Dr Tracy Douglas
Your guide to this article today is by veterinarian Dr Tracy Douglas Dr Tracy Douglas
Published 08:11 am

Giardia parasite in dogs is present all over the world. Be on guard against giardia because it may well be present in your area as well. Dogs exhibit certain behaviors when they are infected with giardia. What are the symptoms of giardia in dogs?

Symptoms of Giardia

Dogs will tend to have diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and lethargy. It is also possible that infected animals will not exhibit any signs at all, which makes it even more dangerous. Although giardia can infect your dog any time of the year, the parasite thrives typically in cold and moist environments. Giardia can be easily transmitted to dogs. Drinking water or eating food with feces infected with giardia can bring the disease to your dog.

After this, giardia infects the small intestines of your dog, and very small cysts form on the stool, which are then left to the environment and other dogs. What is giardia in dogs? Giardia parasites are very hardy; it can live in the environment for months as long as the temperature are in the correct circumstances. Small cysts that form on the intestines are life-threatening to your dog. It should also be known that the most common cause of diarrhea in pets in the United States is caused by giardia.

puppy sleeping on the bed

Dogs and Giardia

Giardiasis is a disease that targets the intestines of dogs. It is an intestinal infection caused by the protozoan called giardia, which is also an intestinal parasite that is found in humans. Can humans get giardia from dogs? Although giardia affects both humans and dogs, the type of giardia that affects humans is different from that of dogs. Thus, the risk of dogs affecting humans is very small.

Dogs get the giardia infection by ingesting feces infected with cysts of this parasite. Once the organisms are swallowed, they make their way through the small intestines, and diarrhea will soon follow. Giardia is easily treatable, and it is usually treated on an outpatient basis. There is a good prognosis for this disease as long as treatment is done immediately after noticing the symptoms.

What Does Giardia in Dogs Do?

Giardia may not display any effects on your dogs, but while it does, the symptoms can be unpleasant. The most common effect of giardia in dogs is diarrhea. Because of this disease, giardia has the ability to keep your dog from properly absorbing all the nutrients they need. The water and electrolytes from food and water become wastes in diarrhea and are not properly absorbed in the body. This can result in weight loss and even death for your dog. For puppies, diarrhea can be intermittent or ongoing. If left untreated, it will compromise the immune system, thus leading to death.

Who’s at Risk of Giardia?

Almost any dog can get this parasite from food and water that has giardia. Younger dogs and even mature dogs are at risk, especially if they have compromised health. You need to take extra care of dogs whose immune system are compromised because they are more likely to get infected. You should also remember that if one dog has giardia, it can spread to other dogs in your home. It can also spread to other animals in your home, although cross-infection may be rare. Always remember to thoroughly wash your hands after holding your dog to prevent contamination.

Older versus Younger Dogs

The symptoms of giardia are more evident in younger dogs than with older ones. The symptoms can be acute to chronic. The most common type of symptom in younger animals is diarrhea, and the appearance of the stool is often soft and frothy, with a strong odor and the presence of mucus.

Testing for Giardia

Testing for giardia is often not perfect because this parasite is hard to detect. The intestinal system only sheds in an intermittent schedule, so there is a huge possibility that tests will miss it. There’s only a 70% chance the test will be able to identify a single fecal matter with giardia. Increasing the number of tests to five consecutive days increases the chance of detecting giardia to 90%.

How to Treat Giardia in Dogs

If you want a fast way of treatment for giardia in your dog, you should have a consultation with a vet. They will know all the steps necessary in helping you stave off this disease by prescribing the proper medication and antibiotics. You should get your dog insurance ready when you visit your veterinarian.

The vet will first run tests on your dog to make sure the disease afflicting it is indeed giardia, and then they will discuss ways of treating your pet with you. They will typically recommend medications such as antiparasitic drugs that can be administered in your home. Treatment is usually done on an outpatient basis unless the dog is already very weak. By following veterinarian’s recommendation, giardia will be gone in a couple of weeks. Usually, there will be repeat fecal exams to make sure that giardia has already been eliminated from your dog’s system.

Bathing Your Dog and Cleaning your Home to Prevent Reinfection

It is not enough to administer medication to your dog. Your dog should have a thorough bath, and your home should have a thorough cleaning. Failing to do this will cause reinfection. It is important for your dog to have a thorough washing to get rid of any parasite that are present in their coat and fur. The back legs should be thoroughly disinfected since most cysts converge here.

You should also thoroughly disinfected toys and carpeting that your dog has come in contact with. Surfaces should be cleaned with bleach, and the rugs should be cleaned thoroughly with warm water. Toys should be cleaned in warm water. Parasites are a challenge to get rid of and can even be transmitted to humans.

Wear gloves while cleaning and disinfecting to protect yourself. Aside from hot water, you can also use bleach to disinfect the materials that your dog uses.

Preventing Giardia in Dogs

Preventing something is easier than curing it. In the case of giardia, it will be a big hassle if your dog gets this disease. Thus, it is important for you to be aware of the ways you can help your dog become healthy and not get infected with giardia. As a dog owner, there are ways you can control the environment to help your dog.

First and foremost, your dog should have access to clean water at all times. This is crucial because giardia normally gets through your dog’s system through unclean water. If your dog is replenished with water, they will have less inclination of gobbling up water in puddles and muddy places. If you suspect that giardia is in your tap water, you should get a filtration system for your faucets at home to make sure that drinking water is clean and safe. Another option is to buy water that has been disinfected and cured. You can also opt to boil your dog’s water to get rid of any cyst or parasite.

Another prevention that you can do is to pick up after your dog. If your dog is infected with giardia, this will prevent the parasites from spreading in your area. Doing this will also prevent reinfection. An area and an environment that is feces-free will be a healthy place not just for other animals but for humans as well.

You should also take care not to take your dog in dirty places where there are a lot of dog feces. Go only to places where authorities take the time and effort to disinfect their area to limit your dog’s exposure to parasitic elements.

Chronic Giardia Infection

There may be instances where your dog will test positive for giardia even after extensive treatment. Tests can remain positive after several weeks or even after intensive treatments. A positive test, however, doesn’t mean active infection. However, try to redouble your efforts to make sure that your dog is not being reinfected or exposed to the giardia parasites. You should continue maintaining cleanliness and decontaminating your environment.

If the additional treatment is not working for your dog, your vet may recommend a more thorough medical evaluation. There are instances where the giardia that affects your dog may be zoonotic. This means that the type of organism that your dog has is also the same that can afflict humans. The risk of getting giardia from dogs is minimal; however, since the type of giardia that affects dogs is usually different from that which affects humans.

People love their dogs as much as they love family. It is important to be a responsible pet owner and be aware of the health hazards in your environment that can pose a threat to your pet. Giardia is a disease that is easy to protect your dog from. Always clean your dog’s environment and be assured of a healthy dog that will give you love and cuddles for many years to come.

Dr Tracy Douglas
General Practice Veterinarian, currently working at the Glenwood Veterinary Clinic, Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Dr. Douglas began her veterinary career as a Veterinary Nurse in Highton Veterinary Clinic, Highton Victoria, and then as an Emergency Veterinarian in Uintah Pet Emergency, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Tracy is particularly interested in surgery, neurology and internal medicine, which gives her a well-rounded knowledge on animal health and well-being. She received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Melbourne, while her undergraduate bachelor of science is from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

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