Giardia can be anywhere but there are a few things that you can know that will help your dog avoid getting this uncomfortable problem. Giardia will make them extremely sick and, if left untreated, could kill them.
What Is Giardia?
Giardia is a microscopic parasite. It can live virtually anywhere, on any surface. It is resistant to cleaners, even chlorinated ones. It is spread in feces, animal or human. It may go dormant while dry and the tiniest bit of water will bring it to life and so animals are often infected by drinking surface water outdoors that has been contaminated with feces.
It causes severe diarrhea and can eventually kill an animal through total dehydration. The microscopic parasite has a hard exterior that protects it when it is dry and allows it to live in the harshest of environments until it is brought to life with water. Giardia can live in the soil for years.
How to Guard Against Giardia
Keep your yard clean of dog excrement. It is particularly important to pick up your yard when the dog defecates. Wash your hands and take your shoes off at the door so that you don’t bring in any of the giardia parasites in their dormant stage. It can live in your carpet, on wood floors, virtually anywhere.
Humans can get giardia. Do you have children? Everyone should be handwashing very regularly. Wash hands when finished picking up the dog yard.
Don’t allow standing puddles in the yard. Make sure that you have proper drainage and when puddles are just inevitable, make sure that your dog doesn’t play in them or drink from them. Some dogs love to drink from puddles on a walk.
Don’t allow it. Take fresh water with you and offer it to them. This is a great way to make sure that you keep them from giardia.
There is a vaccine for giardia but there is no conclusive evidence that it actually works. Veterinarians don’t tend to think that it is overly beneficial.
In studies where one group of dogs were given the vaccine and another was given placebo, they all seemed to have the same amount of giardia detectable afterward. Giardia is often present in their system without ever becoming symptomatic.
The best way to keep giardia from becoming a problem is to keep your yard picked-up, don’t let your dog play in puddles and ponds that fill after a rain.
During rainy season, be vigilant. Watch what they are getting into and make sure that you dump out containers that catch rain and keep your yard well-drained. This is always a good idea for mosquito control as well.
Can Humans Get It?
Humans typically get and carry a different type of giardia than dogs, but we can transmit ours to them and then they can transmit it back to us. This means that the long answer to the question is yes. You should be careful, wash hands often and use common sense when you are outside with your dog and in the way you handle feces.
Make sure you and children are utilizing handwashing 100% of the time. There is no vaccination for humans and the one for dogs is considered to be less than effective by most veterinarians.
If you contract giardia, treatment will consist of a course of antibiotics. For the dog who gets it, you can expect to treat with antibiotics for at least 8 days.
This will not rid them of the parasite, and they can get it again. Be aware that giardia is a constant threat. It may present initially like a case of bad worms. Lethargy, diarrhea, and upset stomach are symptoms of giardia.
The biggest concern is the diarrhea because it will cause dehydration quickly. In most cases, it isn’t the illnesses that kill us or our pets, it is the diarrhea that renders them too weak to fight. It is extremely important to see the veterinarian when your dog is exhibiting extreme diarrhea.
Hesitation can cause them to become too ill to treat successfully. You will ensure that they have a better chance at recovery by treating them as quickly as possible. If the contract giardia you will see these symptoms:
- Upset stomach – pacing and whining, inability to lay still and be comfortable
- Vomiting – retching and dry heaves, or blood in vomit.
- Scratching or digging at their stomach – dogs often do this when stomach hurts
- Bloody or pale colored stools
- Loss of appetite
These can all be indications of other issues as well, but all of these are reason for concern and a visit to your veterinarian to be safe. They will look at a sample of fecal matter and determine if giardia.
If that is indeed the diagnosis, antibiotics will be prescribed and if your dog was severely dehydrated, they will likely want to administer IV fluids before allowing them to go home with you. Sub Q fluids will also be done before going home.
This means they rapidly infuse subcutaneous fluid into the back or your dog, under the skin so that they look a bit like a camel, with a hump of fluid. The body will gradually use this, and the hump of water will dissipate in a day or less.
This will give them a head start in getting hydrated while they still don’t feel like drinking very much on their upset tummy.