Giardia: The Who, What, When, Why and How


As the weather changes and rain is in the forecast, puddles will be forming and that means an increased risk of Giardia. I've provided some info to give you a quick summary, but please always refer to your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns.

Ballwalkpark Clients: To help keep your pup and minimize the risk of spreading the disease, please err on the side of caution and keep your pup home from the dog park if you see any signs of diarrhea or vomiting, and take a stool sample into your vet. If your pup tests positive for giardia, we ask that you keep him/her home for the duration of treatment and get a follow up stool sample with clean results. Healthy pups are happy pups!

What: Giardia is a common intestinal parasite.

  • Symptoms include diarrhea, gas, abdominal discomfort, nausea, and vomiting
  • It is possible to be infected and not show symptoms, but be shedding Giardia into the environment.

Who: Humans, dogs and cats.

  • Risk of contracting Giardia from your dog is very small, humans are usually infected with a different type of Giardia.

When: Dogs of any age can contract Giardia

  • Puppies are more susceptible until they build up their immunity
  • Since Giardia passed through feces and puddles that have been contaminated with Giardia infected feces, Fall is a common time for Giardia since puddles are forming for the first time in months.

Where: Since Seattle has such a high population of dogs, especially on Queen Anne, my vet, Dr. Spencer at Queen Anne Animal Clinic, says that dogs can get Giardia anywhere from the sidewalk in front of their house to the dog park.

  • Being in contact with infected feces (poop) from another dog or cat
  • Rolling and playing in contaminated soil
  • Licking its body after contact with a contaminated surface (for example, a dirty litter box or dog cage or crate)
  • Drinking water from a contaminated creek, pond, or other body of water

How: Giardia is detected by submitting a stool sample to your vet. They can usually diagnose the same day.

  • Your pup will most likely be prescribed a medication by your vet - there are no over the counter remedies.
  • You must keep your pup away from other dogs until the medication is complete
  • A follow up stool sample is required to return to the dog park

Why: I'm not sure why your pup got Giardia, but here's what you can do to prevent:

  • Get a fecal float test done every 6 months (even if symptoms are not present)
  • Clean up after your pup right away, or at least daily if you have a yard
  • Wash water bowls with soap and water regularly
  • Wipe paws after walks so they can't lick them after
  • If your pup has any signs of diarrhea, PLEASE KEEP THEM HOME for at least 24 hours to prevent spreading infection to other dogs and the park.

For more detailed info, see here.

In my experience, puppies dogs that are new to the area will often times come down with Giardia at least once, whether they visit dog parks or not. Once they are exposed to Seattle's soggy environment for a winter, they seem to build immunity and rarely become infected again. Every dog is different, of course. Some older dogs come down with it every year while some puppies grow up without every having it.

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention