A Microscopic Menace: Giardia in Dogs 

A dog drinking from a river

Your pet can’t possibly have parasites – after all you haven’t seen anything in their stool. Right? 

Well, if you think that you can see all pet parasites with your naked eye, you would be mistaken. There are actually quite a few intestinal parasites that you can’t see without the aid of a microscope. At Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital one of the more common parasites that we diagnose is Giardia in dogs, and it is definitely one that you won’t be seeing without fecal testing

The Gist of Giardia

Unlike the traditional worm that you might think of when the phrase “intestinal parasite” is used, Giardia is a single-celled parasite that calls the intestinal tract its home.

Dogs become infected with this organism when they ingest fecal particles containing the protozoan or drink contaminated water. Many dogs will not be affected by this exposure, but those with lowered or immature immune systems such as puppies may become infected. 

Giardia in Dogs

Many dogs who have Giardia in the gastrointestinal tract will not have any symptoms. If this is the case, no treatment is necessarily required. Some dogs, however, will be symptomatic. Symptoms can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Intermittent diarrhea or soft stools
  • Weight loss
  • Poor body condition

If your pet is diagnosed with Giardia, there are safe and effective treatment options that work well for many pets. It is also essential to decontaminate the environment, picking up stools and washing your pet’s fur to remove any spores that may be present. 

Some pets may be refractory to treatment due to a lowered immune system or changes in their gastrointestinal tract. So long as these pets are asymptomatic, no further action is required. 

As always, it is good practice to pick up and dispose of your pet’s stools in a timely and sanitary manner to prevent transmission of potential parasites. It is also wise to prevent your pet from drinking from standing water when possible.

Humans can be and are affected by Giardia, however the strain that affects dogs does not commonly affect people. Most human Giardia is transmitted from other humans! If you are having gastrointestinal symptoms after exposure to a pet with Giardia, please seek medical attention. 

Giardia in dogs is typically a problem for puppies and older, immunocompromised pets. It is one good reason that routine wellness care and screening is so important. Seemingly healthy pets can still have parasites, and we want to be sure to treat them appropriately.