Veterinarians warn of Chagas disease in your dog

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - Whether your pup stays outside or inside, all dogs are at risk for Chagas disease, a potentially fatal disease that affects the heart and other organ systems.

Dr. Sarah Hamer is a veterinarian with the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. She says this is an issue for Texans, especially in summer months--and 'kissing bugs' are the culprits.

“Kissing bugs are blood-sucking insects that often hang out in or around places where sources of blood are readily available, such as dog kennels, woodrat nests, and, unfortunately, sometimes in human dwellings,” said Hamer. “The parasite is transmitted to dogs when they are exposed to the feces of the bug or when they eat the bugs."

Hamer explains that's how Chagas disease makes its way into your pet's bloodstream. She says some can live unaffected with the disease, while some will develop chronic heart and organ conditions. Maybe will die.

"About 60 percent of kissing bugs across Texas are infected with the parasite," said Hamer.

While humans can also become infected with Chagas disease, Hamer says it is unlikely that there would be a direct infection from a pet to a human. However, that's why it's important not to touch an insect you think might be a kissing bug.

For the full conversation with Hamer, see the video player above. For more images and information on kissing bugs and Chagas disease, see the Related Links.