Maltese Susi is exhausted. Their coat has become dull. The dog lady has lost her appetite. When she then gets bloody diarrhea, the trip to the vet can no longer be avoided. The diagnosis is clear: Susi has giardia.
Giardia intestinalis, also called Giardia lamblia or Giardia duodenalis, are single-celled parasites that infect the gastrointestinal tract – incidentally also in humans and other animal species such as cats or pigeons. They feed on the carbohydrates in the food in the digestive tract. Giardia go through different stages, clinging to the intestinal wall and damaging the intestinal villi. Dogs excrete them from a certain stage of development through the feces – they can think about for a long time and are extremely robust. The different types of the protozoa are host-specific, but one of them is also contagious for humans.
If the protozoa have massively multiplied in the gastrointestinal tract of the dog and he shows symptoms of disease, it is called giardiasis. Especially puppies and old dogs with weak immune systems are affected by this.
Giardia are quite common. Many dogs do not become infected at all, others become infected and excrete the cysts as hosts, but show no symptoms and cope with the parasites on their own. But some animals with a weakened immune system need support, because they can no longer get rid of the giardia on their own and suffer from the consequences of the infection. It is estimated that about 15 to 20 percent of all dogs are infected with Giardia.
Giardia are highly contagious. Even after the dog has excreted them, they remain infectious. A dog can therefore become infected by sniffing a pile that has almost disintegrated. They are also frequently transmitted via water.
Protecting the dog from contact with giardia by forbidding it contact with other dogs or not letting it sniff dog poop is therefore useless. We cannot possibly control all the infection scenarios. Giardia are ubiquitous. A healthy immune system copes well with them.
Symptoms of giardiasis in dogs
Giardia causes symptoms in dogs whose immune system is already weakened or who are already suffering from another disease. The most common symptom is severe, even bloody diarrhea, as well as vomiting and weight loss. Finally, the protozoa themselves metabolize the food of the dog. Bloating and abdominal pain can also be triggered by giardia. The general condition of the dog deteriorates, the coat loses its luster and the dog loses its appetite. Further symptoms such as itching, stiffness and eczema also occur.
In case of infection, the symptoms appear in intervals. A dog that was free of symptoms for a week or two then suffers again. The feces may also have a soft, thin consistency, be yellowish and have a foul odor.
An infestation of giardia can be easily detected by a veterinarian. This requires fecal samples collected over several days.
Treatment of giardiasis
The goal of treatment is first to get the symptoms under control and then to get rid of the protozoa, or at least reduce them enough so that the dog's immune system can handle them again. The veterinarian will treat the dog either with Fenbendazol (Panacur) or Metrobactin.
The dog owner should pay attention to hygiene at home. Blankets must be washed hot, toys boiled and feces collected. It may also help to wash your dog to remove cysts from the coat. Because of the presence of Giardia, even a dog that has gotten rid of the protozoa can immediately become reinfected again.
A tip that is often heard Low carbohydrate diet of the dog. So no cereals, no potatoes, no rice or sugar and therefore no dry food. However, this advice should be taken with a grain of salt. For one thing, the sick dog needs carbohydrates to meet its energy needs, especially if it has diarrhea and needs nutrients that can be broken down quickly. On the other hand, a sudden change of food can upset the weakened organism.
Strengthen the dog's immune system
Since the infestation with the protozoa indicates a weak immune system, the dog's defenses should also be strengthened in addition to the medical treatment. In case of acute need, not only preparations and dietary supplements will help. The very normal Everyday life suitable for dogs supports the dog already very much in becoming healthy and strong again. This includes, on the one hand, a balanced diet that provides all the minerals, nutrients and vitamins that the four-legged friend needs. Of course also sufficient water. In addition, a dog needs regular exercise and fresh air. Walks are good for the four-legged friend. If you can not always let your dog run free, you are prepared for everything with a water-repellent collar and appropriate leash. But with all the drive: it is important that activity and relaxation are in balance. Enough sleep and breaks ensure that the quadruped can regenerate – too much input stresses every dog.