Giardia? What is it and Why Can’t My Pet Get Rid of it???

One of the most pesky “bugs” we deal with as veterinarians is a one-celled parasite called Giardia This probably sounds familiar to you as it’s one of the most common causes of diarrhea in cats and dogs.   It lives inside the intestines as one form called a trophozoite.  Outside the body the trophozoites band together and form a “cyst,” which is found in fecal material.

Animals typically become infected by ingestion of infected fecal material.  One of the most common modes of transmission is contaminated water.  So if your pet is drinking from a puddle in the park, there is a good chance they can swallow the cysts.  There are also some dogs out there guilty of periodic “stool-eating” (we don’t know what the appeal is) that can ingest it in that manner as well.   What also makes this parasite even more of a nuisance is the cysts in the fecal material can actually stick to your pet’s coat.  So if an animal is cleaning himself and happens to ingest fecal material while doing so, he can actually re-infect himself with the parasite.  This can become a problem with animals in close quarters particularly in a dog park or day care situation where these little guys are in constant contact with one another.

If your pet is already infected with Giardia and is being treated, hygiene is a major factor in controlling re-infection.  So after your pet has a bowel movement ,  if you notice there is fecal material stuck to the coat, make sure to clean it off.

Giardia is actually considered a zoonotic organism, meaning humans can get it.   However, it is rare that a person would actually get Giardia from a dog or cat since they would have to ingest the feces of an animal infected with it.   A far more common source of infection would be contaminated water sources.  Campers and hikers are at risk if they drink untreated water from lakes and streams.  We do see some infections in immunocompromised individuals or those that work in nursing homes and long term care homes.

Your veterinarian may test for Giardia by taking a fecal sample and examining it under the microscope in the hospital or sending it out to a separate laboratory.  Giardia doesn’t always cause diarrhea, this is why it’s important to have your pet’s stool tested once a year even if it’s not sick.

This information should not steer you away from all the activities your pet loves, such as day care, dog parks, and any other outdoor activity because the prognosis for Giardia is good.  The actual parasite is pretty wimpy, so medication will take care of it.  We typically use a dewormer called Panacur that goes in the food and an antibiotic called Metronidazole.  This is the most common and effective treatment.

The best thing you can do as a pet owner is pick up your pet’s feces after they have a bowel movement and avoid walking them in areas riddled with other animal’s fecal material.  Also, try to stop them from drinking out of puddles, ponds, or any stagnant water source.  Additionally, bring your pet’s feces in for a parasite check yearly to test for feces.  Giardia can be rather troublesome for veterinarians, but as diligent and informed pet owners, you can prevent an infection.


Dr. Julie Jones

Questions? E-mail:

West Village Veterinary Hospital

Pet Dental Month

Dental Month at DVM Hospitals

Oral disease is the most common recurring or chronic problem in our canine/feline patient population.  These problems start with accumulations of plaque and calculus on the tooth surface.  Small amounts of this material, commonly called “tartar”, do not make for a serious problem, but as it accumulates, the margins of the gum become infected causing gingivitis and bad breath.  As infected gum dies and recedes, more of the tooth root is exposed and the periodontal tissue, which holds the tooth in place, becomes involved.  Periodontitis progresses to tooth root abscess, infection of the surrounding bone, tooth loss, and in some cases disease in distant parts of the body.  Breath will become markedly foul, the surrounding lip folds become infected, and in some cases there may be poor appetite, weight loss, signs of pain, or other signs of overt illness.


The treatment of dental disease is the most common reason for which we use general anesthesia.  Attempts at non-anesthetic dentistry have not allowed for more than the most superficial treatment of these problems, almost always with disappointing short-term results.  Yet, fear of anesthesia is the most frequent reason for pet owner reluctance to pursue needed dental care.  Anesthesia for dentistry is, in general, the same as other anesthetic situations, but does require strict attention to “protecting the airway” from the fluids sprayed into the mouth during dental procedures.  In our anesthesia protocol, we give a mild sedation to reduce the anesthetic required and to ease recovery from the anesthetic state; an IV catheter is placed and anesthesia is initiated with a short-acting anesthetic given IV; a plastic tube is placed in the airway and is designed to inflate slightly to prevent entry of any fluid into the airway during dental procedures.  General anesthesia is maintained with isoflurane, an anesthetic gas, administered through this endotracheal tube.  Our patients are kept on an IV drip and monitored continuously throughout anesthesia by a staff member dedicated to that one purpose.


For the past 4 years we have held a “Dental Month” in February.  These have been very popular.  Each year, many of our clients look forward to the opportunity to take care of anything from routine dental prophylaxis to major dental problems in their pets.  They also look forward to saving some money on what can become an expensive procedure because Dental Month offers a 15% discount on all but the most advanced procedures.  This discount also applies to a pre-anesthetic blood panel, dental xrays, gingivectomy when required, and medications dispensed.  We love Dental Month as well.  There are few areas of practice where the results of our training and work are so apparent and gratifying.


For further information on dental care or Dental month, contact one of our DVM Hospitals locations at:


Mark G. Burns, DVM