Giardia and Your Pet
An Informational Piece
Giardia is a microscopic parasite that lives in the intestinal tract of its host and causes diarrhea. Giardia is especially hardy due to its outer shell, which can enable it to survive for up to 45 minutes in a chlorinated pool and live for months in the natural environment.
Giardia is spread through fecal matter and infects mammals that drink the contaminated water. If you or your pet drink water from a contaminated source you will most likely get Giardia. Swallowing the parasite is the only method of infection. It cannot be transmitted through blood or skin absorption. Humans can get Giardia through many other sources such as unfiltered drinking water or ice, bathroom fixtures, eating uncooked contaminated food, or swallowing recreational water. Giardia is found through all of North America.
Giardia can present itself through various symptoms such as diarrhea, gas or flatulence, upset stomach, abdominal cramps, or nausea. Symptoms usually appear within 1-2 weeks of infection, but in some cases the host can be infected with no visible symptoms at all. Infection can last on average from 2-6 weeks if left untreated. This poses the risk of dehydration and weight loss.
If you suspect that your pet may have Giardia then you should take your pet and a stool sample to their veterinarian immediately. Once diagnosed, Giardia can be treated with a course of antibiotics.
So, how do you prevent your pet from getting Giardia? Prevention begins with owner education. Now that we know what giardia is and how it is spread we can deduce how to prevent its spread.
1. If your pet has diarrhea get them to their veterinarian and do not let them go around other animals for at least one week after the diarrhea ceases.
2. When you take your pet to the park please let them go to the restroom PRIOR to entering the park and make sure you pick up the waste and dispose of it properly.
3. Wash your hands and your pet in antibacterial soap after leaving the park. We recommend washing your pets in Dreft detergent (available at most grocery stores).
4. DO NOT LET YOUR PET DRINK THE LAKE WATER. If you have a pet that simply cannot enter the water without drinking it, then do not let your pet enter the water. Dog parks are wonderful places to let your pet exercise and have fun, but not all pets are able to behave in these types of environments. You, the owner, must use your best judgment to determine whether or not your pet is suited for the park.