Many pet owners have heard about heartworms, but when has your vet warned you of equally persistent threats coccidia and giardia? These two intestinal parasites won’t shed visible segments like a tapeworm. In fact, owners can’t be sure of their presence at all – at least not without a high-powered microscope.
Don’t panic! We share this information with you not to alarm you, simply to encourage good precautionary measures. Contracting these protozoan invaders is simple and unavoidable. Your pet will likely be exposed to them at some point in their life, either from drinking contaminated water outdoors or from exposure to another animal’s feces when they lick their paws. A few reasonable steps will help your pet stay healthy.
- When taking your dog to a park or an area with natural bodies of water, bring a water bottle and something for them to drink from. If they aren’t desperate from thirst, it’s less likely they’ll take a sip out
of the pond. We like this bottle from Amazon.
- Discourage your pets from contact with the feces of other animals (not just dogs!). If they don’t ingest it, they won’t get infected! Avoid areas that are particularly unclean, for example a dock heavily covered with the feces of migratory geese.
- Keep a clean home! Rodents and insects can carry the protozoa into your pet’s environment.
- Bathe your dog regularly. Within reason, bathing will reduce their exposure via self-grooming.
- Be aware of your dog’s bowel movements. If your furry friend is relieving himself outdoors, make an effort to be present when possible. Digestive upset is a key indicator of intestinal parasites, but also indicates many other health issues. If your dog has diarrhea that persists for more than 24 hours, mucus in their stool, pale or especially foul smelling feces, it may be time to contact your vet.
Why should you be concerned? Especially in puppies, coccidia is very common where giardia is less common. The unfortunate side of this is that treatment is risky for puppies, and symptom management or long term, lower dosage treatment is usually recommended. With giardia, some vets may opt not to treat it at all until the dog is older, as the drug treatment is as fatal to puppies as the disease.
Older dogs may be more successful with acute treatments. Coccidia poses an especially large health risk, with a higher incidence of death. Giardia may only intermittently cause your dog to have digestive upset, but your dog will remain a carrier until the parasite is eradicated. Discuss other prevention at your next veterinary visit.