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Giardia in Dogs

As a pet owner, your dog's health is a top priority. One health concern you may not be aware of is Giardia. In this blog post, our vets in Olive Branch will explain Giardia in dogs, what causes it, the signs and symptoms to watch out for, whether it can be transmitted to humans, how it is treated, and what actions to take if your dog is infected.

What is Giardia in Dogs?

Giardiasis is an intestinal infection that can affect both humans and animals. It is caused by the Giardia parasite, which has eight different genotypes labeled A through H.

Types C and D are the most common viruses infecting dogs, while F is the most common virus infecting cats. Types A and B apply to humans.

Although Giardia in dogs does not always cause problems, when it does, the symptoms are extremely unpleasant, with diarrhea being the most common symptom. Puppies, dogs with compromised immune systems, and senior dogs are especially vulnerable to giardiasis.

What Causes Giardia in Dogs?

Dogs typically contract Giardia by ingesting cysts found in contaminated water, food, or feces. This can occur during walks, at dog parks, or from other pets. The cysts are hardy and can survive in the environment for extended periods, making transmission relatively easy.

What are the Symptoms of Giardia in Dogs?

If your dog is exhibiting worrying signs of illness, your best bet is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, as many of the symptoms listed below are common to a variety of conditions. However, owners should be on the lookout for several Giardia symptoms, including:

  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting
  • Failure to gain weight 
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration 
  • Poor coat appearance 

Diarrhea and weight loss often occur when the parasite disrupts a dog's internal systems, hindering its ability to absorb water, electrolytes, and nutrients. Diarrhea may be continuous or intermittent, especially in puppies. If left untreated, Giardia can lead to severe weight loss and possibly even death.

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 transmission mode.

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 another animal ingests them. They are then transformed into trophozoites, and their lifecycle is repeated.

Dogs can get Giardia by drinking contaminated water or eating grass or other feces-contaminated foods. Any experienced pet owner knows that our dogs explore the world with their mouths. This makes the parasite easy to pick up in the environment by doing anything from drinking from a puddle to eating the poop of another animal or chewing on a stick.

Even if they do not show signs of infection, our four-legged companions can spread the parasite. As you might expect, this is concerning, especially if you have more than one pet. While the parasite is unlikely to spread between dogs and cats, transmission from dog to dog is a major concern. If one of your pets has Giardia, consult your veterinarian about the precautions you should take with your other pets.

Can dogs pass Giardia to people?

The risk of humans contracting Giardia from dogs is relatively low, but it can happen. So, if you're wondering, "Can I get Giardia from my dog licking me?" the answer is yes, but the risk is low. Make sure to wash your hands after handling your dog's poop to reduce this low risk further.

Giardia transmission in humans most commonly occurs 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 food, so wash all produce before eating it and thoroughly wash your hands after working with dirt.

What happens If Giardia is left untreated in dogs?

If left untreated, Giardia in dogs can lead to severe dehydration and malnutrition due to the chronic diarrhea it causes. This can be particularly dangerous for puppies, older dogs, or dogs with compromised immune systems. Therefore, prompt treatment is vital to prevent long-term health issues.

How is Giardia treated?

Call your vet immediately if you notice your dog is suffering from diarrhea or other symptoms. Your vet will likely perform several diagnostic tests to determine your dog has Giardia. Depending on the results and the severity of your dog's case, a treatment plan can be tailored to your dog's needs. 

How can I prevent my dog from getting Giardia?

Giardia is a parasite that cannot be prevented with regular tick, flea, and heartworm preventatives. However, there are precautions you can take to protect your dog. Always provide clean, fresh water to reduce the risk of them drinking from infected puddles.

If you live in an area with Giardia, boil your dog's water or use a proven filter to remove Giardia cysts. Additionally, wash your hands after handling dog poop and promptly dispose of it.

Notify your veterinarian if you have other animals in the house, even if they are not showing symptoms. Giardiasis can be asymptomatic, and other pets may be spreading the illness.

It is recommended that all household animals be bathed regularly to remove cysts from their hair coat, disinfect their surroundings, and wash their water and food bowls daily. Clean until a few days after all pets 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.

Is your dog displaying signs of giardiasis? Contact Cat and Cow Vet Clinic to schedule an appointment and protect your dog. 

New Patients Welcome

Cat and Cow Vet Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Olive Branch companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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