Giardiasis, sometimes called "beaver fever," is an intestinal infection caused by the giardia parasite. It can affect many mammals including dogs and humans.
The offspring (cysts) of this parasite are shed in animal feces. The most common method of infection is waterborne because the parasite prefers a cool, moist environment. Giardia can survive in these conditions for up to several months. Dogs may also become infected by ingesting fecal material that contains cysts.
Giardiasis is more common among young animals and those confined in groups, such as in kennels or boarding facilities.
Some infected dogs never show signs or will spontaneously experience indications of giardiasis months after becoming infected. Puppies and dogs with weakened immune systems can experience more severe reactions to infection.
- Diarrhea - Large populations of giardia may line the intestines and prevent the absorption of food, causing diarrhea.
- Other signs include abdominal pain, weight loss, weakness, lethargy and appetite loss.
This condition is diagnosed by your veterinarian by analyzing the dog's feces. There may not be cysts present in every stool which can make giardiasis difficult to diagnose.
Giardiasis can be treated by administering medication (antibiotics and/or antiparasitic drugs) in the comfort of your own home. Only in cases of severe dehydration would the dog need to be hospitalized. It is also recommended to disinfect kennel areas and bathe infected dogs to remove all potentially infected fecal matter.
Because giardia can affect humans, it is very important to sanitize and wash hands after coming in contact with fecal matter.