The Facts about Giardia in Dogs

As you know we work regularly with a dog rescue organisation. For those fantastic people who choose to adopt a rescue dog, in particular a puppy, Giardia is quite common. If your new puppy suffers from a bout of severe diarreah that does not seem to clear up, it is important to get them checked out by your vet. Typically the poop of an infected dog is watery, often tinged greenish and may contain blood. There is often also an excess of mucus in the poop too. An infected dog may also vomit.

Can humans get Giardia?

Giardiasis, or Giardia for short, is a parasite and a common cause of acute gastroenteritis ( tummy upsets ) in humans and many animal species across the globe. In Europe it is estimated that 15.2% of the dog population are infected. This figure is significantly higher on other continents, including North America. It therefore follows that yes, humans can pick up this parasite from an infected dog. The good news is that if you follow a basic hygeine regime then it is pretty unlikely. Pick up poop regularly in your outdoor spaces and protect your hands whilst doing so. Wash your hands regularly when interacting with your dog and in particular before eating.

What is Giardia?  

Giardia is a simple one celled parasite that has seven different  DNA profiles. These profiles are identified as types A through to G.  Different profiles typically infect different species.  Dogs are most likely to be infected with the C and D types and humans with the A and B. This is not to say that the specific types cannot be transmitted from one species to another. The giardia organism manifests itself in two forms. Firstly there is the fragile feeding form that just exists in the gut of the infected animal. Then there is the hardy cystic form that can exist outside the host body and is spread from the host in feces. It can then survive several months in the outside environment, particularly in water and damp places.  It is then spread to other hosts as they drink infected water or consume feces of other animals. 

How did my dog get Giardia?

A dog becomes infected when it eats or sniffs  the cyst form of the parasite from infected ground or water.  

In a healthy dog there may not be any symptoms, they may just be a carrier. However in puppies, ill or old dogs, there is normally severe watery diarrea that can be fatal if left untreated.  

The likelihood of developing the disease increases when there are many cysts in the environment such as in kennels, pet stores and animal shelters. In order to try to prevent initial infection and spread it is very important to clean up and dispose of feces as quickly as possible and on a regular basis. It is also important to protect your hands whilst doing this and to dispose of the feces in sealed plastic bags. This avoids the spread to humans and also into the wider environment. As a further precaution regularly used common areas can be routinely disinfected. 

How is Giardia diagnosed?

A giardia infestation is diagnosed by your vet who will need to have an analysis carried out of a feces sample to detect the presence of specific cell proteins. Very occaissionally the parasite may be seen on a direct smear of the feces but they are difficult to detect in this way. In many cases the animal is treated for the giardia parasite based on the clinical history and symptoms. 

What is the treatment for Giardia?

The most common drugs that can kill Giardia are  fenbendazole and metronidazole. These drugs are normally given for three to ten days and then each animal should be re tested two to four weeks after the treatment has finished to ensure that it has been 100% effective. You should also note that it is important to give your dog a thorough bath before and after the treatment has finished to make sure that no cysts are left in his coat which can reinfect your dog or you.

What should i feed my dog with Giardia?

It’s generally recommended that you feed your dog a bland diet until their stool returns to normal consistency; this typically takes anywhere from three to 10 days. Something like boiled chicken and cooked rice is a good choice. Dogs infected with giardia can also have imbalances in their gut bacteria so it is important to rebalance the gut once they have recovered by feeding a suitable, high quality diet.


How Can The Woof Club Help You?

We hope that we’ve provided you with an informative guide to this doggy illness and how to deal with it. We would love to hear your comments! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to  contact us by submitting a form online or sending us an email at .

Why not also check out our guide to the importance of picking up after your dog.