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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Giardia in Dogs

Caring for Critters 
Round Robin
After doing battle with this nasty parasite on two different occasions I have now become extremely paranoid about the water sources my dogs drink from.
Please learn from our mistake!

What is Giardia?
Giardia is an intestinal parasite to put it the most simply. This particular nasty critter can infect both humans and animals. A dog becomes infected by swallowing the cyst stage of the parasite - which then hatches once the cyst passes to your dogs intestines.

How Do You Get Giardia?
Giardia is passed when you ingest or come into contact with a contaminated item such as food, dirt, or water. Hikers have been known to get Giardia through drinking bad water when they didn't use a filter - it's often referred to as "Beaver Fever" in this instance.
Items become contaminated through the feces of an infected carrier such as a wild animal. Giardia is usually associated with poor hygiene and lack of sanitation.

The most common way you get Giardia is after swallowing infected water, the parasites may be found in lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams, as well as in municipal water supplies.

Dogs can get Giardia from sniffing the cysts from contaminated ground, eating contaminated grass, or drinking contaminated water.

How Long Can Giardia Live?
According to the CDC:
In the soil - in cold temperatures 4*C/39.2*F : Giardia can survive for about 7 weeks (49 days).
In hot temperatures 25*C/77*F : Giardia can survive for about 1 week (7 days)
Dry environments with direct sunlight - Giardia can only survive a few days.
Moist and cool environments - Giardia can survive several weeks.
Water - In temperatures below 10*C/50*F Giardia can live for 1-3 months, higher temperatures result in shorter life spans.

Symptoms typically appear 2 days after the initial infection occurs, and may include violent/projectile diarrhea, mucous/watery stools (they look nasty and slimey), excessive gas, fatigue, stomach/abdominal cramps, bloat, and nausea. This can result in dehydration and in extreme cases death.
Photo Attribution: Joan Valencia

In some mild cases Giardia infections in humans can clear up within a few weeks - however the intestinal problems may remain long after the parasite is gone. However you do not want to put your pet through this, if you notice symptoms get your beloved pet into the veterinarian right away.

In order to diagnose Giardia your doctor or veterinarian will need to do a stool sample.

How Do You Treat Giardia?
The most commonly veterinarian prescribed drug used to kill Giardia is metronidazole, an antibiotic that is given to your dog for 5-7 days.
Most healthy dogs will heal up just fine, however senior or animals with weak immune systems are at risk for health complications including death.

Can Your Dog Give Giardia To You?
Yes. Your dog can also give the Giardia to other animals within your home. It's important that if your dog has Giardia that you immediately pick up after them every time they poo, preferably wearing gloves and always wash your hands.
A good prevention tip is also to wipe your dogs feet and butt before allowing them back into your house.

It's also important that you treat your environment, if your dog is diagnosed you need to thoroughly clean your pet's living and sleeping area as well as any toys. For treating toys - they must be cleaned daily so long as your pet is infected.

According to the CDC:
Dishwasher safe toys can be disinfected in a dishwasher that has a dry cycle or final rinse cycle that exceeds one of the following:
113* for 20 min
122* for 5 min
162* for 1 min
Or place items in boiling water for at least 1 min.

 Preferably use a bleach/water mixture (Lysol and Ammonium compounds are also known to kill the cysts) to treat surfaces that you suspect may be affected. If you have carpet or upholstered furniture that your pet may have been on remove any feces if you see them, and clean with a detergent or carpet cleaning agent. You can also steam clean affected areas.

Make sure you bathe your pet to ensure all fecal matter is not hiding in your pets coat to be spread around the house.

Our 1st Experience - Dante 
Giardia is terrible. My first exposure to it was with Dante before we had adopted Ziva. I left home and he was fine, I returned home a couple hours later to a terrible awful stench that filled my entire house...Dante was sitting by the back door signalling me that he needed out now!
Right next to the door was the first not even pile...

First things first I put him outside where he immediately ran to the grass and took the familiar squat position.
Next I gloved up, grabbed the Lysol and paper towels and cleaned up the first pile...but their was more...thank goodness I have hardwood floors but even then it was awful! His biggest mess was in the upstairs hallway (not sure why he picked that spot). It took me awhile with all my gagging and running to a window for fresh air to get it cleaned up. I then opened all the windows and got the fans going.

The next step call the vet - thankfully they were open. When I described the symptoms our vet said it was most likely Giardia and he'd need a stool sample. So I grabbed a sample, left Dante at home and took off. Yep Giardia.
I had to bathe my poor boy, and during the whole treatment time he had to deal with us wiping his feet and butt before he was allowed back inside.

A few days later I started to have symptoms - yep, he gave it to me! So I called my doctor and was quick to let her know that Dante had been positively diagnosed, I described my symptoms, and she sent a prescription to our pharmacy without needing me to come in. YAY!
Thankfully Dante didn't have any other symptoms except for the diarrhea, no one else was infected, and he recovered just fine with the antibiotics.

2nd Experience - Ziva
Same as before, I left home and all was well in the world with both pups. I came back thankfully only 3 hours later to discover my poor puppy had a massive explosion of diarrhea inside her crate! This was way worse than Dante's case, she had managed to cover her crate, her bed, Dante's bed, the walls, floor outside the crate, and my nearby drapes!  ACK!!
What do you do!? First problem - how do I get her outside? She had to walk...I rushed her outside and she still had diarrhea. I then put Dante out, gloved up and began to clean. I tossed the crates outside (deal with them later), threw the drapes in the wash, and cleaned my walls and floors. I then called the vet and took stock of Ziva - unfortunately our vet's office was closed so I had to call the Emergency vet.

Poor Ziva who was just under a year was doing terrible, her whole mouth was dry, and she was acting sick on top of the diarrhea. The doctor on duty said bring her in, next step how do I get her there? I have a small car - and I really didn't want poo inside it..So I ended up getting my neighbor to help me, we wrapped him in garbage bags, and wrapped Ziva in a towel so that he could hold her for the ride.

Thus began our nightmare.
Our vet closed at 5, about the time I got home. We were at the Emergency Clinic by 6 pm, when we got their I expressed that I thought it was Giardia the nurse however was concerned that Ziva might have Parvo (even though she was fully vaccinated) which meant she couldn't go inside until they could test her. In order to test for Parvo they had to take a stool sample using a cotton swab and insert it where the sun don't shine...I told the nurse I would hold Ziva. I also said, "She's not ready". Unfortunately the nurse went too soon, and my poor puppy had a major panic attack and of course it hurt! She was raw!
This resulted in her biting my face (just a quick strike) she drew blood but it was shallow, on a good note the nurse didn't see what had happened so I just said, "she scratched me" that's my story and I stuck to it! My neighbor ran and grabbed tissues - he saw but kept quiet, she didn't mean to and I didn't need Ziva in trouble over a bite they provoked.

The test results took about 20 min, during this time Ziva was a nervous wreck - the diarrhea had stopped but she was shaking and stress breathing. The results came back negative and they ushered us into a tiny room. "The doctor will be right in." Ya right..

Next we saw a nurse who needed to take Ziva's temperature. Great! Can't they come up with a less invasive way to take a dog's temperature!?

This time I held her down, and thankfully the nurse waited until I gave the the "go ahead". No bites but more panic.

Another half hour went by, no one. A doctor came in, and explained that he wanted to give Ziva a subcutaneous injection of fluids because she was extremely dehydrated. I said ok to the procedure and he left. Another 45 minutes went by, no one.
At this point my poor puppy had wet herself, I had covered her in the towel for warmth because the office was air-conditioned, and I was sitting on the floor cradling her head because she was going into shock.

I was also getting angry - I understand that my emotions affect my dogs so up until this point I had been really calm and held it all together to try and help my puppy know that mommy was in control of the situation.

I then went out of the room and asked if we could just leave, the nurse said she'd need to talk to the doctor. She then came back and said, "not a good idea". So I explained how long we had been waiting and the condition my dog was in, I just wanted to get her home and cleaned up so could they please hurry it up? At this point she proceeded to tell me that I needed to calm down and it must be me affecting my dog.

I about lost my temper, I told her we're leaving if they don't hurry up. Next thing I know a nurse comes in and says they are ready to start but Ziva would have to leave the room. This did not sit well with me. How long? "Just a couple minutes." Right...
It went pretty quick, my poor pup looked like a hunchback - when they do a subcutaneous injection the liquid is given under the skin and on top of the muscle, it's supposed to slowly absorb into the body. But thankfully this meant she could go home after being there for over 3 hours.

We left in a hurry and as soon as I got home I threw both dogs in the shower and worked on warming up my little girl.

Thankfully she made a nice recovery with the meds and injection to get her body re-hydrated. However now i'm really paranoid about water sources for my dogs, I always bring water and a dish for them now wherever we go.

Ziva Happy the nightmare is over.

We're participating in Caring Critters Round Robin hosted by Heart Like a Dog. Tune in tomorrow for Fetch For Me Human's next installment of the Round Robin.

**Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian and have no medical training. If you think your pet has giardia please contact your veterinarian immediately, it could mean saving his life.**

Other Sources:
VCA Hospitals
Pet MD


  1. Wow, as if the disease itself was not horrible enough, you and Ziva were really treated poorly. I'm so sorry that you both had to go through this and that you went through it twice!! I'm so glad that both of your pups recovered well.

    When Sampson was a tiny boy, about 10 to 12 weeks old, he has a gastritis attack. Poor puppy, I came downstairs and he'd had diarrhea and it was all over him and his crate. He was also vomiting, I remember that horrible drive with him draped across my lap (I was driving) with him vomiting. Thankfully he recovered well from that, but I always call my vet the minute one of them aren't feeling well. I'm lucky my vet is open until 7:30 and the Dr can be reached before 9:00pm and after 7:00 am.

    I try and deter my dogs from drinking from puddles and streams,but I'll be super cautious going forward.

    Thank you so much for sharing this in the Round Robin, it's good information to have!

    1. I wish my vet was open that late! I avoid the emergency vet if I can, they were terrible!

  2. Very interesting! If Barry doesn't improve I'll give a feces sample to our vet and see what they say if I specifically mention Giardia. Though, previous samples never showed anything and Barry never has low energy or a fever. Also, Barry doesn't get much chance to drink from an unknown water source. I will be keeping this in mind!

  3. Giardia totally sucks. When we lived in Oregon, we battled it too!! Multiple times. It was not fun. I also became very paranoid about their water.

  4. Sorry you had such a bad experience when taking Ziva in for it. I would have been pretty pissed, too. And I was lucky enough not to catch it when my dog Carter had it a couple times, that's certainly no fun. I just remember feeling so helpless because he wasn't able to hold anything in and while we were at the vet it just continued to come out. It's gotta be such a terrible feeling to lose control like that. He did recover quickly once he was given medication, I just couldn't believe how quickly it came on and how severe it was.

  5. Thankfully the medication does work fast, but yes the speed of it was incredible! And the we're stuck with her being scared of vets - thanks emergency clinic for that!...It was very angering on my part, and she is super nervous going on rides with just me, probably because that usually means we're off to the vet for one injury or another. My poor accident prone puppy. One a good note, she's getting lots of positive practice in my car (just the 2 of us) for obedience class.


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