Giardia in Pets

Giardia is a microscopic parasite that can infect most mammals, including humans. The parasite invades cells lining the intestinal tract, causing bowel irritation and damage. There, the parasites reproduce and shed into the stool to pass out of the body. This stage of the parasite is very hardy and can remain infective in the environment for long periods of time. Infection occurs when parasites are ingested in contaminated water, stool, plant material or food. Even licking a few drops of contaminated water or a few parasites off of the paws or coat can potentially cause infection.

Pets infected with Giardia may or may not show obvious symptoms. Pets that do not appear ill can still shed the parasite in their stool, acting as a source of infection for other pets or human family members.

Common symptoms seen during infection may include:

  • Decreased energy
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Diagnosis can be difficult. Multiple microscopic stool examinations or other laboratory tests are usually necessary.

Several medications exist to treat infection. Often, more than one course of therapy is needed to eliminate Giardia.

Important Points

  • Use all medications as prescribed by your veterinarian.
  • All infected pets in the household should be treated.
  • All stools should be cleaned up at least once daily during the treatment period and regularly thereafter.
  • Kennels and dog runs should be disinfected with a diluted bleach solution and rinsed well, daily, during the treatment period. Ask your veterinarian on the proper dilution.
  • One or more stool samples should be examined after treatment to be sure your pet is parasite free.

If you have questions about this or any medical topic, please contact your Banfield hospital today.