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What is Giardia?

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.

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.

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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
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Dehydration
  • 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. Probiotics can be useful.

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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 traces 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

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Australian Shepherd

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Two Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

lethargic, loss of appetite, diarrhea

Jan. 28, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, so sorry to hear about your dog. We worry about parvo in young dogs who are not eating, lethargic, and having diarrhea. It would be best for your vet to examine your dog and test him for parvo. Also, you need to make sure that he is not getting dehydrated by syringing him food and water. your vet will be able to prescribe him medication to help him feel much better.

Jan. 28, 2021

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Mini bernedoodle

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Twelve Weeks

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Unknown severity

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10 found helpful

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

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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10 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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Giardia Average Cost

From 66 quotes ranging from $250 - $500

Average Cost

$300

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