Giardia is a parasitic protozoan. It is a waterborne protozoa, not a worm.
Protozoa? What is that? Protozoa are single celled organisms. These parasites are commonly found in the intestines of many animals, including dogs. They are flagellates. Flagellates have hair like tendrils hanging down that act as legs to help them move and ' swim '.
Giardia tests rarely find this parasite.
It is very difficult to detect in stool samples.
These microscopic parasites cling to the surface of the intestine, or they can also float free in the mucous lining of the intestine. These parasites can cause inflammation in the intestine. This inflammation can cause extreme digestive upset and diarrhea that can result in severe nutrient loss.
I would be a rich woman if I had a dollar for every person who has contacted me to say that their dog has recurring diarrhea. Next to skin problems, diarrhea in dogs is the most common complaint. Humans can be infected by giardia too. So make sure you wash your hands.
If a dog does not have a strong immune system, it will be unable to resist the infection. The severity of the infection depends on the overall health of the dog. In North America, infection in dogs is reported to be about 8%. The rate of infection in puppies is much higher at about 36% to 50%. Dogs in shelters and kennels are very much at risk... up to 100%.
Your dog becomes infected by ingesting ( eating or drinking ) the cysts. The most common ways are:
Once your dog has ingested the cysts, they now have the opportunity to travel through the digestive system and break open in the intestines. There they feed and multiply. Those little things that look like eyes, are actually nuclei. The Giardia protozoa multiplies by dividing in two, thus the two nuclei.
Brilliant eh ?!
Some experts see excessive grass eating as a symptom, because eating grass will make a dog purge, either by vomiting or by prompting stool elimination.
Some experts point to stool eating ( copraphagia
) as a symptom, because the infected dog will attempt to regain
nutrients and bacteria lost through diarrhea.
Just because you receive a negative result, does not rule out that your dog may have this parasitic infection. Trust me, I know about this!
My dog Jack, whom you have met on other pages, actually had Giardia for a number of years, if you can believe that! He would show symptoms off and on over this time, but we were never able to pinpoint the problem. He couldn't gain weight, he would have runny, loose, smelly, mucousy, sometimes bloody diarrhea, uncontrollable bowel movements with occasional vomiting. This went on for years. You can imagine how much I worried about him, but no positive results for giardia were found until many years later.
The most commonly used drug is Metronidazole ( Flagyl ) which is an anti biotic/anti protozoal. This drug can be used alone, or in combination with another similar drug called Fenbendazole.
Neither of these drugs is 100% effective, and each has the potential to cause liver damage. There are other drugs, such as Panacur that are used for this problem too, but none are very effective, and some do have dangerous and unpleasant side effects.
Since conventional medications have so many potential side effects, and are not really that effective for this problem, natural remedies are a good alternative. Here is what I used for Jack. He is infection free now. I give him this program about once a year, just to make sure, because I know that Giardia can reappear.
If your dog will is very sick and will not take capsules in the food you can use Black Walnut Extract - #1755-7 instead. Dosage is three drops per 25 lbs of body weight. Since Giardia can cause severe intestinal inflammation, I like Aloe Vera Juice - #1680-4 to soothe the entire digestive tract.
If your dog is so sick that he will not eat, and has diarrhea if he even looks at food, you can put all of these liquids together and syringe them down the dogs' throat.
A syringe can be gotten at any pharmacy. Sometimes this is necessary.
I would be happy to coach you through this process if you are experiencing these symptoms with your dog.