Parasitic infections can occur when your pup comes into contact with contaminated objects or substances. This can lead to severe complications in some cases. Here, our Madison vets share the causes and symptoms of Giardia in dogs and how it can be treated and prevented.

What is giardia in dogs?

Giardiasis is an intestinal infection that can affect both humans and animals. The Giardia parasite causes this infection.

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.

While Giardia in dogs does not always cause problems, the consequences are extremely unpleasant when it does. 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 schedule an examination 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
  • Dehydration 
  • Poor coat appearance 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting

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?

Dogs get Giardia from ingesting water, soil, food or objects contaminated with an infected animal's feces. Giardia has two forms: trophozoites and cysts. Trophozoites live in the intestines of infected dogs. Cysts are trophozoites protected by an outer shell. These cysts are shed in the dog's stool.

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 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.

How is Giardia treated?

Contact your vet immediately if your dog suffers 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 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 preventive care your dog usually receives 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 be done 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.

Is your dog showing signs related to infections from parasites or other sources? Contact Gluckstadt Animal Hospital to schedule an appointment.