Giardiasis is a disease caused by a parasite that can affect both dogs and humans. It causes a pale and very foul-smelling diarrhea especially in puppies, while in adult dogs it may not cause any symptoms. It almost always results from drinking water or food that is contaminated by feces containing the parasite, but with treatment and good hygiene, it can be controlled.
What causes giardiasis in dogs?
It is a parasite in dogs called Giardia that can be found in the soil or in the dog’s food or water. Transmission occurs by direct contact, if the dog ingests contaminated feces, or indirectly, if it ingests contaminated food or water.
There are two forms of Giardia, the trophozoite and the cyst, and both are infectious. The former is the one found inside the dog’s body during infestation, while the latter is a form of resistance that the parasite adopts in the environment and allows it to survive for months. After ingestion of these cysts, trophozoites are released into the dog’s intestine.
In which areas is giardiasis in dogs usually found?
Giardiasis in dogs is more common in places with a high density of dogs (such as shelters, animal shelters, boarding kennels, etc.), in puppies less than six months old and in homes where several animals live together, whether they are dogs, cats or both.
How can I know if my dog suffers from giardiasis?
The most striking feature of giardiasis in dogs is a very foul-smelling diarrhea that lasts between 5 and 12 days and may occur even before the dog begins to expel the parasite with feces. The dog defecates more frequently and the stools are pale in color, may contain mucus and are liquid to soft; fever is sometimes present. It is more common in young dogs or dogs with problems in their defense system, and in these cases the disease is usually more severe than in adult or healthy dogs. It is also true that some dogs may suffer from giardiasis without any symptoms and continue with their normal activity, while in severe cases they may stop eating and lose weight; this is usual when the animal suffers from other diseases at the same time.
What treatment will my dog need if it has giardiasis?
The most important thing will be to control the symptoms and this may require several medications or treatment attempts. Sometimes Giardia does not cause symptoms and does not need to be treated unless the pet lives in a household where there is a person with problems in their defense system due to the risk of transmission to humans.
The two most commonly used drugs to treat giardiasis in dogs are fenbendazole and metronidazole, two antiparasitic drugs. But beyond drug treatment, the dog should be fed a highly digestible diet until the stool is well formed. Adding some fiber can improve symptoms, as well as therapies that restore the intestinal microbiota, that is, the intestinal bacteria that are natural and beneficial to the body.
If the dog manifests symptoms, it is important to take it to the veterinarian as soon as possible, since treatment will be more effective the sooner we start it.
Is giardiasis in dogs a very serious disease?
Generally, it is not a serious disease because infested dogs do not usually show any symptoms, especially if they are adults and healthy, and in any case a treatment and hygienic measures that control the parasite can always be applied. Even so, some animals do not respond to drugs and the infestation may recur over time.
How can I prevent giardiasis in my dog?
When dealing with contaminated animals or feces, the starting point should be hygiene. When dealing with giardiasis in dogs, we should wear gloves and wash our hands frequently, remove the feces immediately and clean the sick animal so that no feces remains in its fur. In addition, we will prevent the dog from drinking water or food that may be contaminated.
On the other hand, boiling, steaming, drying or disinfecting utensils and surfaces with which the dog may be in contact will also serve to eliminate the cysts. Quaternary ammonium-based detergents are the best to eliminate Giardia. Phenolics also, although they must be in contact for a longer period of time, while chlorine products, such as bleach, are not effective against cysts.
What is my risk of catching giardiasis from dogs myself?
People who catch giardiasis from their dogs and contract parasites in humans usually do so by drinking water or eating food contaminated by the parasite, although it can also occur from person to person or, in some cases, from animal to person. Children and people with impaired immune systems are at greater risk and it may be advisable to keep their distance from infested pets.