Shield Your Pet from Giardiasis


Dr A Sangaran

Dr ST Bino Sundar

Dr S Arunkumar

Whether it was the first issue or now the 99th one, our aim has always been to encourage responsible pet parenting. Know more about Giardiasis in dogs and prevent your pet from this parasite to keep them safe, happy and healthy. -by Dr A Sangaran, Dr ST Bino Sundar and Dr S Arunkumar
Giardia intestinalis (Giardia duodenalis, Giardia lamblia) is a common, microscopic (intestinal) parasite that commonly affects humans, dogs and cats. Humans and animals become infected when they swallow the parasite. The risk of humans acquiring Giardia infection from dogs is very minimal. Puppies have a higher risk of illness than adult dogs.

Common signs and symptoms of Giardia infection (in both humans and pets) are diarrhea, gas, abdominal discomfort, nausea, and vomiting. However, it is possible to be infected and have no signs or symptoms of the illness. Anything that comes into contact with faeces (poop) from infected humans or animals can become contaminated with the Giardia parasite.

The possible modes of transmission of Giardia lamblia is through contact with infected feces from another dog or access to infected human feces, playing in contaminated soil, licking its body after contact with a contaminated surface (for example, a dirty litter box or dog cage or crate) and drinking water from a contaminated creek, pond, or other source of water.

Cleanliness is the mantra
To minimise the exposure to Giardia if you have dogs, wear gloves when gardening to reduce the risk of coming into contact with infected faeces or soil, clean household surfaces regularly, clean and disinfect areas that your pet has access to. Your pet’s toys, bedding, food and water bowls should also be cleaned and disinfected regularly. And after all the cleaning makes sure you wash your hands properly. It is challenging and difficult to completely eliminate Giardia from the environment, but there are things you can do to decrease the risk of infection in your beloved pet.

  • Wear gloves while cleaning any hard surface (like tile or marble floor, table, etc.) and while cleaning carpet and furniture as well.
  • Remove faeces and discard it carefully in a plastic bag.
  •  Clean and scrub surfaces using soap and rinse them thoroughly.
  •  You can use surface cleaners and disinfectants to clean, but make sure your pet is allowed in the area when the surface has completely dried.
  •  If feces are on a carpet or upholstered furniture, remove them with absorbent material (for example, double layered paper towels).
  •  Clean the contaminated area with regular detergent or carpet cleaning agent.
  •  Allow carpet or upholstered furniture to fully dry before allowing the dogs again on the carpeted floors.
  •  Household items should be cleaned and disinfected daily while your pet is being treated for Giardia infection.
    Despite the best efforts to keep your space clean, Giardia can persist in outdoor spaces and pet re-infection is possible. To avoid this limit access to common outdoor spaces (as much as possible). If your pet has diarrhea or is being treated for Giardia, eliminate any source of stagnant water or a wet and moist surface, avoid using bleach or any disinfectant lotion in the soil, do not allow any new animals, especially young ones, to enter your pet’s crate until advised by your veterinarian.

Trust your vet for best treatment
If your dog has persistent diarrhoea, seek veterinary care. Diarrhoea has different causes and could result in dehydration or other serious complications. Giardia can be passed in stool intermittently, and an animal may appear healthy or without signs of disease before it stops passing Giardia. Repeated fecal tests may be necessary for confirmation. Seek your veterinarian’s recommendations in treating Giardiasis.

If you have more than one pet, make sure to tell your vet even if the other pet isn’t showing any symptoms. Your other pet may also be put on medicine depending on the situation. Even animals showing no signs of Giardia infection could be infected and shedding Giardia into the environment.

Don’t worry if your pet is infected! Lots of care, some medications and precautions, and of course an overdose of love and affection will put them on the path to speedy recovery.

(A Sangaran, ST Bino Sundar and S Arunkumar are from Department of Veterinary Parasitology, Madras Veterinary College, Tamil Nadu.)