How to protect your dog from Giardia
What is Giardia?
Giardia is a single-celled parasite that infects humans and dogs alike, causing unpleasant and potentially dangerous disease.
How do dogs get Giardia?
Dogs can get Giardia through contact with the faeces of infected animals or when they drink contaminated water containing microscopic Giardia cysts from an infected animal’s faeces. These cysts can live for months in water, increasing the chances of other animals becoming infected.
After a dog drinks contaminated water, the intestinal parasite takes up residence in the dog’s intestine, where it can damage the intestinal lining, wreaking havoc if left untreated.
What are the signs of Giardia in dogs?
Giardia can cause several symptoms, including:
- Severe diarrhoea
- A dry or shaggy coat
- Unexplained weight loss
These symptoms can also indicate other health conditions in your dog, so be sure to consult your vet if you suspect Giardia is the culprit.
How is Giardia diagnosed?
Giardia is a common cause of diarrhoea in dogs, especially in puppies and in dogs that have spent time in a shared kennel. It can be detected and treated relatively easily. If you suspect Giardia, your vet will test faecal samples from your dog to determine the parasite’s presence.
How is Giardia treated?
If your dog does have Giardia, your vet will prescribe a course of medication and arrange follow-up tests to make sure the infection has gone. If your dog has shown signs of dehydration, your vet may also give them fluids to rehydrate them.
How can you prevent Giardia?
You can reduce the chances of your dog becoming infected with Giardia in several ways:
- Make sure your dog has clean, safe drinking water at all times. If you plan to be outside for several hours with your dog, carry bottled water or a canteen for your dog, as well as a portable dog bowl.
- Do not allow your dog to drink communal water in public places. This includes puddles, streams, riverbanks, fountains and so on.
- Keep your dog leashed if you can’t trust them not to drink from public water sources.
- Pick up and dispose of your dog’s faeces immediately to prevent the spread of the parasite, taking care to wash your hands afterwards.
How can you prevent reinfection?
If your vet diagnoses your dog with Giardia, there is a chance your pet will get reinfected. It is recommended to bathe your pet regularly and disinfect their water bowls, food bowls and toys to eliminate any remaining Giardia cysts.
You can also prevent reinfection by following these tips:
- Be extra vigilant about where your dog drinks, and consider disinfecting potential sources.
- If you have another dog or a cat, consider getting them tested for Giardia in case they are carriers and a potential source of infection.
- Be mindful when your dog is socialising with other dogs in parks, kennels or grooming facilities, particularly where water sources are present.
Did you know?
Because Giardia can also infect humans, it is possible for the Giardia cysts shed by infected dogs to infect people. However, many strains of Giardia that infect dogs do not infect humans.