Why your dog’s giardia infection is not going away and what you can do about it

dogs drinking water

If your dog has ever had a giardia infection then you know the struggle of taking your dog into the clinic countless times only to be told that they are still testing positive for giardia.

It is frustrating for the owners, veterinarians, and of course the dogs, but why does that happen and what can you do about it? Keep reading to learn more.

What is Giardia?


Giardia is a single-celled parasite that infects dogs and can live in their intestines. Dogs become infected when they swallow something that has giardia on it like feces.

What are the signs of Giardia in dogs?

While the clinical signs can be subclinical in some cases (showing no signs), most dogs will have diarrhea with mucus as a prominent sign of a Giardia infection. If your dog suffers from an immune disease their symptoms may be worse. In general, some other signs include

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Stomach cramping
  • Diarrhea with a strong odor
  • General malaise
  • Weight loss due to chronic malabsorption

5 Reasons why your dog may not be able to get rid of a Giardia infection

dog drinking water

1. They are eating something with giardia on it

If your dog continues to have recurring giardia infections there is a good chance that they are reinfecting themselves. Some common ways that dogs reinfect themselves are

  • Eating infected feces from animals outside
  • Drinking from infected water, ponds or puddles that may be infected

2. The medication was not given properly

It is important to give the medication that your veterinarian prescribes as it is written and to complete all of the medication, even if your dog seems to be feeling better.

3. Your dog has a heavy infection

If your dog’s infection is significant, you should be prepared to treat them more than once or even twice in many cases

4. Re-infection in the home

If you have another pet in the home they could be a subclinical carrier and be transmitting it to your dog. Many times, cats can be subclinical carriers of the organism.

5. Re-infection from themselves

If your dog has Giardia on their fur or paws and they lick themselves they can easily reinfect themselves in this way. Giardia can live on surfaces for weeks or even months if the temperature is right and this includes your dog’s fur

6 things you can do to prevent recurrent Giardia infections in your dog

1. Wipe their paws and fur

Wiping your dog’s paws and fur down after they have come inside can help decrease the chances of them acquiring or being reinfected.

2. Clean your yard

Before you allow your dog to roam free in your yard make sure it is free of feces from wild animals and standing water. You may also want to treat the grass for Giardia as well but they are usually killed by direct sunlight drying them out.

3. Wash your dog’s bedding

Washing your dog’s bedding in warm water and drying on high should help prevent reinfection

4. Clean your floors

Most common household disinfectants work to kill Giardia but you can also stem-clean the areas to get rid of them

5. Bathe your dog

Giving your dog baths regularly will help decrease the chances that giardia is on their fur. While daily baths will strip their fur, bathing them on the last day of treatment seems to help recontamination.

6. Check your other pet’s feces

Make sure you have a fecal done for any other pets in the home as they may be subclinical carriers.

dog drinking water

What can you do to help your dog that has Giardia?

Your dog may have an upset stomach and some diarrhea, so you should do all you can to soothe their stomach.

  • Feed a bland diet: Speak with your vet about food options but a bland diet may be best for a couple of days. Your veterinarian can prescribe an over-the-counter bland diet or you can make one at home for your fur baby. To learn about feeding your dog a bland diet, read our article here. There is also a recipe here. A bland diet can help ease their stomach pains as the food is easy to digest and gives the intestines time to heal.
  • Give all prescribed medication: Make sure you give all of your medications as prescribed even if your pet seems to feel a lot better. There is no current FDA-approved treatment for giardia in dogs, however many vets have prescribed fenbendazole (an oral dewormer) and metronidazole (an antibiotic) with some success.
  • Give your dog probiotics: While there has been little research about giardia and probiotics in dogs, they have been shown to prevent giardia in humans. Probiotics may not clear the infection when used alone but in combination with veterinary prescribed medications, you will have more luck. To read more about that read our article about probiotics and giardia here.
  • Keep your pup well hydrated: Because they may be losing so much water and electrolytes due to diarrhea, you should make sure to keep your dog well hydrated. In addition, you can speak to your vet about adding electrolytes to their water, especially if it is a chronic case of giardia.
  • Addi fiber: There have been studies that show the addition of fiber to the diet may help control clinical signs of giardiasis by helping to regular bacterial overgrowth and decreasing the chances of the organism attaching to the intestinal wall.

How can I prevent my dog from getting giardia?

  • The best prevention is to keep your dog from ingesting cysts in the environment.
  • Making sure to do things like not allowing your dog to drink standing water
  • Remove feces from infected animals promptly
  • Clean all surfaces with a household cleaner or steamer thoroughly since it can live on them for weeks or months
  • Boil or filter any water collected from outside before your dog drinks it will help
  • Make sure your dog has fresh drinking water when outside as this may deter them from drinking standing water that could be infected with giardia.

Is there a vaccination for giardia?

There was a vaccination for giardia, GiardiaVax ®, however, it has been discontinued in the United States.

It was not commonly used in many practices as it is only effective at reducing the incidence and severity of one strain and in reality, the total number of giardia strains is unknown



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