We’ve been fielding lots of questions about Giardia lately as one of the local kennels has started requesting this routinely. So let’s get down to it. Many of us know Giardia as the parasite that causes raging diarrhea after we go camping and drink straight from a wild stream (you only do that once – ugh!). But we see it in our dogs, too, so let’s get our facts straight.
There are different types of Giardia in different species of animals. It is pretty rare for a pet to transmit it to a human, or from a dog to cat (and vice versa), though it is possible. The infectious little protozoa can live for months in the environment and become active once they are ingested. Once inside the intestine, they party hard and make lot of little baby Giardia and can wreak havoc on a fragile intestinal tract. Some dogs will carry the infection without any symptoms at all, however, so it can make it hard to determine who needs to be treated.
We have a pretty good test these days. Giardia is hard to find on a basic fecal float (which most kennels require), but an in-house snap test for the active proteins found in the Giardia organism is the best way to determine if we have an active or recent infection. No test is perfect, but this is what the basic screening is these days. Treatment is easy with a five day course of dewormer. Cleaning all the toys and bowls in the house can help. And bathing once during treatment is recommended since cysts can stick to the fur. Freezing temps (yay Wisconsin winter!) and direct sunlight will kill the cysts, but diluted bleach will kill them on other surfaces.
Figuring out if we have the Giardia infection cleared up is the challenging part. Snap tests can stay positive for awhile and symptoms may clear up but the dog can still be infectious. A fecal smear can show the actual Giardia organism, but the organisms are not consistently shed so we can miss an active infection. Most kennels ask that we keep our positive dogs out of their facility for 1 week following treatment and resolution of symptoms and call it good.
So that’s the scoop on poop. If you have questions about Giardia, or any other poop related parasites, please be sure to call and discuss them with us. Also, as we head toward the holiday season, please, please, please plan ahead and have us check your required fecals sooner than later. If we need to treat your dog, you don’t want to find that out as you’re heading out the door for thanksgiving break.
For more information about Giardia, check out the CDC website: