San Antonio Humane Society warns of increasing Chagas disease cases

The San Antonio Humane Society is warning pet owners and veterinarians about increasing instances of Chagas disease after having observed three cases in local dogs over the past nine months. 

Chagas disease (also called Trypanosoma Cruzi) is spread by the Triatomine Bug, often referred to as the Kissing Bug. The disease can cause serious symptoms in animals and humans including fatal heart failure.

Dogs typically contract the disease by eating Triatomine Bugs or ingesting the feces of other animals that have eaten the bugs, although it can also be spread if the bugs bite the dog and subsequently defecate in the wound.

Common symptoms of Chagas disease

According to the humane society, there are several symptoms that can potentially indicate Chagas disease in dogs:

  • No appetite
  • Lethargic
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Weak
  • Confused
  • Lack of coordination

Typical habitats of Kissing Bugs

Chagas disease is mainly found in Mexico, Central America, and South America, as well as many southern states in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Kissing Bugs typically infest outdoors areas including:

  • Beneath porches
  • Between rocky structures
  • Under cement
  • In rock, wood, brush piles, or beneath bark
  • In rodent nests or animal burrows
  • In outdoor dog houses or kennels
  • In chicken coops or houses

Tips to prevent exposure to Chagas disease

The humane society's shelter issued a list of tips to prevent dogs from being exposed to Chagas disease, such as:

  • Allow pets to sleep indoors at night because kissing bugs are nocturnal
  • Keep outdoor dog houses off the ground
  • Clear excess brush and shrubbery from the property
  • Contact a pesticide expert if you observe a kissing bug

Photo credit: CDC/Donated By the World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland