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Kissing bugs a major threat to dogs

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    Bugs' 'kiss' a major threat to dogs
    By Shannon Tompkins | May 7, 2014 | Updated: May 8, 2014 8:46am

    Dogs were dying in their kennels on a ranch in Brooks County, and no one knew why.

    "We had a half-dozen dogs - Labs, pointers - die: They'd just fall over," Berdon Lawrence said. "Nobody knew what was going on."

    Lawrence, a Houston businessman, recalled one dog in particular that made him determined to discover what was happening to the working canines housed on his South Texas ranch. On a quail hunt, a seemingly perfectly healthy pointer was zigzagging through the brush.

    "The pointer was working quail and just fell over, dead," Lawrence said. "It didn't make any sense."

    Concerned that something associated with the kennel was causing the sudden deaths, Lawrence sent one of the deceased dogs to Texas A&M Veterinary Diagnostic Lab for a necropsy. The results stunned him.

    "The diagnosis came back as a heart attack caused by Chagas disease," he said. "I said, 'What's Chagas disease?' I'd never heard of it."

    Neither have most Texans.

    A growing problem

    They should. And they almost certainly will. The parasite-caused disease, which in many cases causes fatal, heart-related problems, potentially is a serious threat to human health in Texas. It already is a threat to the state's canine population...