A close-up view of the parasites that cause Giardiasis.

Recently, one of the fans on our Cockapoo Crazy Facebook page brought home a young puppy who contracted Giardia. Being a good cockapoo mommy, she has already seen the vet and been given medicine and instructions for treating it, but she thought it would be good to know more information. We thought that was a good idea too, as any dog can easily become infected with giardiasis. We did lots of research and came up with the following information and tips.

First off, we need to cover whatGiardiasis is and the cause of it. Giardiasis is an infection of the intestines that is caused by a parasite called giardia. This parasite is found in feces of both animals and humans. The infection is most commonly spread by the ingestion (yes, swallowing), the parasite giardia.

I know that sounds like we are saying you or your dog will get it by eating poop, but this is actually one of the less likely scenarios. A dog with a healthy immune system can come into contact with the giardia parasite in several different ways, and may show no symptoms of the disease. In these cases, you would not need to worry about treatment unless your dog began having diarrhea.

The fact is, giardia can often be found in soil and water. The water is more likely to be a standing puddle or small pond, although it can sometimes be found in running water, too. This particular parasite actually thrives better in cold water. Drinking water that is infected with giardia is the most common way that a dog contracts the giardiasis infection.

A dog can also get giardia from a few other places. He could roll in infected feces and later lick it off himself. He could drink from a swimming pool, which can also carry the giardia germ. You should also be aware of shared water bowls at dog parks. A good tip is to always bring your own water and bowl for your cockapoo’s play time. Don’t just assume that your dog can’t or won’t catch something from sharing toys or water with other dogs. Another way to catch giardia is if your dog digs in infected soil and licks his paws later. Lastly, of course, it can be spread through your dog eating poop. Cat or other dog poop could have giardia parasites in it, so keep them out of that cat box!
Here are the signs and symptoms to look for with giardia:
The most common symptom is diarrhea. It is often extremely foul smelling and may be very soft, runny, and/or have mucus in it. There can also be gas, vomiting, and pain in the stomach and intestines. Since your cockapoo can’t tell you if he is in pain, watch for lethargy or uncommon behavior. If diarrhea lasts more than one day, we highly recommend you take your dog to the vet.
If you are worried, even with one loose bowel movement (we’re worry-warts in the Cockapoo Crazy household), it will not hurt to call and see what they recommend. Just remember that the vet cannot diagnose giardiasis over the phone and the treatment has to be prescribed. There is no over the counter medication that is capable of eradicating the infection; you must get it from your veterinarian.
The vet will most likely ask for a fecal sample and do a fecal flotation test. They may be able to see the cysts which the giardia parasite gives off, which attach themselves to the intestines and come out in the dog’s waste. There may not be enough of these cysts present when your vet is trying to diagnose, so they may diagnose the giardia and begin treatment just based on the symptoms.
There are other diseases that your vet may test for, to rule them out, when giardia symptoms occur. As to the treatment for giardiasis, the drug metronidazole is the most commonly used and will likely be prescribed for 5 to 7 days. If the symptoms persist, other measures may be taken. The vet will probably schedule follow-up appointments in 3 to 5 days after the start of treatment.
Now this is important: During your dog’s sickness, you will want to protect them and other pets from spreading or prolonging the symptoms of the disease. Humans have a very small likelihood of catching giardia from dogs, but it is a disease that effects both humans and animals, so you will want to protect yourself as best you can.
You can minimize the likelihood of spreading or prolonging giardia infections through the use of these methods:
Cleanliness is a huge factor in the treatment and containment of giardiasis. All hard surfaces the parasite may have come into contact with should be cleaned with soap and hot water, followed by a disinfection of 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Floors, counters, and your dog’s crate should be cleaned daily, at the very least, during the entire course of symptoms, including diarrhea. Soft surfaces, such as blankets, dog beds and towels, should be changed out as soon as you find that your dog has gotten any feces on them, and should be washed in the hot water setting of your washing machine. Dry time should be high heat in the dryer for at least 30 minutes, or allow the fabrics to hang dry in sunlight until fully dry.
Remember that giardia thrives better in cool places, not hot or warm. When it comes to food and water bowls, and certain dog toys, you can boil them in hot water for 1 to 5 minutes, or if they are not able to be boiled, just put them in the dishwasher and make sure the dry cycle is on. For any carpets in the house, first clean with a regular carpet cleaner and allow to dry fully. Follow up with a steam cleaner for at least 5 minutes to the area that has had feces or vomit on it, to disinfect it fully. You will want to continue to clean and disinfect for a few days after the treatment has become effective and stopped the diarrhea. The infection could still be shedding from your dog, even after the treatment has been given.
You will also want to bathe your infected dog regularly during treatment to keep feces off of their body. Any other dogs or cats in the house will need to be bathed at least after coming into contact with your infected dog, and after any medical treatment you may have for them. You should make sure your veterinarian knows of all the pets in your house, because he may decide to treat all of them to reduce the risk of spreading the disease. This is pretty contagious stuff!
In Conclusion
Although giardia is a scary sickness to have to take care of in your dog, the good news is that with proper treatment and care it is very rare that it is life threatening. Be sure to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible if you suspect an intestinal upset may be serious and follow your vet’s instructions and our tips here. Be sure to keep your dog hydrated if they are having diarrhea or vomiting! If your dog won’t drink, you can get a pet feeding syringe with a soft tip and put water or unflavored Pedialyte into your dogs mouth in small doses, frequently. The vet may also decide to put fluid into your dog, between the two layers of skin on its back. This makes them look like a camel, but the electrolyte-filled fluid slowly disperses and helps to keep them hydrated. If the giardia is advanced or very serious, in rare cases, your dog could be kept at the vets office until dehydration is taken care of, possibly by IV.
As long as you follow good hygiene tips and a good care routine during you cockapoo’s treatment, your pooch is very likely to be back to her old self before you know it!