PET HEALTH

Giardia in Dogs: FAQs & Treatments 

Four Minutes Jan 09, 2023

Giardia is a common parasite among dogs. While your dog is out and about living their best life, they could be coming into contact with this parasite every day.

The good news is that giardia is not life-threatening, but it could cause a slew of issues for your pup. Learn more about what giardia is, how your dog can get it, and treatment options if your furry friend contracts it.

What Is Giardia?

Giardia is a microscopic parasitic germ that lives on surfaces in your home or in contaminated soil, food, or water.³ Giardia can live in the environment for several days, sometimes months, without detection before they find a host. Infections from these parasites cause a unique disease called giardiasis when a potential host swallows the parasite.³ Dogs with giardiasis typically experience diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms.

How Does a Dog Get Infected With Giardia?

Giardia in dogs is contracted by swallowing an infected animals’ feces, even trace amounts.4 There are a few other places your dog may come in contact with the parasite aside from directly consuming feces:

  • Drinking or eating from contaminated food and water bowls
  • Eating contaminated garden soil
  • Drinking contaminated standing water

Infected dogs can also leave the parasite behind in crates, blankets, and toys after grooming themselves.⁴ If your dog is sharing bedding or toys with an infected dog, it can easily end up in their mouths to pass along the parasite. While dogs anywhere can get giardiasis, it’s more common in urban areas and city streets with dense animal populations.

Giardia Symptoms in Dogs

Most dogs experience some form of gastrointestinal upset when infected with this parasite. The most common symptoms of giardia in dogs include:⁵

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Dull coat
  • Dehydration
  • Trouble gaining weight

Call your veterinarian if symptoms, like diarrhea and vomiting, last more than 2 days. While many of these symptoms look like other issues, your vet can run a fecal test to narrow it down.

Can Humans Get Giardia From Dogs?

It’s very unlikely that you’ll catch giardia from your dog, so no need to worry about having these symptoms alongside your pup.⁴ Giardia is host-specific, meaning there are different types of giardia parasites that infect different animals.6 While your dog may become infected by another dog in the home, you don’t have to worry about contracting giardia from your dog or vice versa.

Giardia Diagnosis and Treatment

In order to get rid of giardiasis, you’ll need vet intervention. Diagnosing a dog with giardiasis consists of your vet collecting a fecal sample.4 You can bring this into the vet or they may be able to collect one in the office. If your dog is diagnosed with giardiasis, treatment for giardia in dogs may include prescription medication and an adjusted diet to treat the parasite along with managing symptoms.

Dogs with parasitic infections like giardia are usually prescribed metronidazole, a generic drug to treat bacterial and protozoal infections. Be sure to follow your prescriptions instructions carefully to make sure the infection is treated properly. You may have to repeat tests to make sure the giardia has left your dog’s system.

Giardia should clear up within a few weeks once medications are started, but it’s important to clean all surfaces and fabrics to ensure it doesn’t return.

What should I feed a dog with giardia?

Similar to treatment for diarrhea, a giardiasis diet should be focused on keeping your dog comfortable. Your vet may recommend a 24 – 48 hour fast to give your dog’s gastrointestinal tract a break from digestion. Afterward, you may want to put your dog on a bland diet with foods like:

  • White rice
  • Pureed pumpkin
  • Plain yogurt
  • Probiotics
  • Potatoes without the skin
  • Formulated dog food for sensitive stomachs

How Do I Protect My Dog From Giardia?

There are a few things you can do to prevent your dog from being infected with giardia, but unfortunately there are no preventative medications available. The most important thing is to be mindful of what your dog is sniffing, eating, and drinking when you’re out and about, especially if you live in a city. Don’t let your dog drink standing water at a dog park or in a space where other animals may be wandering. In your own yard, you can fill in any holes so water can’t accumulate into drinkable puddles, getting rid of any temptation.⁴

Clean crates and bowls regularly with soapy, warm water regularly. Keep surfaces like your countertops and the floors in your home clean as well.⁴ If you know a pet in your home has giardiasis, try your best to limit contact between the healthy animals and the sick ones. The parasites will take advantage of close contact.

Consider Pet Insurance for Parasites

Giardia is a parasitic infection that can cause major discomfort for your pup. The good news is that giardia isn’t life-threatening and treatment is available at most vet clinics. If you’re worried about how to pay for the medication and follow-up care, consider signing up for dog insurance. You may be able to get reimbursed for the cost of your vet visit, prescriptions, and even prescription foods.2 Get started today with a free quote from MetLife Pet Insurance1, winner of the “Pet Insurance of the Year” Award in the 2022 Pet Independent Innovation Awards Program.

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¹ Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

² Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

³ “Parasites - Giardia,” Center for Disease Control (CDC)

⁴ “Giardia and Pets,” CDC

⁵ “Illness and Symptoms (of Giardia),” CDC

⁶ “Transmission (of Giardia),” CDC

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