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Meet some of our patients!
Each one’s story is unique. But they all have been successfully treated for Chagas disease.
read their stories
Chagas disease is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi.. It infects more than 4 million dogs in the U.S., with approximately 650,000 in Texas alone. T. cruzi is spread by triatomine bugs, also known as kissing bugs. Dogs living outdoors are especially vulnerable to the bugs and also can be exposed to T. cruzi through contact with blood or by consuming infected wildlife. The T. cruzi parasite is found in mammals—including raccoons, coyotes, gray foxes, bobcats, feral hogs, bats, cats, rabbits, opossums, armadillos, and rodents.
T. cruzi lifecycle
A kissing bug carrying T. cruzi bites a dog for a blood meal. The parasite enters the bloodstream and is carried to heart tissue where it replicates.
Triatomine insects, also known as “kissing bugs,”
carry Chagas. More than 60% of insects are infected with T. cruzi. Animal reservoirs include dogs, opossums, raccoons, cats, and other mammals.
How Dogs Get Chagas
- Being bitten by an infected kissing bug
- Eating infected kissing bugs or infected prey animals
- Passed from mother to pups
Chagas Disease: US Prevalence
T. cruzi has long been endemic to the southern U.S. Only recently have veterinarians and researchers across the country become aware of T. cruzi, infected vectors, and infected animals. Chagas disease is prevalent in 30 U.S. states, putting at least 34.9 million dogs at high risk of infection.
Chagas disease is more prevalent than heartworm, tick-borne diseases, and intestinal parasites. In the U.S. alone, an average of 12.7% of dogs are infected with Chagas, compared to:
||1.15% (2022 entire US. prevalence)
||1.55% (2022 entire US. prevalence)
||3.74% (2022 entire US. prevalence)
||4.08% (2022 Texas prevalence)
||0.43% (2022 Texas prevalence)
||4.95% (2022 Texas prevalence)
What should I look for?
Chagas disease causes severe heart failure in dogs.
It has an acute phase and a chronic phase, characterized by inflammation and fibrosis of the heart. This results in arrhythmias, myocardial dysfunction, and heart failure. Death can occur at any stage of the disease. Dogs less than a year old tend to develop serious, sudden cases of heart failure, while older dogs will develop heart disease if they do not die suddenly.
- Depression or lethargy
- Lack of appetite
- Weakness or difficulty walking
- Increased heart rate
- Swollen lymph nodes, liver, or spleen
Currently, there is no USDA-approved diagnostic test to identify Chagas disease in animals. We are the first to develop an easy-to-use Chagas diagnostic test that will be USDA-approved. Today, a veterinarian will perform a complete blood profile, urinalysis, serology, and electrolyte panel to identify possible parasite infection. The examination might also include an echocardiogram, ultrasound, or radiograph to look for signs of heart and pulmonary disease.
If you live in an area that is not prone to kissing bugs, your veterinarian might not be familiar with Chagas disease in dogs. If you have reason to suspect exposure to kissing bugs or Chagas-infected wildlife, be sure to provide details of the possible exposure.
Vida Pharmacal is developing a treatment for Chagas disease in dogs and cats. The therapeutic has been tested exensively in dogs, cats, non-human primates, and marine mammals. Drug development is moving forward rapidly and will be submitted for review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for veterinary use.
Testing Every Rescue
Testing Every Rescue In 2007, a rescue dog, Max, presented us with our first case of Chagas disease. Although Max succumbed to the disease, his death launched us on the journey to find a cure. Thirteen years later, the tables are turning. Tracy’s Paws Rescue is the first (that we know of) rescue organization to test incoming dogs for Chagas disease. Located in Hondo, Texas, Tracy’s Paws rescues dogs with pending euthanasia dates from shelters[...]
Summer, Storm, and Aspen
Summer’s litter of puppies had been planned for three years. Lori, her owner and breeder, reviewed five years of OFA testing data on potential studs, had complete health workups for all of her own dogs, and did everything with scrupulous attention to detail. Seven strong healthy pups were born on Easter Sunday, 2017: Storm (right in photo), Rain, Cassie, Rhythm, Cairo, Zoe, and Aspen. Everything was great until three months later, when puppies began falling mysteriously ill.
A “hoosier” as his owners affectionately call him, Remy was born in Indiana and came to live with his owners in Louisville, KY. After several moves, they retired to Canyon Lake, TX and settled in happily. After several months, Ann noticed that Remy had begun panting constantly. He was having difficulty keeping his normal pace on walks. When Ann took him to their vet, Dr. Madigan, they tested for several possible conditions, including Chagas.
Doing the dinner dance
Alsace and her younger sister Harlan love dinner. Turn down food? Unthinkable. Every evening the two dogs wag, wiggle, and throw in a few shimmies while Janelle and Kent prepare their bowls. Then it’s a sashay and race to the back yard for the grand finale. In late 2016, the dinner dance was in full swing when suddenly, Alsace collapsed to the ground.