Most people know the dangers of the banned material asbestos, which can cause cancer known as mesothelioma. But few realise that their pets may be at risk of contracting the same disease. It mainly affects cats and dogs, and although it is very rare, the disease is fatal. It is far better to prevent an animal from coming into contact with asbestos in the first place.
Second-hand infection If you work with asbestos, you are at risk of microscopic fibres being present on your skin or clothes. You could then bring these fibres into your home, which are then inhaled by your pet, or ingested through licking or grooming. You should not bring your work clothes home if you have been working with asbestos.
Exposure outdoors Some dogs come into contact with asbestos by running loose on construction sites or areas where asbestos has been discarded. Fly tipping can be a particular problem - in 2015 a Labrador contracted mesothelioma, apparently simply by sniffing around woodland. You can prevent this by keeping animals away from any area you know to be contaminated, and keeping a close eye on what your animal is doing when out for walks, particularly if it is off the lead.
Exposure in the home Although now banned, asbestos was a very popular building material up until the nineties, used everywhere from roofing to carpet tiles, window putty to fencing. One particular cause for concern is that some old dog kennels contain the material, so if your dog's house is a few decades old, you might want to invest in a replacement! If you suspect there is asbestos in your home, you should contact a licensed asbestos assessor, for the sake of your family's health as well as your pet's.
The symptoms of mesothelioma in animals can easily be mistaken for other conditions. Breathing problems, such as coughing or panting, can be an indication, as can sleep problems, vomiting and a change in behaviour, particularly concerning exercise. You should take your pet to the vet as soon as you suspect there is a problem, and should always mention asbestos if you think your pet may have been exposed.
Fortunately though, this disease is quite rare and easily preventable with a few common sense precautions. By being asbestos aware, you can ensure that your loved ones stay safe - whether they have four legs or two.
Contact an asbestos reporting service for more information and assistance.