American Trypanosomiasis Parasitic Infection in Dogs
Chagas disease is an illness caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which may infect dogs in several ways, including through blood exposure to the feces of “kissing bugs,” the ingestion of infected kissing-bugs, kissing-bug feces or prey (e.g., rodents), or congenitally from a mother to her offspring.
Once the parasites enter the cells in a dog’s body (often the heart muscle), they multiply and eventually rupture the infected cells. This is why Chagas disease is commonly associated with heart disease in dogs.
Chagas disease is endemic in South and Central America, but it is also found in the United States, typically in in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia. But the disease’s range is expanding as our climate warms.
Symptoms and Types of Chagas Disease
Two forms of Chagas disease are observed in dogs: acute and chronic. Some dogs experience an extended asymptomatic period between the two forms, which can last for months to years.
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Enlarged liver or spleen
- Neurologic abnormalities (e.g., seizures)
- Sudden death
These symptoms may not be noticed by owners because they often resolve without treatment.
- Exercise intolerance
- Increased heart rate (tachycardia)
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Fluid accumulation throughout the body
Causes of Chagas Disease
Although Chagas disease can only be acquired through an infection with the T. cruzi parasite, there are a variety of ways a dog may come in contact with the organism. Illness may occur when a vector—a kissing bug (Triatominae)—bites the dog on the skin or on a mucous membrane (such as the lips) and leaves infected feces in the wound. It can also occur when a dog eats an infected prey animal (e.g., rodent) or ingests the feces from a kissing bug. The parasite can also be passed from a mother to her offspring.
The study of serum and the way it reacts to certain antigens
The prediction of a disease’s outcome in advance
A medical condition in which the patient has an abnormally fast heartbeat
An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness
A carrier of a disease; helps to move a disease from one animal to the next.
The term for an animal’s young
Small structures that filter out the lymph and store lymphocytes
A record of the activity of the myocardium
Term used to refer to a condition of having a disease or affliction but not displaying symptoms of it.
The presence of a disease within a given area
Inducing death on an animal or putting them to sleep
Term used to imply that a situation or condition is more severe than usual; also used to refer to a disease having run a short course or come on suddenly.
A special type of tissue that exudes mucus