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“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”
– Henry David Thoreau  
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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 10 October 2019  

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Dr. Jim Humphries

  Kissing bugs
  And, are dog owners happier than cat owners?
  By Dr. Jim Humphries
  Veterinarian

   You may have heard that this little, nice-sounding (kissing) bug has made its way to Colorado. However, it is not very nice. These insects tend to bite you around the mouth and transmit a disease called Chagas disease.
   
   The bug — and the disease it has spread — got into the U.S. from South and Central America, and now it has made its way to Colorado.
   
   The bug gets its nickname because it bites at night and around your mouth area. The insect bite is hardly noticeable. However, when it happens, it excretes a parasite. You then rub the area and the insect’s excrement gets into your blood stream, and you are infected.
   
   The infection is a blood parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi and it can be serious. You might display symptoms like redness and itching around the bite, then the bite swells, which develops hives.
   
   The bite itself is generally painless, but what happens is that, as with so many insect borne diseases, the bug ingests blood and then defecates a tiny amount near your mouth. You will likely rub those feces in your eyes and mouth; hence, introducing the parasite into your blood system.
   
   The disease can be spread from person to person, and the Centers for Disease Control is concerned about all these modes of transmission. The kissing bugs are spreading north, and there have been confirmed sightings of 11 species. Experts at the CDC say more than 300,000 people in the U.S. have T. cruzi infections, precipitated by any kind of travel to and from Latin America — legal or illegal. To me, this is alarming.
   
   You can read up on the kissing bug and get more prevention tips on the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/chagas/gen_info/vectors/index.html.
   
   Now, a happier subject: It seems dog owners are happier than cat owners — do you believe that? In 2018, the General Social Survey put out some data on pet ownership. Dog owners are about twice as likely to say they are happy as cat owners — a large number. But dog owners are more likely to be married and own their homes, which affects happiness. Dog owners tend to be more easy going, more outgoing and less neurotic than cat owners. (That's the survey talking, not me!) Dog owners are more likely to engage in outdoor physical activity; and good health also affects happiness.
   
   Dog owners develop friends and talk more with neighbors. Social connections help maintain the well-being of humans. This is how I found my wife. I saw her walking her beautiful dog in the neighborhood, commented on the pretty dog, which led to a conversation, dates and eventually a happy marriage. Proof positive!
   
   Of course, there are a lot of nuances in this data, so if you are a cat lover don't be offended. Cat owners might protest that ownership isn't about "happiness" at all. There is something about felines that is grander and more mysterious — something that can't be captured in a public opinion poll. So true!
   
   Either way, pets are good for our health and our happiness.
   
Dr. Jim Humphries is a veterinarian in Colorado Springs and also serves as a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He provides hospice and end-of-life care for pets. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes. www.HomeWithDignity.com
  
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