Guarding against giardia

Not many diseases can be transmitted from pets to humans, but there are some exceptions and one that can affect both pets (mainly dogs) and humans is caused by a parasite called giardia.

Giardia is a one-cell parasite that affects the intestine and decreases the ability to digest food, thus causing severe intestinal-related symptoms such as:

  • severe diarrhea, often accompanied by a mucus, jelly-like material
  • excess gas
  • stomach or abdominal cramps
  • upset stomach
  • nausea

In severe cases, dehydration and nutritional loss may need immediate treatment.

Giardia infection spreads through the feces. The most common source for infection in both humans and pets is contaminated water in lakes, rivers or puddles.

The transmission from pets to humans has not been proven, but due to the fact that the parasite can affect many types of mammals, including people, it is assumed that the transmission between pets to humans can occur and safety measurements should be taken.  

Giardia infection is diagnosed by a fecal test in which the parasite or its eggs can be seen under the microscope.

A more modern and reliable lab test is now available, and can be done easily and cost effectively in most veterinary clinics. In this test, a sample is taken directly from the rectum by a special Q-tip, and the presence of the parasite is checked by a chemical reaction test that yields better objective results.

The treatment of giardia infection consists of specific antibiotic medication.

The diagnosis is easy and the treatment is straightforward. Catching the infection in timely manner can spare grief for both you and your furry friend.


Giardia is found in contaminated water, especially in stand still water such as ponds and puddles. Giardia may also be found on the surface of the ground, in the soil, and in undercooked foods.

  • Maintaining proper hygiene should protect you and your dog.
  • Avoid letting your dog drink water in the wilderness.
  • Make sure to always wash your hands thoroughly after picking up or cleaning your dog’s feces.
  • Boiling water for one minute should be sufficient in killing giardia parasites.
  • Avoid eating or offering undercooked food to your dog.

More Dr. Oz's Vet Advice articles

About the Author

Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna.

Dr. Oz has deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM,on 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is internal medicine and surgery.

In his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.

Dr. Oz can be contacted through his website: www.KelownaVet.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories