No Vaccine, Little Treatment, and Potentially Deadly

Scientists at the University of Texas A&M have been studying a bug that is particularly harmful to dogs. If this bug enters a dog, it could be fatal. As of now, there is no vaccine nor are there many treatments once infected.

The Bug:

Known as the kissing bug, this particular insect is one to watch out for especially if you are a dog owner. The kissing bug lives off blood and can feed on people, dogs, and wild animals. However, this is not what makes the kissing bug dangerous. The feeding on a dog will cause no pain and they cannot harm your animal through the transfer of blood.

How Things Get Fatal

Kissing bugs carry a parasite known as Trypanosoma cruzi; this parasite causes Chagas disease this is the culprit and what can make your dog very sick, or worse. The scientists at Texas A&M have found that about 50% of kissing bugs are infected with the Chagas parasite.

How Chagas is Transmitted

The parasite is transferred through the kissing bug's feces. However, if a dog eats the bug it can also be contracted that way. We know how curious dogs are about bugs and insects, so there is a pretty good chance your dog will want to eat the bug.

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Symptoms of Chagas Disease

In dogs, the Chagas parasite can cause heart disease. other symptoms in dogs are

  • heart problems
  • stomach issues
  • sudden death

Many dogs are asymptomatic. The degree of sickness a dog can get depends on its stress level, activity level, and age.

Kennels and Kissing Bugs

Kissing bugs can land in dog kennels because they are attracted to the heat generated inside the kennel. They also gravitate towards areas with lots of dogs. What makes kennels particularly risky is, once, inside the kennel, dogs may spot the bug and try to eat it.

How To Keep Kissing Bugs Away

There is no foolproof way to keep kissing bugs completely away. However, the team of Texas A&M scientists has put together a few ways you can adjust your environment to make it less appealing to these toxic and potentially deadly bugs. 

  • Reduce the chances of kissing bugs from sneaking into your home. 
    • Fill in any gaps around doors and baseboards, and mend any holes in window screens. Keep doors and windows closed if no screen is present.
  • Make sure the exterior of your home is clean.
    • Reduce the chances f wild animals hanging around. Clear out nests, bunches of brush or branches, and make sure trash is not left out. Kissing bugs feed on wild animals, and those same wild animals can carry the parasite that could be passed on to your family or furry friend.
  • Turn off your outside lights at night, if safe. 
    • Like moths and mosquitoes, kissing bugs can be attracted to lights. If porch lights are on, kissing bugs might feel inclined to fly towards it and then crawl into a house. 
  • Work with a pest control company to discuss integrated pest management (IPM) strategies. 
  •  Information about pesticide options can be found in Texas A&M's extension entomologist post HERE.

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