Giardia is a microscopic parasite that can impact dogs of all ages and breeds. In this article, we will delve into what Giardia is, how it spreads, the symptoms to look out for, and the best practices for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. By the end, you'll have a comprehensive understanding of this pesky parasite and the steps you can take to keep your four-legged friend happy, healthy, and Giardia-free.
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- How Do Dogs Get Giardiasis
- What Are the Clinical Signs of Giardiasis
- What Should I Feed a Dog with Giardia
- How is Giardiasis Treated
How Do Dogs Get Giardiasis
Giardia is a microscopic protozoan parasite that can infect dogs and other animals, including humans. The parasite is commonly known as Giardia duodenalis or Giardia intestinalis, and it is quickly spread by way of contaminated water, food, soil, and fecal matter.
The cysts are hardy and long-lasting, making it easy for dogs to get infected by drinking from contaminated water sources or grooming themselves after coming into contact with contaminated surfaces. Prey animals, such as rats and mice, can also be infected, passing it along to predators (in this case, a dog).
According to NCBI research giardia infections in dogs are quite common and can lead to a condition known as giardiasis. The parasite can stay alive even without a host for many weeks or months, even after you have done what you think is a thorough cleaning.
What Are the Clinical Signs of Giardiasis
The giardia parasite gets to work on the intestines, essentially attacking the lining and causing symptoms linked to the gastrointestinal system.
- Bloody poop;
- Poop with mucus;
- Foul smelling poop;
- More frequent pooping and urinating;
- Decreased appetite;
- Increased or decreased thirst;
- Weight loss;
- Vomiting or heaving;
These symptoms can range in severity from no symptoms at all to all symptoms at once. In some dogs, the symptoms come and go; in others, they are chronic and debilitating. Diarrhea quickly leads to dehydration, which is a medical emergency. This is why untreated giardia in dogs is concerning.
Giardia is easily missed in its earliest stages, especially if your pup presents with virtually no symptoms— or none that you have noticed, at least. Some dogs are also asymptomatic, which means they have the parasite in their bodies but do not become ill or experience symptoms. They can still pass giardia along to other pets and even humans if they don’t have symptoms themselves.
What Should I Feed a Dog with Giardia
Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog's diet, especially when dealing with a giardia infection. Each dog's condition is unique, and the vet can provide tailored advice and recommendations based on your pet's specific needs. Additionally, adhering to the prescribed treatment plan and maintaining good hygiene practices are essential to successfully managing Giardia and promoting your dog's recovery.
Your vet will likely recommend the following temporary food changes to ease your pet’s condition:
- Smaller and more frequent meals;
- Food specifically designed to assist with gastrointestinal issues;
- More bowls of fresh water around the home;
- Probiotic supplements or food;
- Foods low in fat;
- Pumpkin, canned or fresh;
- Easy to digest foods, such as steamed chicken, rice, and other bland foods;
- Avoidance of trigger foods.
How is Giardiasis Treated
You can get in touch with your vet or one of Petcube’s 24/7 vets for advice. If they also suspect your pet has giardia, they will recommend that you visit a surgery for proper diagnosis and treatment. The surgery vet will perform a giardia test for dogs — a fecal flotation test — to identify giardia cysts in the stool.
If the parasitic cysts are present, treatment usually involves antibiotics alongside pain relief, stomach-settling medication, and parasite or worming treatments. Young pups or severe cases of giardiasis often require IV fluids, electrolytes, and essential nutritional vitamins.
Good hygiene and sanitation practices are also essential to prevent reinfection, and you will also need to get all other dogs in your household checked out, too. (And maybe even yourself.)
As a side note, your vet will also want to rule out other diseases while also checking for giardia, including parvovirus.
What Does Giardia Poop Look Like in Dogs?
If your dog has giardia, they will more than likely have very loose, watery stools that look every bit as unpleasant as they smell. The fecal matter may also contain blood or mucus and is difficult to scoop into a dog poop bag.
What Happens if Giardia is Left Untreated in Dogs?
Prolonged diarrhea in dogs can have serious consequences, including dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, weight loss, and increased susceptibility to secondary infections. All of this equals an incredibly poor quality of life. Prompt medical attention is necessary when dealing with persistent diarrhea in dogs to identify the underlying cause and prevent further complications.
Are There Home Remedies for Giardia in Dogs?
No, there are no home remedies for this condition in dogs. It's important to remember that while giardia infections are common and often resolve with appropriate treatment, if left untreated or if the dog has a weakened immune system, the infection can become chronic and lead to more severe health issues. All the while you’re relying on home remedies that won’t work, your pup’s condition will worsen.
By being vigilant about your dog's health, following proper hygiene practices, and seeking veterinary care when needed, you can help protect your furry friend from the effects of giardia and ensure they lead a happy and healthy life.
Petcube’s fully trained, friendly, and professional veterinarians are your best resource for personalized advice and guidance regarding your dog's specific needs and health concerns.
Together, we can keep our canine companions safe and thriving!
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