What is Giardia?

What is Giardia?

maltese puppy on beige background stockGiardia (pronounced Gee-ahr- DEE-ah) is a nasty little shape-shifting bug that attacks more than 200 million people a year including 20% to 25% of all third-world children. Countless millions of animals are also infected, leaving them with severe diarrhea and other digestive problems. In fact, Giardia is the #1 non-bacterial cause of diarrhea, gas and cramping.

Giardia can ruin your Morkie’s health and make his life miserable. Thanks to a debilitating bout of bloody, dehydrating diarrhea your Morkie can lose dangerous amounts of weight. This in turn can develop into chronic IBS and inflamed intestines.sad-little-yorkie

Your once-lively, happy dog can become lethargic and listless, just not interested in life.

So what is Giardia?

Giardia is a parasite that thrives in the small intestines of both people and animals.  While trolling for victims, it takes on a cyst form. Once it finds a host, it hatches into a single cell amoeba-like creature, and starts dividing. Its creepy appearance under the microscope, with two big eye-like spots on its ‘face’ gives it the nickname Clown Bug.

giardia-or-killer-clown

The Giardia parasite resembles a clown face under the microscope.

Symptoms of Giardia

It can be tricky diagnosing Giardia since digestive upsets can come and go, mimicking other problems.  And Veterinarians don’t always test for it right away. Although chronic diarrhea and vomiting are common symptoms, this disease doesn’t always have clear symptoms. There is a special test that can detect the infection.

Giardia_LambliaWhere is Giardia found?

This parasite is found literally all around the world. It can be picked up in contaminated water, or through contact with contaminated soil or poop. Dogs licking one another can spread it.  Crowded kennels are an ideal breeding ground for parasites like this one, so avoid them where possible.

Puppies and kittens are more susceptible, along with elderly animals.

Can humans get Giardia from pets?

Guardia is also known as beaver fever

YES! Although it’s a rare occurrence, this is one of those diseases that you can catch from your pet (and vice versa). Called zoonotic, Giardia crosses animal/human barriers.

Protect yourself with:

  • plenty of hand washing
  • always wearing gloves when gardening
  • disinfecting hard surfaces where your pet has pooped (again wear gloves)
  • washing your Morkie’s bedding regularly in hot water

What’s the treatment for Giardia?

If you suspect your Morkie could have an infection (watch for diarrhea or vomiting, listlessness or lethargy) – be sure to have him tested by your Vet.  If positive, your Vet will treat your Morkie with prescription medicines until the infection is cleared up. (There are no over-the-counter treatments available by the way.)

Preventing Giardia

Although there is a vaccination against Giardia, many pet owners think our animals are already over-vaccinated. To safeguard your Morkie, try these tactics instead: avoid kennelling him where it’s crowded; discourage him from drinking from puddles, ponds and creeks; and pick up any poop right away, wrapping it and throwing it into another bag for safe disposal.

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