Dogs, cats, and humans can get Giardiasis after being infected with the Giardia parasite. Today, our Kinston vets explain what Giardia is, including how it spreads between dogs and the treatments available.
Giardia In Dogs
Giardiasis is an infection of the intestines that is seen in animals and humans. This infection is a result of the Giardia parasite and there are 8 different genotypes labeled A through H.
Types C and D are seen more often in dogs, while F is the most common culprit in cats. Therefore, types A and B are typically seen in humans.
While Giardia doesn't always cause problems for dogs when issues do arise, they are extremely unpleasant. The most common symptom is diarrhea. Giardiasis is particularly dangerous for puppies, dogs with compromised immune systems, and senior dogs.
The Signs of a Dog Giardia Infection
If your pup is exhibiting concerning symptoms, don't hesitate to call your vet because many of the signs listed below can be associated with a range of conditions. That said, owners can monitor for several Giardia symptoms, including:
- Poor coat appearance
- Failure to gain weight
- Weight loss
Diarrhea and weight loss often arise when the parasite disrupts a dog's internal system, affecting their ability to absorb water, electrolytes, and nutrients. Diarrhea might be continual or intermittent (especially in puppies). If the disease isn't diagnosed and treated, severe weight loss and death could occur.
The Causes of Giardia Infections In Dogs
This single-celled parasite makes its home in the intestines of mammals, birds, and amphibians and as discussed above, has different subspecies. While each subspecies targets a specific group of animals, all have the same lifecycle and transmission method.
Giardia's lifecycle has two stages. Mature parasites (trophozoites) live in the small intestine, multiply and become cysts. Cysts are then infective and shed via feces from an infected animal. They can survive for weeks in the environment as cysts until being ingested by another animal. They then transform into trophozoites and repeat the lifecycle.
Dogs can contract Giardia by eating grass, drinking water, or consuming other substances that have been contaminated with feces. Most seasoned pet owners know that our canines explore the world with their mouths. This makes the parasite easy to pick up by drinking from a puddle, eating another animal's poop, chewing on a stick, or more.
Dogs can also spread the parasite if they aren't displaying symptoms of infection. This is concerning, especially if you live with more than one pet. While the parasite is unlikely to be transmitted between dogs and cats, transmission from dog to dog is relatively common. If one of your pets is diagnosed with Giardia, ask your vet which precautions you should take to protect your other pets.
Can People Get Giardia From Dogs?
There is a very low risk of humans getting giardia from their dogs, but it could happen. To reduce this risk, don't forget to wash your hands after handling your dog's poop.
In humans, giardia transmission often occurs after drinking water, not from pets. Giardiasis in people is known as "Beaver Fever." Consider buying a water filter if your water source is known to contain the parasite, and avoid drinking contaminated water, especially while traveling. This parasite can also be found in soil and on food, so wash all produce before eating and wash your hands after working with dirt.
Treating Giardia In Dogs
If your dog is suffering from diarrhea or other symptoms, call your vet immediately. Your vet will probably conduct several diagnostic tests to determine if your dog has Giardia. Depending on the results and the severity of your dog's case, your vet will develop a treatment plan customized to your pup's needs.
Preventing The Spread of Giardia & Reinfections
Giardia is a very unpleasant parasite and can't be prevented with tick, flea, or heartworm medications. However, there are measures you can take to prevent your dog from getting this illness. The most important thing you can do is make sure your dog has access to clean, fresh water at all times, this helps keep them from drinking infected puddle water. You can boil your dog's water ( let it cool before offering it to your dog) or purchase a filter that can remove Giardia cysts if you live in a place where Giardia is present.
Along with washing your hands after handling dog poop and quickly disposing of it, you should inform your vet if you have other animals in the house, even if they are not showing any symptoms. Your vet may want to start your other animals on medication as giardiasis is often asymptomatic and your other pets could still be spreading the illness.
All household animals should be bathed regularly to remove cysts from their coats. You should also disinfect your pets' environment (crates, beds, etc.) and wash their water and food bowls daily.
Cleaning should take place until at least several days after all of the pets in your home 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.