The general explanation on the CDC's website is:
Giardiasis is a diarrheal illness caused by a microscopic parasite called Giardia intestinalis (also known as Giardia lamblia or Giardia duodenalis). The parasite is found on surfaces or in soil, food, or water that has been contaminated with feces (poop) from infected humans or animals. People [or dogs] can become infected after accidentally swallowing the Giardia parasite.
Dogs ingest the parasite most commonly from contaminated water or by licking their paws after walking over contaminated surfaces. The biggest symptoms of giardia are:
- Loss of interest in food
- Weight loss
If you suspect your dog could have been exposed to the parasite and he displays these symptoms, please contact your vet immediately.
How can you prevent your dog from contracting giardia?
1. Don't let her drink water from puddles outside. In the winter giardia becomes much more common in cities where it snows. Poop that is left on the ground gets covered by the snow, the snow melts creating a puddle filled with poop, and your dog drinks from it. ICK!
2. Practice good hygiene for your dog. When you return inside, wipe your puppy's paws and backside with wipes right away. If you clean your dog before he has the chance to lick off the bacteria, you can help keep him from ingesting the parasite.
3. Keep in mind that humans can also be infected with giardia. After wiping down your pup, be sure to wash your hands and/or use an antibacterial wipe or lotion.
4. Continue your dog's heartworm preventative year-round (i.e. Interceptor or Heartgard). Although we think of this medicine to be solely intended for heartworms, it actually helps guard against many other parasites. Just because the cold weather scares away the mosquitoes who transmit heartworms, there are still other parasites that survive winter.
Sandra, Sam and I are diligent about keeping the dogs we walk from having an opportunity to explore areas that could be breeding grounds for poop, and we do our best to keep our four-legged clients clean so that they remain healthy. But don't forget to let your dog be a dog! He can't live in a bubble, but you don't have to make it extra simple for him to eat poop and drink from poopy puddles :-)
Please forward this blog to every dog owner you know...giardia is serious and I've found that very few dog owners know about it.