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Dog Parasite Giardia Advice & Care

Giardia are a type of protozoa – a microscopic, single-celled parasite – which lives in the small intestines.

Affected dogs can get nasty diarrhoea, as well as spreading the parasite to others – including us!

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Giardia parasite in dogs

Giardia is a tiny organism, called a protozoa, made of only one cell! For such a tiny creature, giardia can cause nasty disease in dogs, as it lives inside the small intestine. Although any dog can be affected with giardia, it is more likely in young dogs, as their immune systems are not as strong and less likely to be able to fight off a giardia infection.

Giardia reproduce in the intestines by producing special infectious cysts which are released into the environment in faeces. Dogs who ingest these cysts are then infected themselves. Giardia can infect many animals as well as dogs, including cats, ferrets and humans.

Giardia can be difficult to diagnose, as dogs which are affected often only have giardia in their faeces intermittently. This means that a test can be negative, even if giardia are actually present – repeated tests may be needed to track this little parasite down!

As the infective cyst stage of giardia is found anywhere there have been contaminated faces, giardia can easily be picked up from the environment. Giardia likes water, and muddy puddles or other contaminated water sources are a common source of infection. As giardia can be found almost anywhere, it is impossible to stop your dog from being exposed to giardia completely.

Signs of giardia can be short or long-term, and sometimes intermittent, with dogs experiencing flare-ups of signs.

Signs of a giardia infection include:

  • Diarrhoea may be strong smelling, and can contain blood and mucus
  • Bloated tummy from gas
  • Poor weight gain in young puppies
However, signs are not diagnostic, and can range in severity. Some dogs can be infected and show no signs at all. If your dog is experiencing any of these signs then make an appointment with

You can’t stop your dog being exposed to giardia, but there are some top tips to reduce the risk of infection:

  • Don't allow your dog to drink from muddy puddles.
  • Always pick up your dog's faeces quickly although this will not stop your own dog becoming infected, if everyone followed this simple advice, contamination in the environment in general would be greatly reduced.
  • Use boarding kennels that you trust and are cleaned regularly; densely populated areas are much more likely to harbour giardia.
If you think your dog might have a giardia infection, the best thing to do is to go to your vet. They can do a full physical examination, and check your dog over from nose to tail, especially as diarrhoea can have many causes! To diagnose giardia your vet may recommend faecal tests. These will look for the giardia themselves, which are invisible to the human eye. These tests are often part of finding out why a dog has diarrhoea, and may also look for common bacteria and other parasites too. If your dog does have giardia, your vet can prescribe suitable medication to treat the infection.
Giardia isn’t fussy and will infect lots of species, including humans – in fact, it is the most common intestinal parasite in humans worldwide! If your puppy has giardia, make sure everyone in the family is practicing good hand hygiene, and deep-clean and disinfect any areas your dog goes to the toilet if possible. If you think you may have been exposed to giardia, and are concerned, always contact your doctor for advice.

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