With the snow finally on its way out, we can now take our dogs on plenty more of their much needed walks. Long leisurely strolls through the woods and along riverbanks can be favourites for many people and dogs alike. While on these walks, many dogs enjoy tramping through creeks and streams as they enjoy chasing sticks and tennis balls. But beware…there may be something infectious lurking nearby. Water from creeks, lakes, ponds, puddles and rivers may be contaminated with a very common parasite, giardia.*
Giardia is a microscopic intestinal parasite that can be contagious to both humans and animals. It is spread through the feces of infected animals, and can be acquired by coming in contact with contaminated sources of water. Your dog must actually swallow the parasite in order to become infected, but once infected, he or she can become quite ill. Giardia is also capable of surviving in the environment for many months. And while many people consider worms as parasites, giardia is one of the most common parasites n puppies and kittens!
The most common symptoms of giardia are: diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. It also causes problems with normal absorption of important nutrients/vitamins in the intestines. Animals can become quite sick, especially in puppies who may become dehydrated quickly.
To know whether your pet has giardia or not, your vet needs to perform a special test. Only a small sample of stool is needed and the test results are available within minutes. Although, sometimes the test may need to be performed more than once due to the fact that the organism sheds intermittently, making it difficult to detect.
Luckily there is a treatment for giardia, and it usually consists of a broad spectrum dewormer. Sometimes more than one medication may need to be used concurrently and it may be necessary to retest your pet to make sure the infection has cleared up. Cleaning the environment with bleach can also help prevent re-contamination.
Tips to Prevent the Spread of Giardia: —
-Collect and dispose of animal waste properly.
-clean with bleach at a ratio of one cup per gallon of water
If you have any questions regarding giardia and how it is transmitted, please speak with your veterinarian at the Lansdowne Animal Hospital. If you suspect your dog may be infected, please bring him or her to the vet immediately for testing. And, for now, enjoy your great spring outings while being cautious and keeping an eye out for any suspicious symptoms…and of course spending time with your four legged friend.
*Another common source of giardia infection is through close housing situations, such as kennels.