Moving to a new area brings with it a period of adjustment to new issues, and if you’ve just moved to the El Paso region, Chagas disease is something you’re going to have to learn about quickly.
While Chagas is not very common, it is becoming more common in the area, and both humans and dogs can develop the disease. Cats aren’t risk-free either. Common-sense precautions will go a long way toward reducing your chances of having Chagas appear in your home.
Chagas Disease: Everything You Need To Know
The El Paso region is home to a bug commonly called the kissing bug or the assassin bug. This is a small bug that tends to bite near the eyes and lips. When it bites, it leaves behind feces that contain a protozoan called Trypanosoma cruzi, which can infect humans and dogs. Cats are often carriers of the disease, but they too can occasionally develop it. Chagas often appears in two stages; first is a short-term reaction that often fades but resurfaces years later in the form of heart problems. The good news is that the kissing bug is easy to control.
If Chagas infection is present in a dog, the dog will often show signs of lethargy, enlarged internal organs, and fever. Rarely, the initial, acute stage leads to death. Barring that, though, the initial symptoms can resolve on their own, though if you notice your dog exhibiting these symptoms, call your vet.
Chagas can then take on a chronic form. Many animals don’t show symptoms after the initial bout, but some do. You may see that your pet seems weaker or has an increased heart rate. The dog could develop a cough, too. Eventually, heart failure can become a major issue.
Preventing Chagas Infection
Because the kissing bug is relatively small, a bite can happen without you realizing it. It’s best to approach this proactively.
Keep your home clean, both inside and out. Don’t leave piles of papers lying around, and clean up leaf debris outside. The fewer places the bug can hide in, the better. Your pets should stay indoors at night, and don’t let them hang around wild animals like opossums and raccoons. Even though animals like opossums and cats are natural allies, opossums can be carriers, so one bug biting the opossum and then the cat could increase the risk of transmission.
Also, have good pest control measures in place. For example, have a pest control company come by on a regular schedule to do preventative spraying and inspection.
Chagas disease is not something you want your pets to develop, but keep in mind that many people in the El Paso area have healthy, happy dogs and cats that aren’t ill. If you have additional questions about Chagas, or if you think your dog is displaying symptoms of Chagas, contact East El Paso Animal Hospital for more information and treatment.