Giardiasis is a common gastrointestinal infection in dogs and cats, and is caused by a protozoal agent.
In adult animals a giardia infection often occurs without any obvious symptoms. Younger dogs and puppies may have loose stools or diarrhea, which can be yellow and have a foul smell. Occasionally the passings contain traces of blood and/or gas bubbles. Some animals also vomit repeatedly. A diet high in carbohydrates usually worsens symptoms. As a result of giardia infection, absorption of nutrition in the intestines becomes impaired and may cause infected dogs to lose weight.
Giardiosis is transmitted through direct contact with an infected animal or their passings. The disease is more common in places, where a number of dogs are housed in crowded conditions, i.e. dog kennels or other breeding facilities. The parasite is very resistant and can survive for months outside its host. Fecal contamination of the coat, especially around the anal region, may serve as a parasitic reservoir, allowing treated dogs to become re-infected. Humans need to take precaution, as they are also susceptible to giardiosis. Care should be taken when handling infected dogs or their passings Gloves should be worn, and hands should be disinfected repeatedly in order to avoid contraction.
Giardiosis may be diagnosed using the flotation method of testing fecal samples for parasites or an antigen test. Treatment with fenbendazol or other anitprotozoal drugs is usually effective. Administration of the drug lasts for five weeks, where no drugs are given during the 2nd and 4th week of the treatment. However, one should note that aside from the administration of medication the most crucial part of the treatment is a thorough cleaning and disinfection of the dog’s environment and body.
In order to prevent re-infection after treatment, all (!) objects that may have been contaminated with the animal's stool will have to be disinfected, and removed, if possible. If you are going to keep your dog’s blankets, toys or food-bowls, it is necessary to wash or boil them at high temperatures. Long-coat breeds should be treated with antiseptic shampoos repeatedly. All surfaces in kennels, and any other places where infected animals may have stayed, have to be rinsed with boiling water in order to remove all infectious material. Also, all puddles or standing water must be dried-up, as this moisture serves as a breeding ground for the parasite to survive and multiply.