Symptoms and Treatment of Giardia in Dogs

Canine giardia is a parasite primarily found in standing water, lakes and streams.  A single cell parasite encased in a protective cyst passes from an infected dog through the feces.  Surfaces that the feces touch become infected.  When dogs lick these surfaces, or drink from contaminated water, the cysts enter the body, where the protozoa leave the cyst and attach themselves to the walls of the intestines.  The infection primarily causes symptoms in puppies and older dogs.

Dog Giardia Symptoms

Most dogs infected with giardia will be asymptomatic, meaning that they will show no clinical symptoms.  The only sign of gi

Giardia cell, SEM.

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ardia will be cysts shed in the feces.  In this case, the problem will only be diagnosed during routine care such as a fecal exam as part of a checkup. In dogs that show symptoms, the primary sign is persistent diarrhea that doesn’t seem to go away.  Giardia is the cause of 15% of diarrhea cases.  Other symptoms including vomiting, weight loss as the infection grows and steals nutrients from the body and lethargy.  It is rare to see a bloody dog stool.

Canine Giardia Treatment

There are several prescription medications available to treat giardiasis.  The most commonly used medications are Fenbendazole and Febantel.  These are generally safe and without side effects. The medication Metronidazole (Flagyl) is also used, however it can have some side effects in some dogs, which is why it is often a second choice.  In addition to prescription medications, during recovery and to reduce the change of future outbreaks, a homeopathic such as Parasite Dr. can be used to strengthen the dogs natural defenses against Parasites.  Giardia in dogs can cause death when causing clinical symptoms, so treatment is required.

To help restore digestive health after treatment with prescription medications have begun (3 to 7 days), a veterinarian might recommend adding fiber to the diet with a product like Natural Moves which contains the fiber Psyllium, and natural flora with a prebiotic/probiotic supplement.

After your dog has been diagnosed with giardia, be sure to bathe the dog to ensure that all cysts that may be trapped in the coat are removed.

Giardia Prevention

Giardia dog problems can be averted through improved hygiene.  For example, only provide your dog fresh drinking water when walking outdoors. If your dog is allowed to run free in a backyard and go to the bathroom at will, be sure to clean up frequently to avoid exposure to feces.  When visiting areas such as parks and dog runs, be aware of unhygienic conditions. Inspect kennels to ensure that proper sanitary conditions are maintained.

Can Dog Giardia be Transmitted to Humans?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, few direct animal-to-human outbreaks have been documented although linkages have been identified between canine and human transmission. It is more likely, although rare for human giardia to spread to dogs.  Cat giardia is also species specific, with no documentation supporting that it spread to other species.  That said, its’ a good idea to wear gloves when handling feces and to bag and dispose of any pet feces.


Treatment for Dog Giardia, Dog Health Guide

Symptoms of Dog Giardia, Dog Health Handbook

Giardia in Dogs


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