A woman in Lockhart, Texas has reported finding several kissing bugs in her home since last spring. Health officials in Elgin, Texas have had 3 reported cases of kissing bugs. In total, 600 cases of kissing bugs in Texas have been confirmed since May by scientists at Texas A&M.
The bugs carry a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi which causes Chagas disease. The disease can affect both humans and dogs. Chagas disease is being seen in dogs more commonly in Texas today. Kissing bugs can also bite cats, but unfortunately there is not much information on Chagas disease in cats.
Also known as Mexican bed bugs, cone-nose bugs, and assassin bugs, the kissing bug is native to Central and South America. For the past century, they have made their way up north into Texas. Kissing bugs get their name because they typically bite humans on the face and around the mouth. They come out to feed on blood at night.
The parasite that causes Chagas disease lives inside white blood cells and muscle tissue of its host - particularly the heart muscle. According to Kerrville Veterinary Clinic, signs and symptoms of Chagas disease in dogs will look similar to typical heart disease in dogs. Many times, the disease goes unnoticed causing sudden collapse or even death in the infected dog.
If Chagas disease can be diagnosed early on, chances of survival for the patient are better. There are some anti-parasitic medications that can be used to treat Chagas disease. If a dog recovers from the infection, they may require additional medications for their heart if any permanent damage is seen.
The kissing bug passes the parasite on to dogs by biting them and then getting feces in the bite wound. Additionally, a dog may get Chagas disease by eating an infected kissing bug.
In order to prevent Chagas disease in your dog, it is best to limit their possible exposure to kissing bugs. If you are aware that there are kissing bugs in your area, do not let your dog sleep outdoors at night.
Remove piles of hay or wood chips from your property as these are places kissing bugs like to call home.
If you have seen kissing bugs in your home or on your property, contact an exterminator to talk about your options in removing the bugs.
Additionally, you can report your kissing bug sitings and send samples to the researchers at Texas A&M. They are currently researching these bugs to learn more about them.
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