Giardia in Dogs

Ask a Vet About Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs | Giardia

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Do you have a dog with sudden or relentless diarrhea? One of the common causes of diarrhea in dogs worldwide, indoor, or outdoor, big dog or teacup princess is caused by a single celled protozoan parasite called Giardia. Giardiasis is an acute or chronic gastrointestinal (GI) tract disease. It is characterized by diarrhea and weight loss in both dogs and cats.

Wondering what could be the cause of your pet’s diarrhea?  Ask a vet online now to find out what could be going on.

Giardia may infect dogs and cats. Some types of Giardia can also infect humans. Transmission is by the fecal-oral route, which means that the parasite is swallowed in food and water contaminated with feces. Note, your pet doesn’t have to eat feces to get the parasite. Usually the transmission is through contaminated water–think puddles, lakes, streams, or water that isn’t suited for drinking in some countries.

Giardia in dogs can be asymptomatic, but when signs are present, the most common one is diarrhea that results in the passage of large volumes of watery feces–think cow patty consistency. It has a distinct odor to it as well, one that I have become all too familiar with after being in veterinary medicine for over a decade. The color of the stool usually isn’t abnormal–if you are seeing grey, green, yellow, or black, you’re probably dealing with another culprit.

giardia in dogs, ask a vet, diarrhea in dogs


Intermittent or chronic diarrhea, weight loss, decreased appetite, and vomiting occur less often. Rarely, acute or chronic large-bowel diarrhea may develop, with increased frequency and straining to defecate and the presence of mucus and red blood in the feces.

So how does one treat this parasite if your dog is diagnosed with it? Easily, and inexpensively, provided your dog isn’t so ill that they need IV fluids or hospitalization. The antibiotics used to treat Giardiasis is readily available throughout the world, and many vets will prescribe a dewormer that can be given for five to ten days.

The tricky part is with environmental control and preventing reinfecttion. Pet parents must be vigilant in clearing fecal material from the environment, as repeated exposure to the parasite will cause reinfection. Wash as many areas as possible after removing all organic material, and disinfect the premises with a solution of bleach diluted in water.

If the environment cannot be completely cleaned (for example, some outdoor kennels), remove the animal from that environment. If the infection does not resolve with appropriate medication, bathing, and environmental control, then repeating the medication or administering the meds for a longer period of time (I’ve personally found this to be necessary often), or treating the animal with both antibiotics and anti-parasitic meds may be necessary.

Preventing Giardia in dogs

Dogs should not be allowed to drink from puddles, lakes, streams, or other sources of stagnant water (I know this can be difficult). It may be advisable to treat other animals in the same household while treating the infected, symptomatic pet. There is a vaccine available for Giardia in dogs and cats, but most vets don’t recommend it unless your dog/cat is at really high risk or one of those pets that gets it frequently.

Don’t forget–people can get Giardia too, so wear gloves when picking up feces and use good hygiene. I’ve seen more than a couple clients get it from their pets. It is easier to ingest one of those little cysts than you might think.

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October 12, 2011 at 12:58

Our foster dog & her 9 puppies were just diagnosed with this! We had not heard of it before. We were told that since the mama is still nursing, they will probably keep passing it back & forth, but we are diligently washing them & everything else with the hopes of the medicine kicking in & curing all :) Thanks for the info.

March 28, 2012 at 13:34

Initially, manifesting those mspytoms, your vet will probably treat for two things. Coccidia and worms. Coccidia kills more young kittens in the United States than anything else if untreated. The above mentioned is going to run you about $50-$60 but hold on, I’m going to help you cut that down considerably. Call your local chapter of the SPCA and tell them you’ve taken in a stray who needs medical attention. They will provide you with a free well kitten check-up certificate that will pay the office visit AND the fecal test for worms. All you will have to pay, provided nothing else is wrong, is wormer and antibiotics for Coccidia ..about $16.00 to $22.00. Now don’t stop there. You need shots for him. Check your local paper or ask the SPCA when there is a rabies clinic in your area. Every state has them to the best of my knowledge. At a rabies clininc you can get your baby all his shots for UNDER $20.00 Best of luck to you sweetie. Please get in touch with the SPCA tomorrow. Whether it be worms, Coccidia or both they can kill him if he’s not treated and it doesn’t take long for one so small.

June 19, 2012 at 22:50

Thank you for the tips! My Beagle knows how to come .but only with a treat. Of course! I think i just need to be a litlte more consistent with him and i should be able to do it with or without treats. I hope my Beagle will be more obedient like your dog for example. But what should i do if this does not work? Because i cannot afford training classes.

October 15, 2011 at 23:14

And it’s such a pretty little thing! LOL

Giardia was one of the things Jasmine’s past vets did suspect, we did a week-long stool sample collection twice, but came back negative both times.

Janie Graham
October 17, 2011 at 11:36

I really like that you have this cute veterinarian blog! I just found out that my parents cat got his ear torn up by some animal, so we’re taking him to a vet pretty soon here to stitch him up. Poor kitty!

Albertina Loffier
June 14, 2012 at 14:43

I exhibit dogs at dog shows and travel a lot … It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks