Giardia in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know

Giardia in dogs is a type of single-celled parasite called a protozoan. Dogs can get infected when they come into contact with another infected animal, ingest contaminated food or water, or come into contact with infected soil, objects, or other surfaces. Symptoms of giardiasis in dogs may include vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and abdominal discomfort.

It is important to seek veterinary care if you think your dog may be infected with Giardia. A veterinarian can diagnose Giardiasis with a simple stool sample test and provide an appropriate course of treatment.

Causes of Giardia in Dogs

There are numerous causes of Giardia in dogs. The parasites are passed between animals through the fecal-oral route. This means they can be spread via direct contact with an infected animal, or contact with surfaces and objects that have been contaminated with the parasite, such as food bowls, water bowls, and toys. Dogs can also be infected by drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated food, or exploring contaminated places such as rivers and lakes.

Finally, contaminated feces can be dispersed through the air, meaning indirect contact with an infected animal can also spread Giardia. It is important to note that Giardia infection is not always due to direct contact with an infected dog; environmental sources such as food bowls, water bowls, and toys can also be a potential source of infection. Therefore, proper sanitation of these items is essential to prevent the spread of Giardia in dogs.

As canine professionals, the spreading of communicable diseases and parasites is one of the many reasons we recommend avoiding heavily trafficked dog areas such as Dog Parks. If you need to utilize a Dog Boarding Facility or a Doggy Daycare, ensure that they also have proper sanitization protocols. Those that are most susceptible to Giardia are young puppies without fully matured immune systems, or dogs that are immunocompromised, and that suffer from other health issues.

Symptoms of Giardia

Giardia can often be difficult to detect, as the symptoms aren’t always readily apparent. Some of the most common symptoms of Giardia in dogs include soft stools, puppy diarrhea, vomiting, anemia, and weight loss. Other symptoms may include lethargy, dehydration, and poor appetite.

In some cases, dogs may not display any symptoms, or their symptoms may be so mild that they go unnoticed. If left untreated, Giardia can lead to long-term consequences, including chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, malabsorption and malnutrition, weight loss, and other health concerns. So, it’s essential to be aware of the symptoms and to seek veterinary treatment if needed.

How Giardia Is Diagnosed

When it comes to diagnosing Giardia in dogs, veterinarians often use one or more of the following tests to make a diagnosis:

Fecal flotation test – This test involves taking a sample of the dog’s feces and adding it to a container of liquid, then looking for Giardia cysts in the solution under a microscope.

Fecal PCR test – This test involves taking a sample of the dog’s feces and running it through a machine to detect the presence of Giardia DNA.

ELISA test – This test involves taking a blood sample from the dog and looking for antibodies specific to Giardia in the blood serum. While this test is extremely thorough, it can offer a false positive if the dog has ever contracted Giardia. The Giardia specific antibodies will remain in the bloodstream for a long period of time without the dog having an active infection.

Once Giardia is confirmed, your veterinarian will typically prescribe a course of anti-parasitic medications and other treatments. Depending on the severity of the infection, your dog may need other treatments, such as antibiotics and probiotics, as well. When a pet has been diagnosed with a Giardia infection, treatment will depend on the severity of the infection. Treatment options range from over-the-counter medications to prescription medications.

Prescription medications are typically more effective in combating Giardia and can be used even for moderate cases of Giardia. Commonly used prescription medications for Giardia include fenbendazole, metronidazole, and Albon. Most of these medications must be given daily for several days or even weeks to ensure the complete elimination of Giardia.

In addition to medications, it is important to ensure that the pet’s environment is clean and free of any sources to prevent re-contamination. Pets should be bathed regularly and all soiled areas should be cleaned with an antimicrobial solution and dried rapidly. Any surfaces that come in contact with the pet should be washed with an appropriate pet waste or antiparasitic cleaner, then rinsed with water and dried. Proper hygiene, combined with appropriate medications, can help to reduce the risk of recurrent Giardia infections.

Is My Family At Risk For Giardia

While humans are typically infected with Giardia lamblia, dogs are infected with Giardia canis or Giardia duodenalis. These variants are not zoonotic; they are specific to dogs and do not infect humans. Therefore, even if your dog is infected with giardia, you cannot contract it from them. However, it is still important to practice good hygiene and cleanliness when handling your dog’s feces to prevent the spread of other types of infections.

Giardia in dogs may sound scary, especially if you search on Google, but it is easily resolved with veterinary care. Prevention is always better than cure, so it’s advisable to avoid high traffic dog areas, stagnant bodies of water, and canines with unknown medical histories. But should you find yourself facing Giardia in your canine family member, fear not. With proper care and attention, your dog will easily recover from Giardia and prevent future infections. Don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.