Giardia in dogs: It’s a sneaky parasite that can leave your dog feeling unwell for quite a while. The symptoms can seem relentless, and diagnosis can even confound vets due to inaccuracies in testing. Here’s what you need to know about giardia in dogs.
Giardia is all over the world, and it’s especially common in places you and your dog may go to the most: dog parks, kennels, veterinarian offices and of course, the outdoors. What can you do to protect yourself from giardia?
What is giardia anyway?
Giardia is a sneaky parasite. It’s single-celled and wreaks havoc on the intestines of amphibians, birds, and mammals. Different subspecies of Giardia are called ‘assemblages’, and many of them exist. Each subspecies likes to target different groups of animals, but they all have the same life cycles.
The Giardia parasite life cycle has two stages. Mature parasites are called trophozoites, and they live in the small intestines of their hosts. There, they multiply prolifically and eventually turn into cysts. The cysts are the infective stage. They shed into the poop of their host and can survive several weeks as cysts. When they are ingested by another host, they turn into trophozoites again and the life cycle starts over. They’re for sure pretty contagious little buggers.
How did my dog get giardia?
Giardia is transmitted through ingestion. Remember that dogs are notorious for putting EVERYthing in their mouth and anything that has been contaminated by feces is fair game. This includes drinking water, grass, sticks, puddles at the dog park–you name it. Once it’s inside your pup’s gut, he can spread it without even having any symptoms himself, and sometimes, in families that have multiple dogs, that’s exactly what happens. One dog seems to be sick and the other isn’t, but Giardia isn’t necessarily suspected at first. It’s important you talk with your vet about what to do if one of your dogs has Giardia but the other doesn’t, or doesn’t show symptoms. Giardia is often difficult to diagnose, so your vet might need to be a detective.
What are the symptoms of giardia in dogs?
As we said, Giardia in dogs doesn’t always manifest symptoms. Wild, isn’t it, when you think about this parasite taking over their gut–but dogs with better gut health and high fiber diets have been shown to experience fewer symptoms.
For dogs who do experience symptoms, they can be very uncomfortable. Most importantly to his overall health is the parasite’s blocking of nutrient absorption. The most common result is diarrhea, which is usually caused by his inability to absorb nutrients, electrolytes and water as he should. He may lose weight and if extreme, the weight loss could cause death.
He may also experience vomiting, dehydration and poor overall appearance of his coat, as well as general lethargy.
How can I prevent giardia in my dog?
The best way to prevent Giardia in dogs is to control his environment and his gut health. Always ensure he has fresh and clean water (so he’s less tempted to drink out of puddles/streams/etc., ) and pick up dog poop regularly. It’s in the poop the Giardia cysts reside and so the less contamination opportunity they have, the better. Be careful when taking your dog to places lots of other dogs frequent–watch them like hawks. Most importantly, keep their gut health as strong as you can, and that includes ensuring good intake of premium fiber. Dogs on higher fiber diets show fewer symptoms so ensuring their diet is full of quality fiber can go a long way.
How may Bernie’s Perfect Poop help giardia?
Bernie’s Perfect Poop is the stuff dream dog guts are made of. Rich in high-quality fibers like Miscanthus grass, pumpkin and flaxseed, as well as pre- and probiotics that encourage a flourishing microbiome that effectively fights against intruders like Giardia, Perfect Poop can help relieve many of the symptoms in dogs. Because Giardia is so prolific, you might not see results as quickly as you would for other digestive conditions, but a healthy gut is the best natural defense.
Your vet will likely prescribe anti-parasitic drugs like ‘Metronidazole’ or ‘Fenbendazole’, and those can make your dog’s gut a mess too. It’s even MORE important that your dog has Perfect Poop if he’s on these medicines as they can destroy the good bacteria in his gut and leave him vulnerable to other viruses or bacteria. Giardia is not just hard to diagnose sometimes, but hard to get rid of completely and it’s not uncommon for your dog to test positive for it even after treatment. The main goal in treating it is to stop symptoms (that prevent nutrient absorption and dehydrate your dog) so it’s most important to ensure his gut health is as strong as it can be.
The best news is that Bernie’s Perfect Poop does that with every meal–helping firm up poop and grow healthy microbiomes of good bacteria that strengthens his immune system. And it does so in two delicious formulas!
Giardia isn’t good news for your dog by any means, but there are things you can do to help lessen the severity and symptoms and they all start in the gut!