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Monday, February 29, 2016

What Is Chagas Disease In Dogs?

By:  Laurie Brzostowski

Well, this particular article caught my eye due to all the news reports these days on the "kissing bug" which seems to be causing problems in the some of the midwest states and most of the southern states.

One of the complications of the "kissing bug" is Chagas Disease so I thought I would do some research on this to find out what it is, etc.

According to the CDC this "kissing bug" is found in all the states shown in the map above. 

So what is Chagas Disease?
Chagas disease is an illness caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which may infect dogs in several ways, including through blood exposure to the feces of “kissing bugs,” the ingestion of infected kissing-bugs, kissing-bug feces or prey (e.g., rodents), or congenitally from a mother to her offspring.

Once the parasites enter the cells in a dog’s body (often the heart muscle), they multiply and eventually rupture the infected cells. This is why Chagas disease is commonly associated with heart disease in dogs.

Chagas disease is endemic in South and Central America, but it is also found in the United States, typically in in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia. But the disease’s range is expanding as our climate warms.

Symptoms and Types of Chagas Disease

Two forms of Chagas disease are observed in dogs: acute and chronic. Some dogs experience an extended asymptomatic period between the two forms, which can last for months to years.

Acute Symptoms      
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Enlarged liver or spleen
  • Neurologic abnormalities (e.g., seizures)
  • Sudden death

These symptoms may not be noticed by owners because they often resolve without treatment.

Chronic Symptoms
  • Weakness
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Increased heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Fluid accumulation throughout the body
  • Coughing
  • Death         

Causes of Chagas Disease
Although Chagas disease can only be acquired through an infection with the T. cruzi parasite, there
are a variety of ways a dog may come in contact with the organism. Illness may occur when a vectora kissing bug (Triatominae)—bites the dog on the skin or on a mucous membrane (such as the lips) and leaves infected feces in the wound. It can also occur when a dog eats an infected prey animal (e.g., rodent) or ingests the feces from a kissing bug. The parasite can also be passed from a mother to her offspring.

Treatment for Chagas Disease
Although several drugs have resulted in somewhat limited improvement in dogs during the acute stage, none produce a clinical “cure.” Unfortunately, even those dogs that get treatment may progress to the chronic form of the disease. In these cases, supportive treatment of heart complications is of primary importance.

Living and Management
Dogs with Chagas disease and the heart disease that results have a guarded to poor prognosis. Dogs are not thought to directly pass Chagas disease to people, so euthanasia solely for this reason is not necessary.

Now that we know what it is and how it is "spread" let's try and keep an eye on our dogs when outside and keep them all healthy !

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