What should I look for?
Chagas primarily causes severe heart failure or arrhythmia in dogs, because the parasite invades heart muscle tissue. 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
Your veterinarian will likely 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. Testing—an Indirect Immunofluorescence Assay (IFA) test—is used to analyze your pet’s blood for antibodies against the parasite. Vets use this highly sensitive screening tool to identify dogs with Chagas disease.
If you live in an area that is not prone to kissing bugs, your veterinarian might not be familiar with Chagas 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.
To minimize the risk of your dog’s exposure to kissing bugs and Chagas:
- Keep dogs inside areas that are free from kissing bugs, such as the house or a garage, at night
- If possible, make sure yard lights are not close to the house, because lights can attract the bugs
- Remove wood, brush, and rock piles near your house
- Seal cracks and gaps around windows, walls, roofs, and doors, and use screens on doors and windows of house, garage, or kennels
- Keep house and outdoor pet resting areas clean
- Routinely check areas for kissing bugs
- Spray kennels and other pet areas with pet-friendly insecticides
Vida Pharmacal is developing the first antiparasiticide that has been tested to treat Chagas in dogs. The drug is given daily, taken orally for 12 months. During treatment, the vet monitors the parasite through blood tests.