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Giardia in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Giardia is a protozoal infection (parasite) of the intestines that is transmitted by water or fecal ingestion. It can be easily transmitted, even at the nicest facilities and pet social areas.

Giardia spreads through giardia cysts which are passed through cat or dog feces and other animals then get exposed by ingesting them. It can spread very quickly to other pets (and while risk is low, it can be transmitted to humans), so it is important to be proactive in preventing and treating giardia.

Pet owners need to be vigilant to keep animals separated and clean up quickly after the pet defecates.

Signs Your Dog Might Have Giardia

  • Intermittent or continual diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss or failure to gain weight
  • Dehydration
  • Lackluster coat
  • Bloody diarrhea

Treatment for Giardia in Dogs

Treatment for giardia needs to contain a multipronged approach. While medications may kill giardia, the infestation can have a long-term impact on your dog's immune system, digestive system and bowel function (many pets may be diagnosed with IBD later in life).

Thus, it is essential to use both conventional treatments from your veterinarian along with an aftercare treatment plan using natural supplements and good hygiene to prevent reinfestation and help heal your dog's intestinal lining.

Effective treatment of giardia includes:

  • Antiparasitic medications prescribed by your veterinarian
  • Good hygiene to prevent reinfestation
  • Supplements to repair and rebuild your dog's intestinal tract

Long-term effects of untreated giardia in dogs can include irritation and inflammation in the intestinal lining and subsequent weakening of the immune system. Some dogs may be prone to reinfestations (referred to as chronic giardia in dogs) and develop IBS and allergies as a result of the intestinal inflammation.

Giardia Treatment Can Cause Long Term Digestive Issues

Giardia medication and anti-parasitic medications from your veterinarian can cause intestinal irritation and inflammation. Once your dog is healthy again, it's essential to repair the intestinal lining to avoid long-term effects of giardia in dogs.

Scientists have studied* the long-term effects of giardia in people and determined that it can lead to allergies, development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), arthritis and other health issues.

Many pet owners report that their dog has more sensitivities to foods, allergy symptoms, bouts of diarrhea and loose stool (IBS symptoms) after having giardia or a worm infestation. This can contribute to a pet developing IBS and IBD later in life. Older dogs and those with weakened immune systems (e.g. with autoimmune disease or chronic infections) may have a harder time recovering from giardia.

Natural supplements help repair and rebuild the intestinal lining and rebalance intestinal flora.

*Reference: Research study published in World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2013 Dec 21; 19(47): 8974–8985. Extra-intestinal and long term consequences of Giardia duodenalis infections. Marie CM Halliez and André G Buret.

How To Prevent The Long-Term Effects Of Giardia in Dogs

Pets affected with giardia will need some natural aftercare to support their digestive and immune health. Long-term effects of giardia in dogs may include irritation and inflammation in the intestinal lining and subsequent weakening of the immune system. Some dogs may be prone to reinfestations (referred to as chronic giardia in dogs) and develop IBS and allergies as a result of the intestinal inflammation. Using natural supplements can help your dog recover from giardia and avoid these long-term effects.

Digestive Support After Giardia Treatment

Dogs can develop IBD or IBS because the inflammation in the bowel has not been addressed. Using Power Probiotic AND Olive Leaf Extract For Pets in your dog’s giardia diet can support your pup's intestinal health, reduce the risk of infection and provide healthy flora to reduce inflammation in the intestinal tract. The IBD Kit restores balance and helps heal the intestinal lining from the irritation caused by the giardia infection and the prescription medications used to treat it. Any pet diagnosed with worms or parasites can benefit from these products. If you are boarding your pet at a daycare facility or veterinary clinic, the Power Probiotic and Olive Leaf Extract can be used to help ward off disease and support digestive health.

How To Prevent Giardia Reinfestation in Dogs

  • Wash your dog and your pet's bedding several times during the first two weeks of the treatment period.
  • Use a baby wipe or wet paper towel and gloves to wipe your dog's rear end after defecation.
  • Reinfestation is a HUGE PROBLEM. If at all possible, keep your infected pet separated in an isolated area. You may want to ask your veterinarian about proactively treating other pets, although the medications can be harsh. Be sure your infected pet only urinates and defecates in an isolated area (no grass is best) away from where other pets may go.
  • ALWAYS wear gloves when picking up stool infested with giardia or parasites/worms, and then throw the baggie into another baggie with a tie on top. Immediately pick up the stool if possible. Giardia can get into the ground, concrete, etc.
  • After you clean up the area, please use bleach or a cleaning product containing bleach. Be prepared -- you could need about 30 rolls of paper towels in a 10-day period and several bottles of cleanser. Wash your shoes after walking on the infected area.
  • Keep children, workers, pets and housekeepers away from the trash.

    • Originally published Dec 11, 2023
      Updated April 11, 2024
      Written by: Susan Davis, Pet Health Nutritionist, CCN
      All pet treatment protocols and pet treatment supplements have been reviewed and approved by a veterinarian