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What Is Giardia in Dogs?

Giardia is a parasite that can infect dogs, cats, and humans. Our veterinarians in Stockton will discuss the infection and its treatment.

What Is Giardia in Dogs?

Giardiasis is a type of infection that can affect both humans and animals, and is caused by a parasite called Giardia. This parasite has eight different genotypes, labeled A to H.

Dogs are usually infected with types C and D, while cats are more commonly infected with type F. Types A and B are the most common culprits for humans.

Although Giardia in dogs may not always cause issues, it can lead to unpleasant symptoms such as diarrhea. This infection is particularly dangerous for puppies, senior dogs, and dogs with weakened immune systems.

The Signs Of Giardia Infection in Dogs

If your dog shows any signs of illness that concern you, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. This is because many of the symptoms listed below could indicate several different conditions.

However, pet owners need to remain vigilant and watch out for various symptoms of Giardia. These symptoms include:

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

When a parasite affects a dog's internal systems, it can lead to diarrhea and weight loss. This happens because the parasite interferes with the dog's ability to absorb water, electrolytes, and nutrients. In puppies, diarrhea can be either continual or intermittent. If left untreated, the disease can cause severe weight loss and even lead to death.

How Are Dogs Infected With Giardia?

This microscopic parasite resides in the intestines of mammals, amphibians, and birds. It has several subspecies, each targeting a specific animal group. Despite this, all subspecies have the same lifecycle and mode of transmission. 

Giardia's lifecycle has two stages. The mature parasites, known as trophozoites, reside in the small intestine, multiply, and transform into cysts. These cysts are infectious and are excreted in the feces of an infected animal. They can survive for weeks in the environment as cysts until another animal ingests them. Once inside a new host, they transform back into trophozoites and repeat the lifecycle.

Dogs can contract Giardia by drinking contaminated water or by eating grass or other materials that have been in contact with contaminated feces. As we all know, dogs love exploring the world with their mouths, which makes it easy for them to pick up the parasite from the environment. They can drink from puddles, eat other animal's poop, or chew on sticks. 

Even if they do not show any signs of infection, our four-legged friends can still transmit the parasite. This is particularly concerning if you have more than one pet. Although it's unlikely to be transmitted from dogs to cats, it's a significant concern among dogs. If one of your pets is diagnosed with Giardia, it's essential to consult your veterinarian to determine the necessary precautions to take with your other pets.

Can I Get Giardia from my Dog Licking Me?

It's unlikely that you will contract Giardia from your dog, but it's not impossible. To reduce this low risk, always wash your hands after handling your dog's poop. In humans, Giardia is commonly transmitted through drinking contaminated water, not from their pets. Giardiasis is also known as "Beaver Fever" in people.

If you know that your water source contains the parasite, consider buying a water filter and avoid drinking contaminated water, especially while traveling. This parasite can also be present in soil and on food, so remember to wash all produce before eating and wash your hands after working with dirt.

How Can Giardia Be Treated?

If you've noticed your dog suffers from diarrhea or other symptoms, call your vet immediately. Your vet will likely perform several diagnostic tests to find out whether your dog has Giardia. Depending on the results and the severity of your dog's case, a treatment plan can be developed tailored to your dog's needs. 

Protecting Your Dog From Re-infection & Passing It On

Giardia is a harmful parasite that cannot be prevented by standard tick, flea, and heartworm preventatives prescribed by vets. However, you can take certain measures to keep your dog safe from it. The most important thing is to ensure that your dog has access to clean and fresh water at all times. Doing so can reduce the risk of your dog drinking from infected puddles and improve their overall health. You can boil your dog's water and let it cool before offering it to them. Alternatively, you can buy a filter that has been proven to remove Giardia cysts if you live in an area where Giardia is prevalent.

Always wash your hands after handling dog poop and dispose of it quickly. If you have other animals in the house, even if they are not displaying any symptoms, inform your vet. Your vet may want to put your other pets on medication as giardiasis can be asymptomatic, and other pets could still be spreading the infection. 

It is essential to bathe all pets regularly to remove cysts from their hair coat. Also, disinfect your pets' environment daily, including their crates, beds, and food and water bowls. Cleaning should continue until 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.

If your dog has drank some nasty water and is now acting strange, contact our Stockton vets so we can diagnose and treat them as quickly as possible.

New Patients Welcome

New Patients Welcome

Bear Creek Veterinary Hospital is welcoming new patients! Our compassionate vets are experienced in caring for Stockton companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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