Now that the snow has melted and rain leaves puddles all around the city, dog owners should be aware of giardia, a common ailment among city dogs. Giardia is a type of parasite that can be found in water, grass, soil, and all sorts of other substances your dog may encounter. It lives in the intestines of mammals and grows cysts there, which are then left in their feces to start the whole process over again.
Dogs are just one of the many mammals that can develop an infection of giardia. It’s not uncommon in the United States or elsewhere in the world for dogs to come down with this illness, and it’s important for dog owners in Chicago to recognize the symptoms. Here is some helpful information for you to learn more about giardia, how to avoid it for your pets, and how it can be treated by our veterinarians at West Loop Veterinary Care!
How Giardia in Dogs is Spread
- Most dogs develop giardia infections from drinking water that is contaminated with this parasite. Do not let your dog drink from puddles or natural sources of water such as lakes, rivers, and streams if it all possible, as it could contain giardia.
- Ingestion of Grass
- Grass can sometimes be infested with giardia cysts just like water can. Although dogs sometimes try to eat grass, it’s best to prevent this behavior as grass could be contaminated with giardia or treated with chemicals that can be harmful.
- Ingestion of Feces
- Unfortunately, some dogs are prone to eating feces no matter where they find it. Prevent your dog from doing this as they could easily pick-up giardia from eating the feces of a dog or other animal that had the parasite.
- Transmission Between Household Pets
- If one of your pets develops a giardia infection, it’s very likely the rest of the pets in your household will as well. Giardia is very contagious, but you can keep your infected pet away from the other animals in your home and take steps to prevent transmission.
Signs and Symptoms of Giardia in Dogs in Chicago, IL
Diarrhea is the most common symptom of giardia infection in dogs. This parasite causes frequent, severe diarrhea that can be difficult for the dog to recover from and lead to serious health problems or even death. Most of the time, giardia does not cause any other digestive problems, but frequent diarrhea can also cause your dog to lose its appetite.
Dogs who suffer from frequent or uncontrollable diarrhea will become dehydrated very quickly. Dehydration is extremely dangerous and can quickly lead to organ failure, so it must be treated by a veterinarian immediately. This is one of the many reasons why giardia is so dangerous for dogs, and especially for puppies who are unable to recover easily from dehydration.
When to Alert your Veterinarian
If your dog has multiple bouts of diarrhea in a single day, or a single bout daily for more than one day, see your veterinarian. If your puppy has even one bout of diarrhea, you should contact your veterinarian as it likely is a sign of illness and can quickly lead to serious health problems for a puppy.
To test for giardia specifically, we will need a fecal sample so please be sure to bring one with you at the time of the visit.
Treatment and Prevention of Giardia in Dogs
- Some giardia infections can be treated with medications. This depends on the severity of the infection and your dog’s individual needs. Your veterinarian can give you more information about the potential treatments.
- Provide Clean Water
- Anytime you take your dog out for exercise – for a hike, to play at a dog park or beach, or even for a long walk – bring enough clean, fresh drinking water for your dog. It’s best not to let them drink out of puddles, lakes, or streams.
- Clean Up
- Make sure to pick up your dog’s feces anytime they defecate, including at dog parks, beaches, parkways, and even in your own yard. Additionally, if you take your pet to dog parks or other places where you may encounter the feces of other dogs, try to avoid it as much as possible.
If you have any questions or concerns or think your dog may have giardia, please call West Loop Veterinary Care in Chicago, IL right away at 312-421-2275 – we are here to help!