As if scorpions, red ants, mosquitoes, fleas and ticks weren't annoying enough, Arizona dog owners will need to be concerned about another bug that is making itself more and more at home in the desert southwest. The bug's scientific name is Triatoma, but it's more commonly known by its infamous nickname: the "kissing bug." With a cute name like that, you may envision a lovable critter like the lady bug or butterfly, but unfortunately, the Triatoma is a far cry from those cute-looking bugs. These bugs are blood thirsty pests that are capable of causing allergic reactions and transmitting a potentially deadly diseases known as "Chagas disease."
The Kissing Bug's Habitat
While this bug's preferred hosts are wild rodents, raccoons and possums, given the opportunity, this bug won't mind biting humans or man's best friend. Normally, you'll find them nearby the nests of pack rats or the burrows of other wild critters, but you may occasionally stumble on a specimen who, attracted by the lights, will make itself at home inside your residence. Once inside, this bug will likely hide during the day behind furniture, mattresses and closets, and just like a vampire, will come out at night ready to search for his next blood meal. Outdoors, this bug is attracted by piles of wood, sheds, barns, chicken coops and even Rover's dog house.
Risks to Dogs and People
As mentioned, kissing bugs are capable of transmitting dangerous Chagas disease to pets and people. The disease is transmitted when the kissing bug's infected feces are introduced inside the bite wound, a skin break or the dog's mucous membranes. Incubation, which is the time lapse between transmission and the onset of symptoms, ranges between 5 and 42 days according to Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. There is an acute, latent and chronic form of this disease, but there have been cases of dogs that were asymptomatic and then just dropped dead from sudden cardiac arrest. During the acute phase, the dog develops fever, loss of appetite,swollen lymph nodes and an enlarged spleen or liver. The latent phase may last several years during which the dog is asymptomatic. Finally, the chronic phase is characterized by serious heart problems leading to heart failure and arrhythmias which may trigger sudden death .
Protecting Yourself and Your Pet
So how concerned should you be about kissing bugs? According to America Now News, about 40 percent of kissing bugs in Tucson, Arizona carry the pathogen known for causing Chagas disease. While the chances for contracting this disease may seem low, it's imperative to protect your family and your dog because there is currently no cure for Chagas and the treatment is mainly supportive. Protect yourself and your dog by installing screens on windows and doors. Repair any gaps that may aid this bug in entering your premises. Remove rocks piles, wood and other debris around your home. Make your yard and home unattractive to rodents. Minimize the use of outdoor lights which attract bugs. Invest in play pens equipped with bug protecting nets. Last but not least, keep Rover indoors especially at night when the kissing bugs are most active.