Diarrhea in dogs is unpleasant for everyone involved, but when Giardia causes the diarrhea, the problem can intensify. This sneaky parasite does not always cause clinical signs, but can potentially infect your entire household without warning. Learn how your pooch may pick up a Giardia infection, and how you can protect them from a repeat infection.
Answer: Giardia is a single-celled parasite that can cause serious gastrointestinal (GI) problems for your dog. The parasite can infect any mammal, although the various strains tend to infect only certain species. Some dogs may not show infection signs, but younger dogs and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to struggle with diarrhea.
A: Dogs develop giardiasis by ingesting Giardia cysts. A handful of cysts can result in infection, so dogs can easily contract this parasite. Common scenarios where dogs contract Giardia include:
A: Giardiasis is known for developing suddenly and causing particularly foul-smelling, greasy diarrhea that can also be pale and contain mucous. In some cases, clinical signs can include:
A: Giardia is a tricky parasite to find, as infected pets are not always shedding cysts. Two or three fecal exams may be needed to spot Giardia, or an antigen test to check for proteins the parasite produces may be necessary.
A: If one of your dogs has been diagnosed with giardiasis, your other dogs should also be examined. While Giardia infections typically stay within species, they can jump from dog to cat and vice versa.
A: No medication specifically labeled for giardiasis treatment is available, but a deworming and antibiotic combination is generally effective. Probiotics and a prescription diet that support GI health are also beneficial in managing your dog’s diarrhea until the parasite is eradicated.
A: Reinfection can occur with virtually no effort, because your dog can pick up Giardia cysts each time they defecate. Your dog contaminates the ground everywhere they defecate, and the resilient Giardia cysts can stay there for months. Implement these tips to prevent reinfection:
A: While people can develop giardiasis, they typically do not contract the infection from their pets. Multiple Giardia strains infect different species, so the strain that infects your dog is usually not the type that infects people. However, that does not mean you are safe from infection, so always practice good hygiene when taking care of your infected dog. Disinfect areas or supplies your dog uses regularly (e.g., bowls, toys, bedding) and wash your hands thoroughly after touching your pet, their supplies, or their feces. If you develop symptoms similar to your dog’s clinical signs, speak with your primary care veterinarian.
Fully eradicating Giardia in dogs can be challenging, but early diagnosis and treatment offer the most success in minimizing or eliminating parasite numbers. If your four-legged friend develops particularly malodorous, greasy diarrhea out of the blue, schedule an appointment with our Ambleside Animal Hospital team right away.
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