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Summary: In this blog, we learn all about giardia in dogs. We’ll learn what giardia in dogs is, how dogs develop giardia, what the signs and symptoms are and whether older dogs can get giardia…
Giardia is a tiny, single-celled parasite (that isn’t a worm, bacteria or a virus) that attacks the intestinal lining and causes very smelly, and incredibly watery diarrhoea. It can also affect fish, birds and other mammals.
Unfortunately, giardia is also possible for humans to catch which is why it’s essential you wash your hands after you clean up your dog’s (or another animal’s) poop and also if you come into contact with a dog that has diarrhoea. Although possible, it is difficult to catch giardia from a dog with an infection – it’s most commonly caught by humans through drinking dirty water.
The most prominent symptom of giardia in dogs is pungent, liquid diarrhoea that may also be covered in mucous or appear greasy. The diarrhoea can be intermittent or continuous. Other symptoms include:
Unfortunately, it’s possible for a dog to spread giardia without showing any symptoms too. Many dogs are actually asymptomatic carriers.
Giardia is spread by infected poop, so can be caught anywhere but it has to be ingested. If your pup eats poop, grass, or drinks water that may have been contaminated by faecal matter (like ponds, lakes, rain puddles, swamps or the sea) they are more at risk of contracting the parasite.
Dogs of all ages can contract giardia, but it more commonly affects younger dogs, specifically puppies who have a weaker immune system.
Unfortunately, no natural methods have been proven to effectively cure a case of giardia in dogs.
It’s essential you consult with your vet if you suspect your pup has giardia. Your vet will most likely request a poop sample to help them make an informed diagnosis so it’s advisable to collect one from your dog before their appointment. If it’s confirmed that your pet has giardia, they will be required to take a certain medication for 3-10 days that will kill the parasite, and it is likely they will have a follow-up examination 2-4 weeks later to make sure the giardia has passed.
Diarrhoea can cause a dog to become dangerously dehydrated, particularly if it lasts more than 2 or 3 days, and even more so if you have a puppy (under 1 year of age) or a senior dog (over 7 years of age). It’s very important you get on top of the infection with your vet as soon as you’re able - a giardia infection isn’t a pleasant experience for either of you.
Untreated asymptomatic Giardia can cause severe malnutrition and drastic weight loss, so always keep up with your dog’s regular veterinary check-ups and if they do drop weight rapidly for an unexplained reason, get them and their poop assessed by your vet as soon as you can.
If your dog becomes reinfected with giardia, that’s because it’s present in their environment so make sure you’re regularly cleaning your garden of their and other pet/animal poop, and thoroughly clean your home.
Having a good hygiene routine at home always helps. Regularly clean your dog’s bedding and towels, and cushion covers if they’re allowed on the couch. Clean their food bowls out every day and even though it can’t directly prevent giardia, staying on top of their flea, tick and worm preventative treatments is helpful toward protecting their health.
In addition, if you have a curious dog who likes to eat from the rubbish bin or feast on their own or other animal’s poop, you should focus on training them out of it. Read our blog on why dogs eat poop and how to stop them here!
Giardia wreaks havoc on a dog’s digestive tract and the antibiotics used to fight it off can also reduce the number of good bacteria present in their intestine. A great way of supporting your dog’s GI tract in upping the good bacteria levels or generally to boost the health of their guts is via probiotic supplementation. Supporting their immunity by fuelling the commensal bacteria in their gut can do wonders for their overall health and can help them fight off parasitic infection and other illnesses. Always source your dog-specific probiotics from a reputable brand and follow the advised feeding guidelines.