Six important things you need to know about Giardia

Dr. Edison Barrientos Front Street Animal Hospital

Summary: Giardia can end up being quite a problem when you don’t understand what you are dealing with, to help with this our own Dr. Barrientos has actually addressed the leading 6 questions about this parasite. 

 WHAT IS GIARDIA?

Giardia is a very common digestive tract parasite, it’s not a worm, a bacteria or a virus, it’s a unicellular protozoan parasite. It lives in the intestinal tracts of canines and felines, and can actually impact humans too and trigger gastrointestinal upset, vomiting and diarrhea and affect growth in canines. The infection this parasite triggers is called Giardiasis.

Giardiasis might be a relevant element for diseases, specifically diarrhea, in both animals and people. Nevertheless, there are dogs infected with Giardia that do not get diarrhea, vomiting or any other signs of being sick.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN GIARDIA IS LEFT UNTREATED?

Unicellular protozoan parasite Giardia

Some canines can get rather sick. These can show variable levels of dehydration, vomiting and diarrhea. Dogs that are younger and in their growth phase may not reach their growth potential and end up being unthrifty. Periodically you have some dogs who have the ability to reduce the effects of Giardia by themselves and don’t look like they’re sick. However, they can be transferring the Giardia parasite to other dogs when they are out in the park, so it is very important to check for it by doing a fecal sample and if it comes out positive, treat it.

ARE THERE SIGNS OF GIARDIA IN AN INFECTED DOG’S STOOL?

Generally, a dog that has Giardia will have a softish stool. Sometimes it can vary from sort of soft, like melted ice cream all the way to extreme diarrhea. So that’s the most typical sign. Sometimes you will have some pet dogs that are positive for Giardia that have a regular stool, so that is why testing is so crucial.

HOW IS GIARDIA DIAGNOSED AND TREATED?

Giardia can be very easily identified through a fecal or a stool sample. Treatment involves medication, typically one called Fenbendazole, as the first choice, if that does not work, we choose a product called Metronidazole. It can be an extremely resistant parasite, which may require several bouts of treatment to get rid of it. Beyond medication, things like a good digestible diet and probiotics are likewise useful in controlling the parasite. Some pets may need follow-up tests and treatments based on their condition and seriousness of the infection. All contaminated animals should be re-tested 2 to 4 weeks after completion of treatment.

Giardia affects dogs

CAN I GET GIARDIA IF MY PET LICKS ME?

Luckily, the odds of humans being infected with this parasite from their canines are relatively low. This has to do with the fact that there are seven different types of Giardia, A through G. Dogs are most typically infected with the types C and D, felines with F, and people most frequently get types A and B. Even so, it can occur! So to reduce the threat we advise cleaning your hands after managing dog poop and keeping your animal’s toys, food bowl and water clean as a whistle!

HOW CAN I PREVENT MY DOG AND ME FROM GETTING GIARDIASIS?

If your pet is diagnosed with giardiasis environmental disinfection and good personal hygiene will help prevent accidental infection of other people and family pets. In particular, people with immunodeficiency, such as AIDS or cancer, or who are going through chemotherapy, ought to exercise extreme care, specifically when handling feces or after administering medications.

If you want to prevent parasite infection, the first thing to do is take your pet to your veterinarian to test and ensure your family pet isn’t infected. After you are sure that Giardia is not a preexisting issue, good hygiene and easy precautions can help a lot. Bring your own water (and a dish) along for your pet dog whenever you are out for a long walk. Make sure to wash your hands as soon as possible after handling your canine’s stool. Keep their water and food dishes clean, along with all toys and accessories. An annual stool test on your furry pet is a good idea too.

Dr. Barrientos


This article provides a summary view of some aspects you need to know about pets and how to care for a kitten. We recommend you take the time to talk in detail with one of our licensed veterinarians. They will provide the best suggestions and strategies for your pet. For an appointment please contact us at (416) 351-1212 or click the button below.

SOURCES:

  • Anna Burke, “The Facts You Need to Know About Giardia in Dogs”. American Kennel Club  [source]
  • Ernest Ward, DVM, “Giardia in Dogs”. VCA Hospitals [source]
  • Cascade Heights Veterinary Center. “Have Questions about Giardia?” [source]

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