Giardiasis is an intestinal infection caused by Giardia - one-celled protazoan parasites - that invade the gastrointestinal tract and cause diarrhea and possibly vomiting. Giardiasis is contagious and can spread to humans.
Giardia thrives in non-flowing water, such as ponds or lakes some estimates say 75% of the earths surface water is contaminated. They are transmitted to dogs in two ways:
1. Drinking contaminated water like reclaimed water
2. Eating or sniffing contaminated ground
If your dog drinks contaminated water with giardia in the cyst stage, the cysts attach themselves to your dog's intestines and mature inside. Eventually your pet will pass the infective cysts in its stool.
Dogs that hunt prey such as birds and rabbits can also get the giardia parasites.
The disease is not fatal unless the dog's immune system is young or compromised. If there are Giardia cysts in a healthy adult dog's stool your veterinarian may recommend treatment because of the zonotic potential. However, in puppies or elderly dogs, it may cause severe, and possibly fatal, diarrhea if not treated properly.
Diarrhea possibly with a green tinge or blood, and then fluid diarrhea. The diarrhea is often cyclic meaning your pet may seem like he is getting better, and then the diarrhea returns.
Vomiting and dehydration
To diagnose giardiasis, your veterinarian may perform the following:
Examination of a stool sample, however cysts and protozoa are not always being shed
Endoscopy (a procedure using a small, flexible tube to check the abdomen) and biopsy
After diagnosing giardiasis, your veterinarian will do some or all of the following:
Prescribe medicine to kill the giardia
Prescribe other medications to treat diarrhea and dehydration
Start IV fluid therapy if the dog is dehydrated
Don't let your dog drink from streams, ponds or swamps
Avoid public areas polluted with feces (another reason to always pickup after your pet and dispose of the waste properly) Wash Your Hands!
Vaccinations are usually only recommended only for dogs with a high risk of contracting the disease
Giardiasis can affect humans. If your dog has Giardiasis, you must disinfect shared areas with bleach and practice good personal hygiene. It is also crucial to be extra careful when cleaning up after infected animals.
In most cases, your dog will recover successfully with proper care.
If not treated promptly in puppies, older dogs, and weak dogs, giardiasis may be fatal.