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Chagas disease is caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which is spread to dogs through insects in the Reduviidae family, also commonly known as cone-nose or kissing bugs.

Chagas disease is spread by the bite of certain insects, including the Mexican Kissing Beetle and other related insects. These beetles lay in the bedding of dogs and other animals, feeding on the animals’ blood as they sleep.

Dogs become most commonly become infected by eating the feces of infected insects. As they feed, these insects often defecate on or near the wound; dogs ingest the feces when licking their wounds. Dogs can also become infected by eating infected insects or eating rodents that are infected with the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite.

Causes of Chagas Disease in Dogs

  • Consumption or contact with feces of triatominae
  • Contact with fluids of infected animal
  • Contact with feces of infected animal

Symptoms of Chagas Disease in Dogs

The development of Chagas disease in dogs is similar to the development of Chagas disease in humans. Some dogs may not develop any clinical symptoms until entering a chronic phase of the disease, which may be several years after initial infection. The clinical signs in dogs during the acute phase are:

  • fever,
  • anorexia,
  • lethargy,
  • swollen lymph nodes,
  • an enlarged liver, or
  • enlarged spleen.

Treatment of Chagas Disease in Dogs

Chagas Disease has no known cure, and because it can be transmitted easily to humans, dogs and cats who contract the parasite commonly are euthanized. However, some drugs have shown promise when administered in the acute stage of the disease. Benznidazole has been shown to help control the development and progression of the disease, but total suppression has yet to be accomplished.

More common is the treatment of the conditions caused by the disease, such as heart arrhythmias and other complications


Vector control is an important part of managing disease transmission. Kissing bug habitats include wooded areas, brush piles, nests, and porches.1 The insects are most active at night, are attracted to lights, and can invade homes and kennels.

Vector control can include turning off outdoor lights, cleaning up brush and woodpiles that serve as breeding areas for insects. Housing animals inside, and using insecticides. Kissing bug control can be difficult in kennels, particularly in recently developed areas where kennels are surrounded by natural habitats with associated wildlife.

Improving public awareness for dog owners and medical professionals is an important step in infection prevention, vector control, and identification of infected animals. Because of its zoonotic potential, it is important for personnel handling blood and tissue of infected animals to take appropriate safety precautions.


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