Giardia is a single-celled parasite that can infect your dog or cat’s intestines. Animals can contract Giardia at any age but are most susceptible when they are young or immunosuppressed. Giardia is contracted via fecal-oral transmission, meaning that water or other substances contaminated with feces are swallowed. The most common route of transmission is ingestion of contaminated water, so Giardia can be more easily spread in environments that remain wet or that are populated with wild animals.
Giardia is also commonly seen in pets who have frequent exposure to other animals or who live in close quarters with each other. Kennels, shelters, boarding facilities and dogs parks are some examples of places Giardia can be more prevalent.
The most common symptoms of Giardia are diarrhea and weight loss. In some cases pets may exhibit a decrease in appetite and energy as well. It is also entirely possible for pets to give no indications that they have Giardia at all—this is why regular fecal tests are recommended at least once a year.
If your pet is diagnosed with Giardia, your veterinarian will prescribe a safe, effective medication to rid your pet of the parasite. Often this is as easy as mixing a packet of powder into your pet’s food for a few days! Ideally, your dog should be bathed on the last day of treatment.
It is important to immediately pick up and throw away feces left by your dog to prevent the spread of Giardia including back to your own pet. Giardia is a zoonotic parasite, which means it can be spread from one species to another. While it is uncommon for humans to contract Giardia from a dog or cat, it is possible. To be safe, avoid contact with feces by using gloves, layered bags, or a scooping tool and washing your hands after handling your pet.
For more information, please feel free to call Pet's Friend Animal Clinic about any questions or concerns you may have at 408-739-2688.