The “kissing bug” might sound like a charming insect, but it really isn’t. Not only do these bugs enjoy sucking blood from people and animals, but they can play host to the microscopic parasite that causes Chagas disease. Some people who contract the illness suffer damage to internal organs, including the heart. Chagas can be found all the way from Argentina to Mexico but sometimes it crops up further north.
It isn’t just people who can come down with the disease: at least 400 dogs have died from Chagas in Texas alone and those are just the cases we know about.
The video we’ve posted below is a report from the local TV news in north Texas. As Cora Fortin of Collin County described it, her dog Kiska “just fell over.” She rushed the 3 year-old pooch to the nearest emergency animal hospital. Three blood tests later, it was determined that Kiska had contracted Chagas disease. This was the first time the vet had encountered a case. Poor Kiska’s heart was giving out but fortunately, they successfully implanted a pacemaker. Her prognosis is unclear: Kiska could live another ten days or another ten years. She and her mom plan to savor every remaining day and we hope there are many. Meanwhile, Fortin worries that the disease is so unusual and little-known that other dogs who have it are being misdiagnosed and not given the right sort of care.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for Chagas disease, so prevention is key. There are two very important pieces of advice. First, don’t let your dog eat insects. The second, less obvious, is don’t let your dog drink standing water; kissing bugs may have left feces in it thereby introducing the parasite. While Chagas can infect people, it can’t be passed between dogs and humans.
Surprised or alarmed that this tropical disease has made it to Texas? We’d love to hear from you in the Facebook comments. Be sure to like and share so your friends can become aware of this threat to our pets’ well-being.