Giardia In Dogs

Giardia In Dogs

Author WDF Staff


There are many parasites capable of harming and hurting dogs, and Giardia is one of them. It is a nasty parasite capable of harming your dog, so if you are a dog owner who worries about their dog, make sure you take necessary precautions. If you think your dog might have Giardia, you should contact your vet and ask for advice and treatment options.

It is natural that you are worried about your dog’s health, every good owner should be, so hopefully, we can help you get to know what Giardia is or how dangerous it can be.

What is Giardia?

Giardia is a single-celled parasite that inhibits a dog’s small intestine, where it grows and multiplies. There are different types of this parasite and each “specializes” in a specific species. Some Giardia types attack dogs, other cats, amphibians, birds, and even humans.

This is a nasty parasite that has a similar lifecycle no matter what species they infect. Their lifecycle can be divided into two stages, called the trophozoite stage and the cyst stage.

The trophozoite stage

The trophozoite stage is when the parasite lives freely in the intestine of an infected species. It doesn’t matter to the parasite if you are a human or a dog; this stage is the same. As it matures, it starts multiplying every 9 - 12 hours. To begin the second stage, the parasite transits towards the colon, where excystation happens.

The cyst stage

The cyst stage is where the parasite forms cysts. Cysts are then passed in the feces where the dog, or any other species, releases it in the environment. Cysts are very resilient and can survive in harsh environments for months. That is how the infection happens when an unknowing host ingests Giardia cysts from polluted objects in their environment.

How exactly can my dog get infected with Giardia?

Like with most parasites, the infection happens when your dog puts in their mouth, something that was contaminated with infected fecal matter. Dogs love to chew on everything, and things like grass, toys, or bowls can easily contain Giardia cysts if they haven’t been cleaned correctly and were in contact with an infected dog’s feces.

It might sound complicated, but imagine going to the park for a walk with your dog. All dogs eat grass, and your dog decides to gnaw on a few pieces of grass that an infected dog contaminated. Even sniffing uncleaned areas or sharing toys with infected dogs can cause an infection.

We even asked for advice from the veterinary consultant for, Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, who told us, “Dogs usually get Giardia from drinking infected water or grass that has been infected with another pet’s feces. Common signs that are seen in dogs with Giardia infections are diarrhea and weight loss.”

How dangerous is Giardia?

Luckily, Giardia is rarely fatal, and finding it in adult dogs with no symptoms is often considered transient (only for a short time). However, puppies are in danger of this parasite if their symptoms are left untreated. One of the symptoms is watery diarrhea, so if you notice your puppy is having stomach problems, you should probably call your vet.

This parasite is responsible for a disease called giardiasis, and to make sure your puppy doesn’t have it, here are the things you need to keep an eye on.

Giardiasis symptoms

The trickiest thing about Giardia is that sometimes it causes no symptoms, especially in adult, otherwise healthy dogs. If you combine that with an owner that doesn’t like to pick up after their dog, it is a widespread just waiting to happen. If you think your dog or puppy has giardiasis, these are the symptoms you should keep an eye on:

Again, keep in mind that adult dogs can show no symptoms, so it is vital that you have regular vet check-ups, and you make sure your dog is in perfect health.

Giardiasis treatment

If the vet diagnosed your dog with giardiasis, the next step would be to determine the best treatment options. The prognosis is often pretty good, and the treatment usually lasts between five and ten days.

The best thing you can do for your dog is to change their diet to highly absorbent food because this parasite lowers your dog’s ability to absorb nutrients and causes them to lose weight. The two most common medications your vet will prescribe are fenbendazole and metronidazole for dogs. If your dog is suffering from diarrhea that doesn’t respond to treatment, your vet might even prescribe these two drugs in combination.

What is the prognosis?

Adult dogs are pretty safe because their strong immune system and physical health are enough to withstand this nasty parasite’s attack. Puppies, adult dogs, and dogs with a bad immune system are at risk, and they should be monitored closely through the course of treatment.

Dr. Ochoa weighed in, “Most pets that have giardiasis have a great prognosis and usually recover with proper treatment. This medication can take a few weeks until it clears up.”

Can giardiasis be prevented? 

Unfortunately, there aren’t any vaccinations developed to stop a Giardia infection, and the best form of prevention is proper hygiene. Keep an eye on your dog and limit their interaction with areas you think might be contaminated with this parasite. If you notice dogs with diarrhea, don’t let your dog play with them, and don’t visit the place where those dogs went to the toilet.

The good thing is that dog-to-human transmission is very unlikely, but dog-to-dog is, and you should take proper precautions if one of your dogs is infected with giardiasis. Talk to your vet and ask for advice, and they will most likely tell you that you ensure a source of fresh drinking water for your dogs, that you clean up after them immediately, and properly get rid of the infected feces.

Wash your hands after handling the infected feces and dogs, give them a regular bath, so you get rid of all Giardia cysts on their coat, and be diligent with the medication. You can limit the exposure your dog gets to places visited by many dogs and disinfect the areas around your house or apartment.

World Dog Finder team

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