Giardia is a parasite that can affect most mammals, including dogs, leading to intestinal infection. Here, our Crystal Lake vets discuss giardia in dogs, its symptoms, and how it is treated.
What is giardia in dogs?
Giardiasis is an intestinal infection that can affect both humans and animals. This infection is caused by the Giardia parasite.
Types C and D are the most common infecting viruses in dogs, while F is the most common infecting virus in cats. Types A and B apply to humans.
While Giardia in dogs does not always cause problems, when it does, the consequences are extremely unpleasant. Diarrhea is the most common symptom. Giardiasis is especially dangerous in puppies, dogs with weakened immune systems, and senior dogs.
What are the symptoms of giardia in dogs?
If your dog is showing concerning symptoms of illness, your best bet is to book an appointment with your vet, since many of the signs below are common to several conditions. that said, owners can be on the lookout for several giardia symptoms in dogs, including:
- Weight loss
- Poor coat appearance
Diarrhea and weight loss are common symptoms of parasitic infection because the parasite disrupts a dog's internal systems, impairing its ability to absorb water, electrolytes, and nutrients. Diarrhea can be continuous or intermittent, particularly in puppies. Severe weight loss and even death can occur if the disease is not diagnosed and treated.
How are dogs infected with Giardia?
As previously stated, this single-celled parasite lives in the intestines of mammals, birds, and amphibians and has several subspecies. While each subspecies focuses on a different group of animals, they all share the same lifecycle and mode of transmission.
Giardia has two stages in its lifecycle. Mature parasites (trophozoites) multiply and form cysts in the small intestine. Cysts become infective and are shed through the feces of an infected animal. They can survive in the environment as cysts for weeks before being ingested by another animal. They are then transformed into trophozoites and the lifecycle is repeated.
What happens if giardia is left untreated in dogs? Well, it may cause severe, watery diarrhea that can be fatal. This is especially true for puppies and older dogs.
Can I get giardia from my dog licking me?
Fortunately, the risk of humans contracting Giardia from dogs is relatively low, but it can happen. Make sure to wash your hands after handling your dog's poop to reduce this low risk.
Giardia transmission in humans is most commonly transmitted through drinking water, not through pets. Giardiasis is also known as "Beaver Fever" in humans. If your water source is known to contain the parasite, consider purchasing a water filter, and avoid drinking contaminated water, especially while traveling. This parasite can also be found in soil and on food, so wash all produce before eating it and thoroughly wash your hands after working with dirt.
How is Giardia treated?
If you've noticed your dog is suffering from diarrhea or other symptoms, call your vet right away. Your vet will likely perform several diagnostic tests to find out whether your dog has Giardia. Depending on the results and the severity of your dog's case, a treatment plan tailored to your dog's needs can be developed.
How can I prevent my dog from getting re-infected with Giardia, or making my other pets sick, during treatment?
Giardia is a highly unpleasant parasite that cannot be prevented with the tick, flea,, and heartworm preventatives that your dog would normally receive from a veterinarian. There are, however, precautions you can take to keep your dog from contracting Giardia.
Bathing all household animals regularly is recommended to remove cysts from the hair coat. You should also disinfect your pets' surroundings (crates, beds, etc.) and wash their water and food bowls daily.
Cleaning should take place until at least a few days after all pets in the household have completed their medication.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.