A Common and Unpleasant Problem â or â Jumpin Giardia,Â Batman!
February 10, 2009
When you work in dog daycare, you live in constant fear of three things: Dog fights, high-maintenance customers, and the dreaded Giardia.
Giardia is not a life-threatening disease, but it sure is messy and thereâs a chance you could become infected, too. Not pleasant. The symptoms are diarrhea and vomiting, but symptoms are only shown once the condition is advanced and most likely has already spread to other dogs (or your co-workers!).
Dogs become infected with Giardia when they ingest the cysts of the parasite found in feces or in contaminated water. That dog can then lick another dogâs or personâs face and spread the cysts to the recipients of their kisses. The cysts open in the intestine, reproduce, form more cysts, and are passed on through the feces. Once there is an over-abundance of the parasite, thatâs when the symptoms begin. Hooray!
Treatment is simple. A few days on Fenbendazole or Metronidazol, and they (or you)Â should be ok. Diagnosing the condition is another story, though. Cysts may not occur in every sample of feces your dog makes, so the vet might need multiple samples to confirm the presence of Giardia before treatment, and the absence of the parasites after treatment.
If your dog is diagnosed with Giardia, or if you even suspect he has it, donât expose him to other dogs, and clean up after him thoroughly. The cysts can live in cold, wet environments for weeks or even months. Avoid boarding him or taking him to daycare. If you must, notify the staff of his condition so they can keep him separate from the playgroup. Understand that your dog will likely spend most of the day in a crate, isolated, to prevent the condition spreading to other dogs.
âSo, how do I prevent my dog from getting into this mess in the first place,â you say? If your dog socializes with other dogs, in fact, as long as your dog is a dog, thereâs a very good chance he will get Giardia at some point. He can pick it up at the park, the dog beach, kennels, on a walk around the block, pretty much anywhere he might encounter feces. Definitely discourage him from eating, or even sniffing poo. If he steps in some, clean it off of him before he cleans himself.
And I know it seems cruel and heartbreaking and awful to say this, but, donât kiss your dog! and do your best not to let dogs lick your face. Sure Giardia has helped some of my co-workers lose some weight, but it ainât pretty. Every time we suspect a case of Giardia in the dogs, each one of us flutters around the daycare weilding a spray bottle of bleach in one hand and Lysol in the other, hoping to exorcise the place of the evil cysts. Whether our obsessive disinfecting has any effect on the spread of the bugs in the daycare, thereâs no way to know. But at least we feel like weâre doing something to fight back against the dreaded Giardia.