Giardia in dogs is a serious parasitic infection that can result in extreme weight loss and nutritional deficiencies. If you suspect your dog has developed giardia, it is important to seek treatment right away. Please understand that this disease can also impact humans (although the pathogens infecting humans and animals are different). In humans, the disease is called beaver fever.
Although diarrhea is a common symptom, often, there may be no symptoms at all and the disease can be deceptive.
It is important to get all the information about giardia in dogs so you can prevent it from spreading to your other healthy dogs, household pets, and family members. In this guide, we discuss everything you need to know about canine giardia infection.
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How Does a Dog Get Giardia?
Giardia is a contagious disease caused by gastrointestinal parasites. A dog could acquire giardiasis pathogens after licking or eating the infected dog’s poop or poop of another animal. Similarly, licking or eating contaminated soil in dog parks or drinking water contaminated with giardia cysts can also result in this infection.
Overcrowded kennels and animal shelters with giardia-contaminated surfaces could be one of the causes of the disease. Licking the body or paws can also infect a dog with giardiasis.
Also read: Common French Bulldog Health Problems
How do I Know if my Dog has Giardia?
According to the CDC, giardia in dogs can result in the following clinical signs:
- Abdominal discomfort or pain
- Watery diarrhea
- Gas – foul smelling
- Severe diarrhea with greenish stools
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
Many dogs (and humans) may be infected with giardia but not show any symptoms at all. Over time, the infected animal could lose weight and look sickly. A fecal test of stool sample can help diagnose the infection.
What are the Stages of Giardia Infection in Dogs? What are Giardia Cysts in Dogs?
According to veterinary experts, giardia infection can appear in two stages. In the first stage, trophozoite organisms (single celled parasite) get attached to the dog’s intestines.
In the second stage, the trophozoites form infectious cysts which get passed through the dog’s feces. Feces then contaminate water bodies and soil. Once the cysts are in the environment, they can infect other animals. They thrive in damp environments. Using quaternary ammonium compounds can help eliminate them.
As described above, the cysts are the second stage of the infection where the dog passes the microbes off into the environment through its poop.
Giardia cysts can remain active for a long time (months) and another dog could acquire the pathogens after licking them through feces or contaminated water.
What Does Poop with Giardia look like? Is Giardia Visible in Dog Poop?
While the cysts and pathogens aren’t visible in your pet’s poop, there could be many changes in your pet’s stools.
Giardia poop is usually watery and loose. Its color may be green, yellow, or brown but the stools are almost always liquid and watery. There could be a fatty layer or mucous on the poop. Your pet might also pass foul-smelling gas while pooping.
In severe infections, the stools could have blood in them.
Note that, in many dogs, the poop with giardia cysts could be normal and yet the dog could be infected but asymptomatic. However, that does not stop the infection from spreading. Here are some poop colors in giardia and what they indicate:
- Normal poop – subclinical giardia
- Soft poop like melted ice cream- early stages- please take stool for a vet exam.
- Watery, brown, yellow-giardiasis but could also be intestinal irritation or viral/bacterial infection.
- Greasy-giardiasis due to poor fat absorption
- Green- giardiasis, or could be due to eating grass, etc.
How Contagious is Giardia in Dogs?
Giardia is extremely contagious. The pathogens remain infectious for a long time and dogs could easily pick them up from dog’s stool or an infected cat in kennels, pet shelters, vet clinics, pet boarding facilities, etc. Drinking contaminated water is also a cause.
The giardiasis-contaminated soil can also remain infectious for months and infect dogs and other animals.
Will Giardia in Dogs Go Away on its Own? What Naturally Kills Giardia in dogs?
The intestinal infection won’t go away on its own. While rarely fatal, an infected dog will need antibiotics such as Metronidazole to kill the pathogens quickly. Without treatment, it may cause serious symptoms described above and even death. Dogs with compromised immunity are at greater risk of dying.
Holistic vets often recommend the following natural remedies for killing giardia naturally in pets:
- Clove oil- mix a small pinch of clove oil or clove powder in your dog’s food. You can give 1 clove per 4.5 kg or 10 lb. body weight.
- Oregon grape is a natural antibiotic that kills giardia pathogens. Administer 10 drops of its tincture per 20 lb body weight. Do not give for more than 7 days at a stretch.
- Goldenseal – you can give the tincture or powder of goldenseal to kill giardia naturally in dogs. Administer 1 tsp per 20 lb weight.
Please consult your vet before administering these remedies to your pet.
What Happens if Dogs Giardia is Left Untreated?
If you do not provide timely treatment to dogs infected with giardia and practice steps of environmental management, they could suffer from malnutrition, chronic diarrhea, or severe anemia.
Also, severe diarrhea can greatly impact infected dogs quality of life. Dogs with compromised immune systems increase the dog’s risk of dying.
Giardia cysts could also prevent your dog’s body from absorbing nutrients from its food. Resultantly, without treatment, the disease could kill the affected animals.
Giardia in Puppies
How do I know if my Puppy has Giardia? Is it Common in Pups?
Just like in adult dogs, giardia is fairly common in puppies – even more so- as pups tend to lick everything. Many pups acquire the pathogens from other infected animals in shelters or boarding facilities. Some eat the infected feces of other dogs or other pets or contaminated soil and acquire the disease.
Puppies with giardia tend to have greenish/yellowish, watery, or loose stools or diarrhea. They won’t grow and thrive and will be sickly and malnourished. Some puppies are even known to die from giardia without timely treatment. Diagnostic tests can confirm the condition.
How Long does it take for Giardia to go away in Puppies?
With treatment, puppies usually recover within a few days to weeks. It is very important to take steps for environmental disinfection to ensure that the giardia pathogens are eliminated completely from the surrounding environment. Preventing giardia includes:
- Bleach all kennels, crates, dog beds, etc.
- Wash water and food bowls
- Clear away feces to remove cysts immediately from the yard. Avoid handling feces directly-wear gloves.
- prevent puppy’s access to litter box for disease control
- Wipe all household surfaces and discard all contaminated material
This is important to prevent giardia and also not infect humans.
Administer the medicine as prescribed. Most dogs recover quickly while some may need to take the medication for several weeks to prevent a flare-up of the disease.
Conclusion – How To Treat Giardia in Dogs
Giardia in dogs is a highly contagious disease that can cause severe diarrhea and weight loss. Without treatment, it can even result in death.
Thankfully, treating the condition early can help. There are medicines available for it. You can also look at holistic or natural remedies like clove to treat giardia in canines.
We hope this brief guide helps you manage and treat canine giardia duodenalis efficiently.