Modern Medicine, Old-Fashioned Care

Nov 15, 2021 | General Health

Giardia in Dogs – Choose Fresh Water for Your Pet’s Health

Proper hydration is as important for pets as it is for people. Dogs should drink approximately one fluid ounce for every pound of body weight per day. So, your active 100lb dog should be drinking 100 fluid ounces (or more) every day.  When you do the math, that equals 12 ½ cups of water.

But Not All Water Is the Same

Bacteria and parasites can be present in many outdoor water sources. These ‘bad bugs’, including giardia in dogs, can cause digestive upset or worse.

Giardia is a parasite that results in an intestinal infection. This single-cell organism can thrive in outdoor water sources such as ponds, puddles, or contaminated dog bowls. The parasite is also transmitted  by contact with infected dog waste or soil contaminated by infected waste. Although the occurence is low, giardia can be transmitted to humans.

“When it comes to your dog’s health, good hygiene is the best defense against parasites and bacterial infections,” says Dr. Brittany Sembler with Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holistic Pet Care.

Dr. Sembler says good hygiene starts with regularly washing your dog’s food and water bowls (and your hands) with soap and warm water.

Outdoor and shared water sources are the biggest culprit for contamination from infections such giardia in dogs. Now that the weather is getting colder, your dog may not be outside as often. Parasitic worms, such as roundworms or hookworms, hibernate when the weather is colder, but reemerge on a warm winter day or when spring temperatures rise. Something to remember when resuming outside activities with your dog!

How can contaminated water sources be avoided?

Dr. Sembler offers these suggestions:

  • Stainless steel water bowls—for inside and outside—are recommended. Clean and fill with fresh water often.
  • Wash water and food bowls a few times a week with warm water and soap—no bleach necessary—and include a dishwasher cycle weekly.
  • Carry a portable bowl and fresh drinking water when engaging in outdoor activities with your dog, including a visit to the dog park or your favorite outdoor dog-friendly café in town.
  • Remove stagnant water sources such as empty flower pots, old kiddie pool water, or birdbaths that a dog could drink from.
  • Cover outside sandboxes when not in use to keep cats and other wild animals out.

Symptoms & Treatment

Giardia is a single-cell organism. The infection occurs in the dog’s intestines when the parasite (in its cyst stage) is digested from drinking affected water or sniffing contaminated soil.

The symptoms of giardia in dogs include:

  • Diarrhea, which can be accompanied by a foul smell and may sometimes be intermittent
  • Soft or watery stool (excess mucus or blood may be present)
  • Vomiting
  • Reduction in activity level
  • Weight loss

“Giardia infections are common, but some healthy adult dogs may never show symptoms. For dogs or puppies showing clinical signs, prescription metronidazole, sometimes with a dewormer, is the usual treatment,” Dr. Sembler says

As always, consult with your veterinarian if your puppy or dog is showing symptoms . Keep your dog well hydrated with fresh drinking water from clean sources. Practice good hygiene by regularly washing food and water bowls, and your hands to protect you and your dog.