Keeping Your Dog Safe From Giardia

May 22, 2018

Cottage season is upon us! While that’s certainly reason to celebrate, pet owners should be informed of the increased risks to dogs and cats that come with warmer weather and venturing away from home. Many parasites thrive in warm, moist environments, and Ontario provides ideal living conditions for many dangerous diseases. Today we’re focusing on Giardia, or more commonly referred to as “Beaver Fever”.

What is Giardia?

Giardia is a microscopic parasite that can infect most mammals, including dogs, cats and even humans. Parasitic offspring are shed through feces and most often end up in stagnant, shallow, or slow-moving bodies of water -the exact type of water that dogs love to wade through, drink from, and roll around in. Because of this, dogs are at a much higher risk of contracting Giardia than other household pets.

What does Giardia look like?

This problem parasite sets up camp along the intestinal wall and effectively blocks food from being absorbed, most commonly showing through persistent diarrhea. Unfortunately, symptoms can go unnoticed for many months, so tracking your dogs water-based activities may not be the best way to prevent Giardia. Other symptoms include abdominal pain, weight loss, weakness, lethargy and appetite loss. If you see any of these signs and know your dog has or does come into contact with bodies of water, contact a veterinarian.

How is Giardia treated?

Lucky for us and our furry loved ones, Giardia is often curable and rarely results in death. Veterinarians will require a stool sample to check for the parasitic offspring. If this comes back positive, an antibiotic will be prescribed, which often kills the parasite in as little as 7 days. Some severe cases that result in dehydration may need to be hospitalized. Puppies, seniors, and dogs with compromised immune systems are most at risk and should be monitored extra carefully. Because Giardia is zoonotic, meaning humans can catch it from their pets, it is highly advised to practice superb hygiene throughout your pet’s treatment. It is also recommended to disinfect all areas that your dog inhabits, including crates, beds and bathtubs. If your dog frequents ponds, streams, or puddles and you’ve noticed occasional vomiting or diarrhea, it is best to contact a veterinarian and discuss your options. Ultimately, staying vigilant about environmental concerns can help you and your pup enjoy a safe summer up north!