Top 5 Pet Owner Questions About The Kissing Bug

Top 5 Pet Owner Questions About The Kissing Bug

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The kissing bug has received a lot of press due to its increased presence and migration to many parts of the United States. The bug can spread a potentially fatal disease to both humans and pets. Below are 5 questions pet owners commonly ask about the kissing bug and their pets.

What is the Kissing Bug?

The kissing bug, also known as conenose bugs, assassin bugs, chinches, and as vampire bugs, is an insect categorized as members of the Triatominae, a subfamily of Reduviidae. They acquired their name as the kissing bug due to their propensity to bite (feed) along the mouths of people. A kissing bug can be recognized by its dark brown to black exterior with orange, yellow or red stripes on its back, and thin antennae, thin legs, and cone-shaped head. They are generally about ¾ to 1 ¼ inch in length.

They are widespread in South America and are becoming more common in the United States now present in 28 states. The kissing bug is a concern due to the ability to spread Trypanosoma cruzi (T.  cruzi) which can cause Chagas disease in people and in dogs. Learn more – go to Chagas Disease in Dogs.

Is the Kissing Bug Dangerous to My Dog or Cat?

The kissing bug is dangerous due to its ability to transmit T. cruzi which can cause a potentially fatal condition called Chagas Disease. Another possible danger to the kissing bug is the possibility of an allergic reaction that results from proteins in the bite. This can cause symptoms that can range from hives and itching to life-threatening anaphylactic reactions.  Learn more about allergic reactions in dogs.

What Diseases Can Kissing Bugs Spread to My Dog or Cat?

The most significant disease spread by the kissing bug is Chagas disease from T. cuzi. It can because various symptoms that ultimately cause heart failure.  T. cruzi can infect both dogs and cats, however, Chagas disease is more common in dogs. Cats can be infected but do not get heart failure.

There is no cure for Chagas disease and treatment is aimed at controlling the symptoms. There is also no vaccine available for Chagas disease.

How Can I Avoid my Dog or Cat’s Exposure to Kissing Bugs and T. cuzi?

Kissing bugs are attracted to light and live in woodpiles and crevices. Therefore it is believed that most dogs exposed to the kissing bugs spend a lot of time outdoors often near woodpiles, brush and sometimes around lights that attract bugs at night. They also feed at night.

The following are tips to minimize your dog’s exposure to kissing bugs and infection:

  • Keep your dog inside, in a garage, or on a patio especially at night then the kissing bug feeds.
  • Remove woodpiles, rocks, and brush from around your home, yard and where your dog frequents.
  • Avoid outdoor lighting that is on all night because the kissing bugs are attracted to light at night. Consider installing motion lights that only come on with motion.
  • Seal gaps and cracks around your roof, chimney, attic, crawl spaces, walls, windows, screens, and doors to minimize the ability of kissing bugs to get into your home.
  • Use screens on all doors and windows. Routinely inspect screens for holes and repair as needed.
  • Discourage your dog from hunting and eating animals that may be infected. Other animals that may be infected include mice, foxes, skunks, opossums, woodrats, armadillos, and coyotes. If you know your pet was bitten by a kissing bug, wash the bite out with soap and water immediately to clean the wound and minimize the chance of the wound being contaminated with the kissing bug feces. As you clean, gently squeeze the wound to remove any debris such as the feces.
  • The kissing bug can be killed with insecticides. It is possible to treat your yard, home, patios, kennels, and wood piles with insecticides such as synthetic pyrethroids. Examples of active ingredients include permethrin, bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, esfenvalerate or lambda cyhalothrin.  You can kill the bugs with Fipro Foaming Aerosol. Natural bug deterrents may be helpful such as cedar oil. It is recommended to treat door and window frames, corners, cracks, and edges of rooms.
  • Collars treated with deltamethrin can deter kissing bugs.
  • Ensure blood donor dogs are screened for T. cruzi prior to transfusions.
  • In endemic areas, breeding bitches should be screened for T. cruzi prior to breeding since the infection can be transmitted to the puppies through the placenta.
  • For those in the veterinary profession, it is important to avoid needle sticks from contaminated needles from dogs infected with T. cruzi. Not recapping needles should become a standard of care.

Do Any of My Heartworm Prevention or Flea/Tick Meds Kill Kissing Bugs?

The problem with the kissing bug is there is no prevention to prevent a bug from biting your dog.  The drugs fluralaner and afoxolaner, the active ingredients in common tick prevention medications, have shown effectiveness in repelling the kissing bugs.

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