Chagas Disease – A bug that can give your dog the kiss of death

My name is Senorito Beauregard. I am a rescued dog living in Yucatan Mexico, and today I want to tell you about kissing bugs. They sound like fun, but they are not and they are a big danger to dogs. You definitely do not want your dog to be kissed by one of these.

You may have heard of Chagas disease. It is a parasitic infection that can cause some serious health problems for humans, but did you know that it affects dogs also?

Dog looking at Kissing bug in jar

What is Chagas disease?

Chagas disease is caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi, also known as American trypanosomiasis. Once the parasite enters a dog’s bloodstream, it can cause a range of health problems.

It is transmitted by blood-sucking insects such as kissing bugs (Triatoma dimidiate), known here in Yucatan, as ‘pic’. As a dog, I find it weird that humans give such cute names to such terrible creatures.  

Although there are tons of them here in Yucatan, they can be found in other places with warm climates such as the southern USA, Mexico, Central, and South America.

Do not be fooled. These bugs are biters, not lovers. No kissing is involved, and we do not even catch the parasites they carry when they bite us. Sorry to tell you, but it is even more disgusting than that. We catch Chagas disease because we eat the poop they leave behind. Do not give your dog side eye right now because humans get it the same way. The nasty little bugs leave feces on our faces, and it can find its way into our mouths when we lick or groom ourselves. Dogs can also catch it by eating an infected rodent. Most humans do not catch it that way. But there is always one.

Chagas disease can also be passed through blood transfusions from one dog to another and from mother to pups, through milk, during feeding.

Symptoms of Chagas disease in dogs

When you live with a dog in an area where Chagas disease is common, such as Yucatan, it is essential to always be on the look out for even the mildest of symptoms. Chagas disease in dogs usually comes in three stages.

In the acute stage, which typically lasts for a few weeks or months, dogs may have a fever, seem tired or lethargic, have pale gums, swollen lymph nodes, or diarrhea. The parasite can invade the heart, liver, and spleen, causing inflammation and damage to these organs. In some cases, the disease may be mild or even asymptomatic, meaning that there are no obvious signs of illness. In rare cases, the dog may die suddenly. Most move on to the next stage.

In the second stage, Chagas disease becomes latent for one to four months. Usually, dogs have no symptoms during this stage. While there is again, a small risk of sudden death, most dogs move into the chronic phase of the disease.

The third, chronic stage of Chagas disease can last for years or even decades. During this period, Chagas disease can become severe and can be life-threatening, leading to sudden death. Dogs may experience heart problems, including arrhythmias, shortness of breath, and heart failure. The parasite can also cause damage to the digestive system, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. Dogs with chronic Chagas disease may also develop neurological symptoms, such as seizures or difficulty walking.

Not all dogs infected with Chagas disease will progress to the chronic or severe stages, and some may not show any symptoms at all. However, it is crucial to seek veterinary care if you suspect that your dog has been exposed to the parasite, as early treatment can help prevent the disease from progressing and causing more severe damage to the body.

Chagas disease treatments for dogs

There is no cure for Chagas disease, but there are treatments available that can help manage the symptoms and improve your dog’s quality of life. The most common treatment is medication to kill the parasites in the bloodstream. In some cases, dogs may also need additional medications to manage other symptoms, such as heart failure.

Treatment for Chagas disease can be expensive and may need to be continued for the rest of your dog’s life. However, with proper treatment and management, many dogs are able to live happy and healthy lives despite their diagnosis. I really do not want this disease.

The prognosis for dogs with Chagas disease can vary depending on the severity of the infection and how quickly it’s diagnosed and treated. In some cases, dogs may be able to make a full recovery with proper treatment. However, in other cases, the disease may progress to the point where it’s not treatable and can ultimately be fatal.

Preventing Chagas disease in dogs

Dog with Kissing Bug on head

Kissing bugs, the insects that spread Chagas disease, are most active at night and are attracted to lights and carbon dioxide. This means they can often be found near homes and outdoor lighting. They tend to hide in dark, sheltered areas during the day, such as under rocks, in woodpiles, or in the crevices of walls and foundations. They especially love hiding in and under our dog beds and in human bedding too.

Here are some suggestions to help keep your dog safe from Chagas disease carrying kissing bugs:

  • Seal up cracks or gaps in your home’s walls, under doors, around windows, and check the roof too.
  • Install screens on windows and doors to keep insects out.
  • Keep outdoor lighting to a minimum, as this attracts insects.
  • Remove any woodpiles, rocks, or other potential hiding spots from around your home.
  • Use insecticides or bug repellents but be sure to choose products that are safe for dogs and follow all instructions carefully. You may wish to employ a specialist if you suspect you may have kissing bugs around your home.
  • Keep your dog indoors at night to reduce their risk of exposure to kissing bugs.
  • If you live in an area where Chagas disease is common, it is important to have your dog tested for the disease on a regular basis. This can help catch the disease early on and improve the chances of successful treatment.


Chagas disease is a serious health issue for dogs that can be caused by a parasitic infection spread by blood-sucking insects. While there is no cure for the disease, there are treatments available that can help manage the symptoms and improve your dog’s quality of life. If you notice any symptoms of Chagas disease in your dog, it’s important to take them to the vet right away. And remember, the best way to protect us dogs is to take preventative measures to reduce their risk of exposure.

Take it from me. I am a dog who loves to kiss stranger, but you will not find me kissing any bugs.

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