"What is Chagas Disease in Dogs - Is it a UK Problem?

"What is Chagas Disease in Dogs - Is it a UK Problem?

Health & Safety

There are some very nasty diseases around that affect our lovely canine friends with some lesser known ones being a real concern. One of these is Chagas disease and for anyone living on the other side of the Atlantic in America, Mexico, Central and South America, it can be a very real problem where not only dogs but people can be infected by the condition too.

The cause of this nasty disease is a protozoal parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi and it can attack both humans and dogs. These parasites are often referred to as kissing bugs"" but unlike many other vector-borne diseases it is not the bite that transmits the disease but the poop the parasite leaves behind that does the damage. When a dog scratches themselves by the irritation caused by the bite, they inadvertently contaminate any open sore with the bug's faeces which infects them with Trypanosoma cruzi.

However, if a dog eats a bug or any other animal that's ingested a bug, they can also be infected with the parasite. This horrid disease can also be passed on congenitally to a litter of puppies which could be cause for concern if you are thinking about buying a puppy from a breeder in the United States and then having them brought over to the UK.

Symptoms to Watch Out For

When a dog contracts Chagas disease they will display various symptoms and if you notice any then you would need to get your pet to the vet as soon as you can. The signs to watch out for include the following:

  • Dogs will run a very high fever
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Enlarged liver and/or spleen

At this stage of the illness the symptoms can easily go unnoticed and as time goes by the symptoms dissipate. A dog may show no signs of suffering from the condition in the latent stage of the disease which could well last for several years. When the infection is chronic, dogs typically develop a heart condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy which could cause them to suffer heart failure. Some dogs affected by the condition just literally drop dead without having developed or shown any signs of having a heart condition which can be devastating for their owners.

It There a Treatment for Chagas Disease?

Sadly, there is no treatment for this very nasty disease. However, if a dog affected by the condition is offered symptomatic treatment for a heart condition such as congestive heart failure and dilated cardiomyopathy, it can prolong their lives. The thing to bear in mind is that this type of treatment does not help the underlying disease itself.

There is no vaccine either but vets in America do recommend that breeders test their female breeding stock to prevent congenital transmission of the disease to their litters of puppies. However, this is not mandatory therefore it would be hard to know if a breeder has done this or not although a reputable breeder would ensure their breeding stock are clear of this fatal and nasty condition to ensure no puppies develop it.

Moving To America With Your Dog

If you are moving to the States and thinking about taking your beloved dog with you, then you need to be aware of this condition and take the necessary steps to limit the chances of your dog eating any bugs that may be carriers of Chagas disease. This would mean keeping your pet in at night to lessen the chances of them being bitten by any bugs that could transmit the disease to them through their faeces.

What About Importing Dogs/Puppies From Affected Countries?

If you are thinking about importing a puppy from the US, you need to make absolutely sure the mother has been tested for Chagas disease because they can pass this horrible condition on to their pups. A reputable breeder would never use an infected bitch in a breeding programme but you still need to ask the breeder to show you all the relevant documentation on tests carried out on the mother so you have peace of mind she's been given the ""all clear"" from a qualified US vet – before you buy a puppy from them.


There are some very nasty diseases that affect our lovely canine friends with some of them being truly hard to spot. One such disease is Chagas which although not found in the UK, it is now a real concern for dog owners and breeders on the other side of the Atlantic. People and dogs are affected by this nasty disease although it would appear dogs cannot pass it on to humans or vice versa. The real issue is if a puppy or dog is imported into the UK may have inherited the disease from their mothers because it can be passed to them congenitally. Anyone thinking about moving to the States on a permanent basis and taking their dog with them, should be aware of the condition so they can limit the chances of their pet's being infected.


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