Giardia is a protozoal parasite and is a fairly common cause of diarrhoea in dogs, especially in puppies. It can also cause diarrhoea in cats, and in humans too. There is also a small percentage of dogs, that don’t show signs of diarrhoea but are carriers of and shed Giardia.
Generally, it is contracted from a contaminated water source. You see, it’s caught via the faecal-oral route which essentially means it’s shed in the poop of an affected individual and is caught by another that eats that poop. A dog with Giardia toilets in the neighbourhood, in the streets or at the dog park, it rains forming a puddle or drains into a pond and voila! The water source is now a Giardia soup!
The most common sign of infection is diarrhoea. It can range from mild to severe, and can be intermittent or chronic. The stools are very runny or soft and may have mucous in them.
It can be easily diagnosed by your veterinarian via a faecal sample that can be checked at that clinic (faecal examination or a snap test), or sent to the laboratory.
Although in some cases the immune system can clear the infection on its own, a positive test together with signs that your dog is unwell means that treatment is required.
Good news is that this is easily treated by your local veterinarian, common drugs used are metronidazole and / or fenbendazole. However, if your dog is very dehydrated from the diarrhoea they may need to be admitted for intravenous fluids to correct the fluid loss and electrolyte imbalance.
You can lower the risk of infection for your pooch by avoiding puddles on your walks and at the park (easier when on a leash than without!). Although Giardia causes diarrhoea in humans too, dogs are not the common cause as they seem to carry types of Giardia that are not troublesome to us, but normal good hygiene on our part will reduce that risk even further.