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What is Giardia?

Transmission of Giardia takes place when cysts formed by the parasite are passed in the feces and ingested. Fecal contamination of water and food will enable transmission, as does the tainting of dishes and dog crates. Your pet can also become contaminated from eating soil that has the organism present. Cysts can survive outside the host and are quite hardy, especially in cool, wet weather. In dry, sunny environments, the Giardia will dehydrate.

Giardia is a protozoal infection. A parasitic, single-celled organism, giardia multiplies in the small intestines of animals. Giardia in veterinary terms is called Giardia Intestinalis or Giardia Duodenalis. This protozoan parasite is common in dogs and is most prevalent in younger canines. Because this infection is known to induce inflammatory bowel disease and can lead to digestion motility disorders, all pets who contract Giardia should be treated by a veterinarian.

Giardia Average Cost

From 66 quotes ranging from $250 - $500

Average Cost

$300

Symptoms of Giardia in Dogs

Some dogs who have this infection will be asymptomatic. Others may present the following signs.

  • Diarrhea, which can be mild or explosive
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Diminished appetite
  • Gas
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Foul-smelling stool
  • Pale, soft, stool with mucus
  • Feces may appear fatty due to malabsorption of fat by the intestines (steatorrhea)
  • Listlessness

If your canine family member has an immunosuppressive disease or a secondary infection, the symptoms will be more intense.

Types

More research is needed in order to specifically classify the species, but scientists are confident that there is more than one type. Dogs can also be infected with the same Giardia parasite that infects cats and humans though this is much less common.

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Causes of Giardia in Dogs

Giardia is known to be a protozoal infection occurring worldwide. It can lead to serious consequences such as the disruption of intestinal flora, and the inhibition of normal enzymatic function.

  • Your dog may contract the infection while playing in contaminated soil
  • Contact with infected feces of another animal can cause Giardia
  • Your dog can ingest the parasite by simply licking his body that may have been in contact with contaminated feces
  • Your dog might drink water, perhaps from a stream, for example; that contains the infection causing organism
  • Immunosuppressed animals are more likely to show symptoms of Giardia
  • Dogs living in crowded conditions will easily pass the infection to one another
  • Puppies are at greater risk
  • The cysts thrive in humid environments and can survive in very cool temperatures as well

Giardia can promote the death or change in cells of the intestinal wall, which is another reason Giardia should not be left untreated, even if your pet’s symptoms are mild.

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Diagnosis of Giardia in Dogs

The diagnosis of Giardia can be tricky, but possible none the less. The cysts are shed in the feces on an intermittent basis, making the diagnosis more difficult.

The usual diagnostic tools of serum biochemistry, complete blood count and urinalysis will most often show normal ranges. Any differences seen will be resulting from dehydration or electrolyte loss caused by diarrhea or very loose stool, not the presence of Giardia. However, the veterinary team may choose to do the tests as a step in the diagnosis, particularly to rule out other reasons for the symptoms your dog may have.

There are specific tests that give the most accurate diagnosis in the case of this parasitic organism.

  • Direct Smear
    • A fresh stool sample, less than 30 minutes old, is needed to detect the 1st stage trophozoites
  • Fecal Flotation
    • This test may detect cysts in the stool
  • Fecal ELISA and direct fluorescent antibody assay
    • These tests may show the Giardia infection, but accurate results often require testing to be done no less than three times in one week

The veterinarian may suggest a combination of tests, over alternate days, before a diagnosis is made.

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Treatment of Giardia in Dogs

Most pets are treated on an outpatient basis. If your dog is quite ill or has explosive diarrhea that has led to dehydration, he may be hospitalized in order to bring him back to a good state of health before treatment begins.

The treatment protocol will involve oral medication (length of treatment will depend on which drug the veterinarian chooses to use, but will be between 3 and 10 days), and regular bathing with a veterinarian prescribed shampoo to remove fecal matter and cysts from your pet’s skin and fur.

If your beloved family dog is suffering from persistent vomiting, this will be attended to by the veterinary team. After resolution of the vomiting, a bland diet will be recommended. Stopping, or, at least, reducing the amount of diarrhea or excessively soft stool will be necessary before any medication is administered.

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Recovery of Giardia in Dogs

Follow the treatment protocol closely, and never stop the medication prematurely. Be diligent with bathing your dog to remove all signs of feces. Dispose of the feces carefully any time that your dog defecates, and be sure your yard is free of fecal matter. Wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning your dog, or decontaminating your pet’s environment.

Eliminate any standing water in the yard. Do not allow any animals, and for certain, no puppies in your yard for at least one month after treating your dog for Giardia.

Hard surfaces in the house should be cleaned with bleach and water, allowing the cleanser to be in contact with surfaces for between 5 and 20 minutes. Steam cleaning carpets are the recommended way to get rid of cysts. Your dog’s bed must be washed in very hot water and dried at a high temperature, or at the very least, put in a hot, sunny area for several days.

If you are unsure of the treatment results or have any concerns, bring your dog to the clinic for a follow-up.

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Giardia Average Cost

From 66 quotes ranging from $250 - $500

Average Cost

$300

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Giardia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Mini bernedoodle

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Twelve Weeks

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Unknown severity

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3 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Intermittent Soft Stools

Giardia retest too soon? My puppy was on a med protocol of metronidazole and panacur for 5 days following a giardia diagnosis. She was retested 2 days after the end of treatment and the test was negative. I’m hopefully me but wondering if we should test again? Her gut is healing from the meds I’m sure, so we’re hoping her stool continues to improve.

Aug. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If her stool sample tested negative for Giardia 2 days after treatment, you should be okay without having another test at this point. Food allergies are very uncommon in young puppies, and the Giardia was more likely the cause of the soft stools. Food allergies are typically diagnosed via food trials, which is something that your veterinarian can discuss with you if needed. I hope that all goes well for her

Aug. 29, 2020

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Buddy

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Australian Shepherd or Mini or Toy Australian Shepherd

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7 Months

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Vomiting
Loss Of Appetite

Hello, I rescued a toy aussie shepard from a puppy mill. I took him to the vet right away, and he was diagnosed with Giardia. I thought, ok, we'll get the medication and he will get over this. Not so much, the poor dog is on his fifth round of Fenbendezole and Metronidazole. He has no appetite, throws up, and has diarrhea. My vet is at a loss at this point. I am researching holistic options. I'm really worried about my pup. Any suggestions?

Sept. 2, 2018

Buddy's Owner

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booger and trouble

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westie and orkie

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11 Weeks

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Loose Stool And Thin

I have 2 puppies both diagnosed with giardia which is being taken care of. my question is how do I treat outside soil to kill the cysts so they don't get reinfected?

Aug. 23, 2018

booger and trouble's Owner

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1 Recommendations

There is no real way to get rid of Giardia from the soil, all you can do is limit exposure in the home by ensuring that all hard surfaces and furnishings in the home are thoroughly cleaned; however Giardia like many pathogens are in the soil and surrounding environment, it is just about doing the best you can. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.cdc.gov/parasites/giardia/prevention-control-pets.html

Aug. 23, 2018

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Draka

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German Shepherd

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4 Weeks

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Abdomen Pain
Fever
Lethargy
Loss Of Appetite

4 week old german shepherd puppy is acting lethargic, wont drink/eat or nurse. has solid stools and very light yellow, almost clear pee.She threw up bile this morning. she has a temperature of 104 and has for a few hours. she shows signs of abdominal pain when she stands, she arches her back and does not move. her stomach is not firm, but she shows some discomfort when i press on it. i have made her drink some water via syringe. i will be taking her to a vet in the morning since it is sunday. what can i do to help her at home and what could her ailment possibly be? i have metronidazole at home and cephalexin.

July 22, 2018

Draka's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Without examining Draka I cannot say what the specific cause is, if there is a parasitic infection suspected we would normally see it in the litter mates as well; you should just ensure that Draka is kept hydrated and is keeping warm. Don’t give any medications you have at home as I don’t know whether or not if they are in date or stored correctly. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 23, 2018

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Milly

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Mixed

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6 Months

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

How long will diarrhea symptoms persist after being treated for giardia? My dog has been treated for 5 consecutive days and still has diarrhea the way she did when she was first diagnosed. She goes back to the vet for a follow up and second round of meds in 2 weeks.

July 19, 2018

Milly's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

If she still has Giardia, Milly's diarrhea won't improve. The intestines can also be damaged by the Giardia, and it can take some time for them to heal. Once you have her stool tested to make sure that the parasite is gone, you can start to focus on healing her intestines. Probiotics may help.

July 19, 2018

Thank you so much! I will see what the results are at her next checkup!

July 19, 2018

Milly's Owner

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N/a

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German Shepherd

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8 Months

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Excessive Thirst
Foul-Smelling Diarrhea
Bloody Dia

Hello, I am going through a rough situation right now and having trouble getting a resolution! I have been fighting with my vet for months now over this! The back story for my situation is we waited until my Shepherd was up to date on all his vaccinations before taking him out in public to prevent any illnesses he could acquire from being a puppy still getting vaccines! After he was fully vaccinated we started introducing him to other animals and places! We let him play in a creek with his pal and shortly after that began the foul smelling mucus diarrhea! Called my vet told him what happened he said it sounds like Giardia gave the antibiotics for five days and panacur for 3 days! I cleaned and sanitized everything I even threw all toys away and bought new ones and didn’t give them to him until meds were all gone not to mention he didn’t use same yard to potty in where he had his episodes and yard was treated and he was bathed regularly all of this was repeated as symptoms came back! His symptoms went away and we thought we were good until exactly a month later same symptoms come back! Vet did same treatment again same exact thing happened symptoms went away completely for a whole month then like clockwork symptoms are back! Well by this time I have done so much research on Giardia and any thing else it could possibly be which everything still points to Giardia! I call my vet to tell them I feel like he needs a more aggressive treatment like retreated two weeks after his meds are gone or for a longer duration for them to have me see a different vet than the original one who started treating him and this vet refuses to treat him and is trying to say it’s his diet or he needs put on anxiety meds ( which is so frustrating because I have told him time and time again he’s been on the same diet since he was weaned nor has anything else changed besides letting him play in the creek months back) and these symptoms did not happen until after playing in the creek so if it was his diet or anxiety the symptoms would have started way before playing in the creek! Vet did a fecal test and it came back negative however Giardia is known for having false negatives so I tell the vet that and he says I am right but still refuses to treat him because his results are negative now since he’s not being treated symptoms will not go away and my baby is miserable called another vet close to my area for them to tell me the same thing won’t treat unless he tests positive I am so stressed over this I just want to be taken serious and for my baby to get the treatment he needs so he doesn’t start to get unhealthy he’s very special to me and I am his voice so I am trying everything I can to get him the proper treatment he has an appointment with an infectious disease specialist a couple hours away at the end of the week but any advice until then would be greatly appreciated!

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Chop chop

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English Bulldog

dog-age-icon

5 Months

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Bloody Stool, Bloody Bum, Giardia

We have a 5 month old English bull dog who has giardia, we gave one dose of panacur and he had some mild facial swelling so we stopped and did a ten day course of metrodinazole, he feces still tested positive for the parasite. So we have started to panacur again with some Benadryl but now he has bloody stools and bleeding from the bum!! He’s not vomiting and is gaining weight but I haven’t been able to find much help even from the vet about the bloody stool, they just said it could probably be from giardia and that’s it! I’ve been steam cleaning his area almost every day, washing his bedding almost daily, giving him a bath every couple days with puppy shampoo and wiping his bum after he poos.. any advice??

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Rosco

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German Shepherd Boxer mix

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8 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

My puppy rosco was diagnosed with Giardia about a week ago and he is being treated with 10 days of metronidazole and another medicine i can’t remember the name of it was a powder i had to mix in with his food and was told to give him a bland diet , we are almost done with the metronidazole but for the past two days he will not stop licking his anal area ! i’m concerned with why that may be and if it has anything to do with the Giardia ? has anyone else seen this happen? or have suggestions to stop it ?

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Malia

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Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

21 Weeks

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Vomiting

We have a now 21 week old lab that we got from a breeder; we are now on our 3rd round of medication. This last time it was both coccidia & giardia (first two times it was just coccidia). We have been dealing with it since January (now April) with a brief negative fecal in February which obviously wasn't accurate or she was infected again. We clean up as best we can after every poop (but is so soft it is difficult and spray down with water when necessary). How does one go about disinfecting their yard (real grass)? She has been on what seems like everything; Albon, flagyl, panacur, probiotics, anti-nausea meds and ponzaril at any of these given times. We always finish meds and do not skip...When do they expect to outgrow this?

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Oliver

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Labradoodle

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4 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Itching
Gas

Ollie is 4.5 months old. He was diagnosed with a bad case of giardia, so bad that they saw it right away in the fecal sample and didn't have to draw blood. He has been on medication for giardia for the past 5 days, and we haven't seen any improvement. He is still having foul smelling diarrhea. On the other hand, he still has a great appetite and full puppy energy. We probably will have to take another course of medication, but does anyone have advice or a similar story?

Giardia Average Cost

From 66 quotes ranging from $250 - $500

Average Cost

$300

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