Be On Guard Against Giardia

Troubleshooting: Dogs With Recurrent Giardia

Many dogs become reinfected with giardia as soon as treatment is finished because their environment remains contaminated. Following are tips for preventing giardia reinfection in your dog:

  • Allow your pet to defecate only on cement surfaces or surfaces that can be disinfected with aforementioned solutions or products. Dirt and grass areas can harbor large amounts of giardia for months. When treated dogs return to these environments, they can become reinfected and begin shedding giardia cysts within five to seven days.
  • Pick up all feces immediately and disinfect surfaces daily. If you walk your dog, carry a spray bottle of dilute bleach solution to easily disinfect surfaces.
  • Limit your dog’s exposure to high-risk environments where giardia could easily be spread, such as dog parks, kennels, dog day-care facilities, groomers, etc.
  • Test and possibly treat other dogs and cats in the household for giardia. Although dogs and cats are usually affected by different species of giardia, they can share infections, and cats can serve as a source of reinfection for household dogs.
  • Do not allow your dog to drink out of communal water bowls at pet stores or in public places.
  • Do not allow your dog to drink from puddles, lakes, ponds, rivers or streams, which may be contaminated with feces from other animals.
  • Do not allow your dog to eat his own feces or the feces or other animals.

Chronic Giardia Infection

It can be frustrating if a dog continues to test positive for giardia after treatment. The giardia ELISA test can remain positive for weeks to months following successful giardia treatment — so a positive test does not necessarily mean active infection. However, if giardia cysts are present in your dog’s fecal sample, active infection is present and you must redouble your efforts to limit your dog’s exposure to giardia and decontaminate your environment.

If additional treatments are unable to eliminate giardia infection in your dog, your vet may recommend a more extensive medical evaluation for your pet. Testing can also be performed to determine if the giardia infecting your dog is zoonotic — meaning an organism that can also sicken humans. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has detailed information available on giardia and how to prevent infection in people. The risk of infection is small because the type of giardia that affects humans is not usually the same one that affects dogs and cats, but it is good to be informed.

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