Giardia in dogs is less common than in cats, however canines may also be affected by this parasite. Most dogs that are affected by Giardia donât display symptoms but are carriers of the parasite; puppies, elderly dogs or dogs with a weaker immune system will develop symptoms.
How Dogs Contract Giardia
Giardia is caused by a protozoan parasite known as Giardia trophozoites. Dogs may contract the parasite through the ingestion of cysts containing Giardia trophozoites. The cysts may be found in feces or soil and sand that contain infected feces. These cysts may survive for up to 4 weeks in moist environments.
Dogs may be infected from other infected animal feces as well (i.e. cat feces).
Symptoms of Giardia in Dogs
The first noticeable symptom of Giardia in dogs is diarrhea. The diarrhea is persistent and the feces will contain fat and have an unpleasant odor.
Dogs with Giardia will have appetite but may lose weight due to the diarrhea. Dehydration may also be possible if the diarrhea is severe.
Not all infected dogs will display symptoms. In this case, the dog will not be affected by Giardia and may be a carrier. The parasite may be detected in routine checkups. Even if your dog shows no symptoms, he should receive treatment as he sheds cysts and can infect other dogs.
Giardia in dogs may be diagnosed by analyzing a sample of feces. The vet will perform a zinc sulfate fecal flotation examination. If the cysts are present in the feces, the diagnosis is clear.
In some cases, the cysts may not occur in the feces, even if the dog is infected, so several feces samples are needed over a few days to make sure the diagnosis is indeed negative.
The ELISA (enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay) test may detect antigens of Giardia, however the test is more expensive than a fecal flotation examination.
Giardia in canines can be easily treated. The medication includes fenbendazole or metronidazole. These will exterminate the parasites and will also eliminate the cysts.
These deworming drugs are not recommended for pregnant and lactating dogs. Consult your vet for proper medication guidelines.
After the dog is cured, preventive measures must be taken, as dogs may get easily reinfected with the parasite. Bathe your dog and make sure to get rid of any dry feces from his fur. Clean the house and the garden, to make sure there are no infected feces remaining.
As Giardia is transmitted though feces, you need to keep your dog away from infected dogs and fecal matter.
In case your dog has been infected with the parasite, you can take some preventive dewormers such as fenbendazole.
More recently, a vaccine has been introduced to prevent the occurrence of Giardia. The vaccine can be administered when the dog is 8 weeks old and boosters can be administered periodically. The vaccine shouldnât be administered if the dog is suspected of having Giardia.
Giardia is a treatable parasitic disease. The main symptom of the disease is diarrhea and if this occurs and lasts over 48 hours, you should consult your vet for a fecal analysis and proper medication.