelioma. In humans, about 50% of patients survive five years after this particular diagnosis. Testicular mesothelioma in your pet does not have a cure, but your pet’s unique prognosis will depend on the situation. If you notice any potential signs of asbestos exposure in your pet, see a veterinarian to discuss the possibility of mesothelioma right away.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.