Known as “the kissing bug”, it sounds like an insect that looks beautiful and is pretty safe to be around like butterflies or caterpillars. But its other name “the assassin bug” better describes that this parasite spreads a disease called Chagas Disease that affects both pets and people.

Chagas Disease is pretty common in Central and South America, and since global warming starts to have a bigger impact on the planet, the range of this disease is spreading. Now it can be found in Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia and South Carolina.

About 300,000 people in the USA get infected by this disease and most of them catch the disease out of the USA. Dogs are especially vulnerable to the bites of this bug, with 8.8% infected in the US, and 18%-22% in Mexico. Dogs can be infected with this disease in a couple of ways and the most common is having a contact with the feces of infected bug. It can also be caught by ingesting an infected bug or it can be passed on from the mother to the offspring.

Chagas Disease is usually associated with heart diseases in dogs. Unfortunately, in a number of cases, the disease is not detected until later stages, when the severity of the symptoms increases.

Symptoms in dogs

Chagas Disease has acute and chronic phase. The acute phase lasts from a few weeks to a few months. After this acute phase, the infected dogs enter into the chronic phase. If it’s left untreated, the disease remains in their body for their whole lifetime.

Symptoms of Acute Phase include fever, lethargy, anorexia, lymph node disease, enlarged spleen, enlarged liver, abnormal heart rhythm. Symptoms of Chronic Phase include: enlarged heart, congestive heart failure or abnormal heart rhythm.

If you suspect that your pet may have Chagas disease, it’s important to immediately visit the veterinarian. The sooner – the better! Bug bites are a big concern for pet owners. Bug bites can cause pain and discomfort for the dog, but also spread various diseases. Being able to recognize a bug bite and know how to treat it is very important for every pet owner.

Other common bug bites you should know

  • Fleas

Fleas are insects that feed on the blood of their hosts. Fleas make home on the skin of the pet and feed on their blood, causing hair loss, itching, irritated skin and scabs. Not only they drive the dog crazy but they may start living in your carpet, bed, and between the cracks of your floors. You can administrate medication to eliminate fleas. You can also administrate preventative medication during spring and summer.

  • Ticks

Ticks are very similar to fleas and they feed on the blood of the host. Ticks don’t jump or fly and usually wait for their victim in long grass. They move from host to hose and this way they spread diseases to more and more animals. You can take prescription tick medication and administer it during spring and summer.

  • Mange and mites

Mites are small 8-legged parasites that feed on organic matter. Mange is the infestation of your dog’s skin by the mites. There are 2 kinds of mange mites that affect dogs: sarcoptic mange that can transmit from dog to its owner and demodectic mange that rarely spreads to other dogs or humans. Treatment for mite infestations is usually an anti-parasitic wash, that can be bought from a vet clinic.