Giardia In Dogs: What Is It?
Giardiasis (also called giardiasis) is a common intestinal infection caused by the protozoan parasite Giardia lamblia. There are two species of Giardia, which cause different types of disease in animals and humans. The most commonly found type infects domestic livestock such as sheep, goats, cattle and pigs; however it can affect other animals including birds, fish and reptiles. Humans become infected when they ingest water contaminated with feces from an animal or person infected with Giardia lamblia. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever and nausea. Other symptoms may include bloody stools, weight loss and fatigue.
The second type of Giardia causes human infections mainly through ingestion of undercooked shellfish such as clams and oysters. These infections can cause severe illness in children, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.
In both cases, the parasites multiply rapidly in the intestines causing cysts to form within them. Once these cysts rupture, they release thousands of microscopic larvae into the bloodstream where they attach themselves to red blood cells and travel throughout the body. They then grow up to become adult worms that survive only in fresh water. The disease is not usually life-threatening, but the symptoms may last for a month or more and often go away and return in cycles.
Giardiasis is diagnosed by analyzing a stool sample under a microscope. Treatment involves taking antibiotics such as tetracycline or metronidazole.
Human giardiasis is considered to be a reportable disease, which means that doctors are required by law to tell public health officials about any cases they find. Your doctor may require you to fill out a form and provide stool samples to be tested.
As with any disease, it is best to take common sense precautions as well as practicing good hygiene. Do not swim or boat in any fresh water without first boiling it or chemically treating it (with iodine). Avoid drinking any water that looks potentially dirty, discolored or contaminated. Do not eat raw or undercooked shellfish.
Giardia In Dogs: Symptoms
The symptoms of giardia infection in dogs are diarrhea, which may range from just normal to extremely loose and messy with lots of mucus and blood. Other symptoms may include weight loss and a failure to thrive in young puppies. Some dogs don’t have any symptoms at all or only experience a mild digestive upset that clears up after a few days.
Giardia In Dogs: Diagnosis
Your veterinarian can diagnose giardiasis through a variety of means. Stool tests are usually very effective in diagnosing the illness as they can detect the parasite or its ova (eggs) in the stool. X-rays, meanwhile, may show signs of gastrointestinal disease such as malabsorption.
Giardia In Dogs: Treatment
Some giardia infections can clear up without treatment, particularly the milder cases. A dog’s immune system generally takes care of the problem by walling off the infection so that it can’t spread and then flushing it out of the body along with the rest of the waste. However, in some cases drugs such as metronidazole or furazolidone may be required to kill off the parasites.
If your dog is diagnosed with giardia, make sure you wash your hands after cleaning up any messes. Giardia can survive for a short time on inanimate objects such as door handles and furniture, and you could accidentally infect yourself or other people in the household if you aren’t careful. If you or anyone else in the family starts experiencing similar symptoms, it might be a good idea to get yourselves tested as well.
Giardia in Dogs Summary
Giardia is a single celled, microscopic parasite that infects the intestines of both humans and canines. While many people experience no symptoms at all, mild cases involve stomach aches and loose, watery stools. Severe cases can result in poor absorption of nutrients such as fat soluble vitamins as well as malnutrition due to the low appetite and persistent diarrhea.
Giardia in dogs is generally treated with Antiparasitic drugs such as metronidazole or furazolidone. The disease is transmitted through contact with infected feces, including those of people who have the infection. It can also be transmitted from mother to pup while in the womb, or during nursing.
Giardia is a serious issue in humans and animals alike. If you suspect that your pet has been infected, consult a veterinarian as soon as possible for treatment. You can also learn how to prevent giardia infection in yourself and your pet by reading the information below.
Prevention of Giardia in Dogs
Giardia can easily be spread from dog to dog, as well as from dog to human and human to human. To prevent the spread of giardia, make sure you keep your pet’s living area clean and free of any potential sources of contamination. Wear gloves when cleaning up messes and thoroughly wash your hands with hot, soapy water afterward.
Giardia can also live outside of the body for several days. This means that your pet can become infected by drinking from a puddle that an infected dog has peed in, or even from rolling around in dirt that contains Giardia cysts (presumably from an infected dog’s paws). Make sure your pet has plenty of fresh, clean drinking water available at all times. Check their bowl before you refill it to ensure that it hasn’t been contaminated by any stray animals.
Sources & references used in this article:
- The molecular characterisation of Giardia from dogs in southern Germany (S Leonhard, K Pfister, P Beelitz, C Wielinga… – Veterinary …, 2007 – Elsevier)
- A longitudinal study on the occurrence of Cryptosporidium and Giardia in dogs during their first year of life (IS Hamnes, BK Gjerde, LJ Robertson – Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, 2007 – Springer)
- A survey of the prevalence of Giardia in dogs presented to Canadian veterinary practices. (SR Jacobs, CP Forrester, J Yang – The Canadian Veterinary …, 2001 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)