Webster Lake Veterinary Hospital

What is Giardiasis?


Giardiasis is an intestinal infection caused by a parasitic protozoan (single celled organism) called Giardia lamblia. These protozoans are found in the intestines of many animals, including dogs and humans. This microscopic parasite clings to the surface of the intestine, or floats free in the mucous lining the intestine. Veterinary research documents suggest that 5% to 10% of all dogs inNorth Americahave giardiasis at any given time.


Is Giardia Dangerous?
Though an infection with Giardia is not intitially fatal to your dog's health, it can develop into a very serious condition. Since the Giardia organisms interfere with the normal absorption of your dog's food, this can result in malnutrition, weight loss, and other serious symptoms. In addition to this, due to the frequent diarrhea that most dogs experience when infected with Giardia, a dog may also become severely dehydrated.


What are the signs of aGiardiainfection?

Most infections withGiardiaareasymptomatic. In the rare cases in which disease occurs, younger animals are usually affected, and the usual sign is diarrhea. The diarrhea may beacute, intermittent, orchronic. Usually the infected animals will not lose their appetite, but they may lose weight. The feces are often abnormal, being pale, having a bad odor, and appearing greasy. In the intestine,Giardiaprevents proper absorption ofnutrients, damages the delicate intestinal lining, and interferes with digestion.


How can I be sure my dog has Giardia?

Diagnosing giardia is not easy. Diagnosis via fecal sample is not straightforward. Even when a flare is at it's worst, the cysts will not be shedding in every single stool. Therefore, a negative report does not always rule out giardia.


How did my dog get Giardia?

Giardialives and reproduces in the small intestine of host animals, such as birds, raccoons, skunks, etc. These animals drop feces in stagnant water or on lawns, soccer fields etc. Also, many puppy stores selling puppies cross contaminate giardia by putting puppies together in small spaces. They walk on each others feces than clean their feet or physically eat stool.


Is Giardia Treatable?
Fortunately, there are many different treatment options currently available for treating a dog infected with Giardia. Although there are several different medications that are available over the counter for treating Giardia, it is still very important not to use any medication until consulting your veterinarian. Since the symptoms of Giardia are very similar to some other medical conditions, it's essential to first obtain a positive diagnosis for Giardia from your veterinarian prior to consulting them about any medications.

The treatment options for Giardia are relatively effective, though it may be necessary for your veterinarian to prescribe several different medications before the Giardia infection is eliminated completely.


How can I prevent Giardia in my Dog?

Giardia is transmitted through direct contact with contaminated water, food, or fecal material from an infected animal. The best way to prevent Giardia is to avoid bringing your dog to areas where a known Giardia infection is present.

This may include some waterfront areas, most of which undergo regular testing by the state. Though there is a vaccine that has been developed, it has not yet been effective in preventing Giardia. This vaccine is still in experimental stages, and may be the precursor to a true preventive vaccine against Giardia.


Keeping your yard at home clean is important to help keep from re-infecting your Dog. Try confining defication to one specific area of the yard and then pick up immediately. If your dog is having accidents in the home use a diluted bleach solution to clean up. Wash all dogs bedding that you suspect may have been deficated on.