Diagnosing Giardia in Dogs

Learn how your veterinarian diagnoses giardia in dogs. The parasite is microscopic and often missed during testing. Therefore, it can take numerous tests to truly uncover if your dog has the troublesome parasite or not.

When left untreated, a dog can die from anemia and lack of nutrients to the body. It will take time to reach this point, so if your dog is experiencing diarrhea for more than a day or two, call your veterinarian. Because the parasite also attacks humans, it's best to treat your dog as soon as possible and then do a thorough cleaning of your house and yard.

What Is Giardia in Dogs

Giardia are microscopic protozoa that thrive in the small intestines of animals. They enter a dog's system after the dog eats or drinks something that is infested with the organism's cyst, very similar to an egg casing.

Inside the intestines, the cyst breaks open and leeches onto the intestine wall where it begins reproducing through cell division. The new cysts exit the animal's feces where they can get into the soil and water and infect more animals and humans.

The prevalent symptom of Giardia in dogs is diarrhea. The diarrhea usually smells horrible and looks greasy. As Giardiasis increases, they block the lining of the intestines decreasing the passage of nutrients from the dog's food into the blood vessels leading to malnutrition and anemia.

Other symptoms of Giardiasis include:

  • Bloody diarrhea

  • Lethargy

  • Mucus in the dog's stool

  • Straining during defecation

  • Weight loss

Testing for Giardia in Dogs

Your veterinarian will view a sample of your dog's fecal matter to look for the Giardia cysts. If you get negative test results, your dog may still have Giardia. It will take time to find traces of the organisms. Most veterinarians continue taking samples for 72 hours to confirm their suspicions.

Treatments and Cleaning Routines for Giardia

If the Giardia cysts are found, Metronidazole will be prescribed. This medication kills the organisms and also acts as an anti-inflammatory to help heal and soothe the intestinal lining. There are other medications too, such as Fenbendazole, but generally Metronidazole works quickly and effectively.

Bathe your dog to remove any cysts that may have stuck to the fur after a diarrhea attack. Wash the bathtub thoroughly after the bath and then throw towels into the washing machine. Don't leave them laying around.

Wash your hands in warm, soapy water after cleaning up any messes your dog makes. If your children play outside, make sure they wash their hands immediately when coming inside.

Meanwhile, it is important to clear your yard of any dog feces. If there is standing water anywhere in your yard, try to drain it. Inside, you should clean bedding and kennels with a product containing quaternary ammonium, as it is proven to kill Giardia. Cleaners that contain quaternary ammonium include Pine Sol.

If you have more than one dog, it is often best to put them on a medication too. Many times, dogs have Giardia present but are not showing signs of illness yet.