Symptoms of Giardia in Dogs

Giardia in dogs is a small one celled organism that may cause the disease known as giardiasis. There are several species of giardia parasites and the cysts from these parasites infect dogs and lodge in the dog’s intestine, causing diarrhea. Unfortunately, there are no particular symptoms that can point to giardia infection and in some cases giardiasis may be asymptomatic.

Transmission of Giardia

The giardia parasites can be transmitted through the cysts that are shed by infected animals. These cysts may be found in feces or contaminated water and when this is ingested and reaches the dog’s intestine, it will activate and may move around causing intestinal discomfort. The parasite can divide and will produce several cysts that can be shed and potentially infect other dogs or people.

Signs and Symptoms of Giardia in Dogs

A lot of dogs that are infected with the giardia parasite present no symptoms. In most cases, the giardia parasites won’t cause giardiasis and the parasites will only lodge in the dog’s intestine.

One of the possible symptoms that may occur is the diarrhea. The feces will have a changed color, typically lighter than usual and will have a foul odor. The feces may also be greasy, as fat may be eliminated due to the fact that the giardia parasites don’t allow a proper absorption of the nutrients and these will be eliminated without being digested.

Vomiting may occur in some cases, as the giardia will affect the intestinal lining.

The dog will not lack appetite, but may lose weight due to the chronic diarrhea.

You also must watch out for dehydration, which can be severe and cause problems.

Diagnosing Giardia

Giardia is difficult to diagnose due to the lack of symptoms and the fact that the parasite is so small and does not occur in every stool.

Several samples of stool are needed to identify if the parasite is present in the dog’s intestine.

An ELISA testing may also confirm the diagnosis.

Treating Giardia in Dogs

In case the dog has giardiasis or has giardia in his intestines, the vet may advise you to get treatment. In some cases, when the dog does not have giardiasis, only intestinal giardia, the vet may tell you that the treatment is optional.

Antiparasitic medication is prescribed to eliminate the giardia parasites. Fenbendazole and metronidazole are efficient for treating giardiasis. Metronidazole should be given with caution, as it may be toxic and cause liver damage in dogs.

Preventing Giardia Infection

Giardia cysts can be shed through feces and may live in a suitable, cold environment for several months. Keep your dog away from dog feces, as these may contain giardia cysts.

Water may also contain giardia cysts, so make sure that the water you provide your dog is fresh and from a trustworthy source.

Giardia and Human Infection

Giardia may infect humans; if you drink contaminated water you may ingest giardia cysts. In humans, giardia will not cause diseases, but will reside in the intestine causing diarrhea.

However, it hasn’t yet been proven that dogs may infect humans with giardia parasites.