Ask the Vet: What is Giardia in dogs? 

Ask the Vet: What is Giardia in dogs? 

In the latest of our Ask the Vet blogs, Yorkshire Vet star Peter Wright (and co-creator of our vet-recommended dog food range, Harringtons Advanced Science Diet) will educate us on a fatal intestinal infection disease called Giardia in dogs, which is Googled more than 6,000 times each month.  

What is Giardia in dogs? 

Also known as Giardiasis, this disease usually results in watery diarrhoea. Giardia is a small protozoan parasite (a single-celled parasite) that attacks the lining of the intestines of dogs. It's a complex problem because Giardia infection can be found in the faeces of dogs that are not ill. However, particularly in puppies and debilitated dogs whose immune system is compromised, this organism can cause severe foul-smelling watery diarrhoea. 

The likelihood of developing the disease is greater where there are large numbers of the infective organisms in water or food contaminated by faeces from affected animals to which the dog has access. 

What are the symptoms of Giardia? 

The most common symptom of Giardia is foul-smelling diarrhoea. This may occasionally contain blood or mucus. The diarrhoea may become intermittent in long standing cases resulting in gradual weight loss. In other situations, some dogs may carry Giardia whilst showing no indications of illness. 

How is Giardia in dogs treated? 

Your vet can confirm a Giardiasis diagnosis by submitting a faeces sample from your dog for laboratory examination. Treatment usually consists of a course of fenbendazole or metronidazole tablets for up to 10 days and often is effective in curing the condition. 

On some occasions, repeated treatments are required to rid the gut of this infection, and it is recommended – two to three weeks after treatment is finished – that a further faeces sample is submitted to the lab by your vet to ensure the gut is free of Giardia.  

How can diet impact Giardia in dogs? 

In conjunction with the medication, a low residue, highly digestible diet is often beneficial to minimise diarrhoea. Proteins that are easily digested and a carbohydrate that is simple and easy to digest, such as rice, make for a great diet for a dog with a sensitive stomach. For instance, dog food that is rich in chicken or fish. 

Lastly, a word of caution dogs can pass Giardia on to humans, so please wash your hands regularly and pay particular attention to good hygiene practices after handling your dog until the Giardia has been eliminated from your dog’s intestines. 

Peter Wright is the co-creator of our specialist dog food Harringtons Advanced Diet.  For more information on commonly Googled dog diseases, our expert vet Peter also explains what pancreatitis and ear mites are and how to spot signs in your pooch.