As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with our dogs — heartworms, ticks, fleas — now they are at risk from “kissing bugs.”
The blood-sucking insects, found primarily in the southern United States and into Mexico, Central America and South America, seek out animals on which they can feed, including dogs, birds, reptiles and, yes, humans.
Dogs can become infected with what’s known as Chagas disease when they are exposed to the bugs’ feces or when they eat the bugs.
The potentially fatal disease affects the heart and other organs. According to Sarah Hamer, DVM, at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, approximately 60 percent of kissing bugs in Texas are infected with the disease-causing parasite.
To help prevent infection, keep dogs indoors at night, seal cracks and gaps around doors and windows, and keep pet areas clean and bug-free.
Read more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.