You may have heard the name of this microscopic parasite which is usually associated with diarrhea and sometimes even blood in the diarrhea of dogs.
It is NOT a worm, bacteria, or virus. It is a one – cell microscopic protozoan.
Giardia has two forms in its life cycle; feeding form and the cyst form. The feeding form lives in the intestines and attaches to the intestinal walls to feed from the host. These feeding forms then produce the robust cyst forms which are shed through the feces and can survive in the environment for as long as few months, especially in the water or damp areas.
The Giardia cycts are ingested by the new host, usually through drinking water in the contaminated areas such as rivers, lakes, ponds etc. and turn into the feeding forms in the intestines.
Giardia can damage the intestinal walls and cause signs from loose stool to watery diarrhea and in severe cases even vomiting. It can lead to debilitation and poor body condition.
It usually affects older dogs and in particular puppies. This parasitic disease is a zoonosis i.e. can be transmitted to humans, too.
Most dogs with Giardia in their intestines do not develop signs of disease but can remain carriers and give it to other dogs and sometimes to people too.
A new host dog contracts the disease by drinking infested water or even sniffing on contaminated ground or feces.
Transmission from dog to human and vice versa is possible and occurs through accidental ingestion of the cysts.
The diagnosis is made by your veterinarian with testing a stool sample. This is why testing the stool in puppies is of utmost importance.
Treatment is highly recommended in puppies regardless of whether or not they have diarrhea. It is also performed in adults with a high count of Giardia in their stool sample and/or diarrhea. An important part of the treatment is for the owner(s) to pay close attention to their personal hygiene and cleanliness of the environement.
Please, make sure to discuss Giardia and its risk factors with your veterinarian in Markham, and feel free to call us for more information.
Enjoy your healthy puppies!!
Dr. Dave Bonab
Unionville South Pet Hospital
905 604 5 604