Companion cats and dogs can develop mesothelioma like humans. Mesothelioma is a devastating asbestos-related illness; an aggressive and deadly type of cancer. For a cat to get it they would have to be exposed to asbestos fibers and therefore they would normally be indoor/outdoor cats although some homes have asbestos embedded in their construction materials.
It would seem quite unusual for a cat to become exposed to asbestos today but they might wander into an abandoned factory where there was once asbestos production or the building contains asbestos which is breaking free due to degredation. Or perhaps asbestos fibres are being brought into the home by the home owners. Or DIY has exposed asbestos. The fibres are small and lightweight.
A study was carried out in Italy in 2008. It concerned two dogs and a cat. They had been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. It’s a rare condition as can be seen by the small number of animals in the study. The researchers confirmed that companion animals can’t be cured of malignant mesothelioma. Surgery is not normally an option and therefore it seems that the only conclusion is death.
The asbestos.com website says that the most common way that companion animals are exposed to asbestos is in a second-hand manner when a person brings asbestos home on their clothes which is then inhaled by the cat or dog in the form of microscopic fibres. These fibres might be ingested by a cat when they groom themselves.
Another way a pet can be affected is because millions of older homes in the UK have asbestos in them in the form of insulation, fireproofing or drywall components. If you disturb these elements of the building in DIY projects you can release asbestos fibres which are then ingested by both people and their companion animals.
It is quite likely that abandoned buildings have asbestos in them as part of their construction as it was used extensively many years ago as an excellent fire retardant material.
People like to explore old buildings and photograph them. They do make good photographs. But this is a hazardous hobby because the airborne asbestos fibres can’t be seen with the naked eye but they might be there and they might be inhaled by the explorer. They may be at the beginning of the development of mesothelioma without realising it.
And they may bring back the fibres on their clothes which could harm their companion cat or dog. This appears to be perhaps the most common way that asbestos fibres can get into an ordinary home with a pet cat.
If this happened the person who exposed himself to asbestos fibers would be negligent. Also, it could be argued that the owners of the building were also negligent in not protecting it against incursions by exploring individuals. The local authority may also be involved in not enforcing any rules or laws which apply to making old buildings safe. However, people getting into old buildings is almost certainly trespass and it maybe illegal in other ways. This would be a barrier to successfully seeking compensation for any harm incurred by the said person’s cat.
Perhaps dogs are more likely to be affected than cats past because they are more likely to be outside in areas where the dust is present. Also it appears that dogs are more predisposed to developing mesothelioma. Certain breeds such as Irish setters and German shepherds are particularly at risk, apparently.
Symptoms of mesothelioma don’t show until the latter stages and they are similar to those that are present in humans. They include: respiratory distress, cough, difficulty exercising, abdominal discomfort, vomiting, muffled heart, sleeping problems, lethargy, enlarged scrotum, painful breathing and shortness of breath.
A veterinarian will detect the cancer through chest and abdominal x-rays together with a biopsy. Surgery and chemotherapy are the options but see above.
Some more thoughts on compensation: it would seem highly unlikely that a cat owner could successful seek compensation for the death of their cat due to mesothelioma. It might be difficult to prove although the disease is distinct and therefore the causation is simplified. I mean that if the vet diagnoses mesothelioma and you have found asbestos in a nearby building owned by a known business you might be successful.
There’ll be a lot of law on this. It would have to be due to third party negligence if it came from a building nearby which contains asbestos. It might be worth suing but it would require quite a lot of expense (far higher than the compensation if successful) but you might be able to sue the local authority for failing to keep the environment safe. I don’t think there has been a single case of a person suing either a commercial business or a public authority under these circumstances. That tells a story.