Giardiasis is a common disease in dogs, with estimates of prevalence as high as 25% to 30% of the canine population. And while most cases of giardia clear up on their own or with medication, giardia can be a real problem for some dogs, causing chronic diarrhea and long-term health complications. So what’s a pet owner to do? Read on to find out how you can protect your dog from this common parasite—and what to do if your dog does contract it.
What is Giardia?
Giardia is a microscopic parasite that causes an intestinal infection in people and animals, including dogs. Giardia is the most common intestinal parasite in dogs, and it is more common in puppies than adult dogs.
Infected dogs shed Giardia cysts into their stools for about a month. The cysts can survive outside of a host for months or even years if they find a suitable environment. The cysts can be spread to other areas by flies, contaminated water or food bowls, or contact with infected feces from another dog or animal.
How Does a Dog Get Giardia?
The most common way that dogs become infected with Giardia is through contaminated water. The parasite can also be transmitted from dog to dog through the fecal-oral route, meaning that if your dog eats something that already contains Giardia cysts or trophozoites, she can contract the parasite. In addition, transmission may occur through contaminated food and soil (for example, when an infected dog goes on a walk in public parks).
Another means of transmission is direct contact between dogs during playtime; while this isn’t as common as other types of contact, it does occur regularly enough to warrant concern from pet owners.
While there’s no evidence that humans can acquire Giardia by touching their pets’ fur or skin (or vice versa), people who suffer from weakened immune systems are at risk for this type of cross contamination through shared food dishes or water bottles used by both animals and people alike
What are the Symptoms of Giardia?
A common symptom of Giardia is diarrhea. Other symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss and a potbellied appearance. If your dog has Giardia he may also experience lethargy, tiredness and anemia. Your dog may be inappetent (not interested in eating), have fever or depression as well as anal itching.
How is Giardia Diagnosed?
Giardia is diagnosed by microscopic examination of a stool sample. A blood test can also be used to determine if your dog has giardia, although this method is not as accurate as microscopic examination. A faecal floatation test may be used to identify giardia cysts in the stool and a faecal antigen test can detect antibodies against the parasite in the blood or urine.
How is Giardia Treated and Prevented in Dogs?
- Medication: The most effective treatment for giardia is a combination of antibiotics and anti-parasite medication.
- Diet: Giardia can be suppressed with a high-fiber diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, which in turn helps to maintain a healthy immune system.
- Cleanliness: Keep your pet’s living quarters clean by disinfecting surfaces regularly, including the kennels or cages where he spends his time. If you’re adopting from a shelter, make sure they’ve done this already — if not, ask them to do so before you take him home!
- Vaccination: Many vaccines against both parasites and other diseases are available for dogs; it’s important to get them at the recommended intervals as directed by your veterinarian so that he stays healthy overall. Some common vaccinations include Rabies (every 3 years), Distemper/Parvo (every 3 years), Bordetella (once annually), Leptospirosis (once annually), Corona virus (once annually) and Adequate Intrauterine Growth Retardation syndrome virus disease (AIHV).
How Can I Protect My Dog from the Risk of Giardia?
To protect your dog from the risk of giardiasis, you should:
- Wash your hands after handling your dog’s stool.
- Clean up after your dog and disinfect the yard.
- Keep your dog’s environment (including food and water bowls) clean by washing them regularly with a disinfectant solution or boiling them every three to four days for one minute. You can also use hydrogen peroxide solution (1 part peroxide to 9 parts water). This won’t kill Giardia cysts but it will reduce their number because they aren’t resistant to chemical agents like chlorine bleach or boiling water.
- Vaccinate against canine distemper virus (CDV), adenovirus type 2, parvovirus, coronavirus and leptospirosis if there are high rates of infection in your area as this will help protect against other diseases that might be carried by wildlife as well.* Avoid feeding raw meat or scraps to dogs because this may increase the risk of giardiasis due to contamination by animal feces.* Avoid feeding human foods such as chocolate cakes because they contain substances that humans can tolerate but which are toxic for dogs.*
Ask your vet about safe and effective methods for preventing giardiasis in dogs.
To prevent giardia in dogs, there are several methods that you can try. Vaccines and deworming medications may be used to protect your dog from the parasite. Good hygiene, good nutrition, and good water quality can also help keep your dog from getting giardiasis.
Good sanitation methods such as frequent cleaning of kennels or runs will help to prevent spread of this disease between dogs and people. Good management practices such as separating new arrivals from long-term residents will also help to prevent spreading the parasite between animals at shelter facilities or animal shelters where multiple dogs are housed together.
To protect your dog from giardia, it is important to have them tested and vaccinated regularly. If you suspect that your dog has giardia, take him or her to the vet for immediate treatment. The sooner treatment begins, the better chances you will have of preventing long-term consequences or permanent damage to your pup’s intestinal tract.