Coccidiosis and Giardia in dogs are common throughout most regions of the world and often cause issues for dog breeders. Lots of dogs carry them and they can be hard to get rid of. Canine Coccidiosis and Canine Giardia diseases are both caused by single-celled amoeba. The adult stages are a normal part of the microbial ecology of the intestine of many healthy animals, including dogs. However they can cause mild to severe illness, especially in puppies and young dogs, and even adult dogs on occasion.
Symptoms of Coccidiosis or Giardia in Dogs
Both canine Giardia and canine Coccidiosis can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and depression. Affected dogs or puppies may even become so dehydrated from the diarrhoea that they die if not treated. Chronically affected dogs may fail to thrive and have a rough coat.
The stool of dogs and puppies with Giardia tends to be soft and fatty with greenish tinge and sometimes blood. Weight loss and failure to thrive are also common.
With Coccidiosis the stool tends to be full of mucus and may become bloody and explosive in passing.
Diagnosis of Coccidiosis and Giardia in Dogs
Take your dog or puppy to your vet. Your vet can do a fecal flotation test to look for the Coccidia or Giardia cysts under the microscope [easier when zinc sulfate solution is used for the flotation]. The oocysts are much smaller than the eggs of intestinal worms, and so your vet will have to have a good microscope to see them. There is also a test available to check for Giardia antigens in the feces.
Now, what are these critters? They are both single celled, amoeba-type organisms. The problem is that they are very resistant in the environment and hard to get rid of if you’re using most ordinary disinfectants. So though you may treat the dog, it can easily become reinfected if the environment is not also sanitized.
Lifecycle of Canine Coccidosis
The adult coccidia (Isospora species are the most common) live inside the dog’s small intestine, and produce oocysts that are released in the dog’s feces. These oocysts can lie dormant in the environment for up to a year, especially in cold, moist conditions.
They can withstand freezing, and temperatures way below zero, and they can withstand up to 40 degrees celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wild animals can also transmit coccidiosis, even birds. And your dog, or puppies can pick it up in contaminated grass on the yard when they’re playing with their toys or chewing a bone or even drinking water. They can also become infected if they eat rodents. And rodents can contaminate their environment, food and water. It can be on their coat and when they groom themself, they can pick it up that way. So if your dog is infected, it’s a good idea to give them a bath in a sulfur-based/chlorhexidine disinfectant shampoo.
Lifecycle of Canine Giardia
Like canine Coccidia, canine Giardia can persist in the environment for up to a year, predominantly in water. Other animals and even humans can also harbor the infection [though humans rarely catch it from dogs].
Transmission occurs mainly through your dog drinking water that has been contaminated with infected feces [canine or other animals’] but can also come from grass, food bowls and even the dog’s own coat during grooming.
How to Sanitize Your Yard
The only way to get rid of them is with an environmental disinfectant. That can either be a chlorine bleach, used at the rate of one cup in a gallon of water, or 500ml per four liters. You can also use cleaning products based on quaternary ammonium compounds, like Pine Sol cleaner and Clorox Broad Spectrum Quaternary Disinfectant Cleaner. Another one that is good is Fantastik all purpose cleaner. The active ingredient is alkyl dimethyl ammonium chloride. Be sure you follow the instructions.
How to Prevent Your Kennel Becoming Infected with Canine Giardia or Coccidiosis
Quarantine, especially of young dogs entering your kennels, is key.
Any dog can look normal and still be infected, so there’s lots of carriers in the population. It is estimated, for example, that 10 to 30% of clinically normal dogs can carry Giardia, and coccidia are present in from 3% to 38% of unaffected dogs in North America. Younger dogs (less than 6 months old) at most likely to carry these diseases. Dogs from kennels and shelters are particularly at risk of the infections due to the crowded conditions and inter-dog contact.
Because it is so common, it’s a good idea to check every dog that comes onto your property, before you allow it to defecate all over the place. Have it checked by your vet to make sure it’s not a carrier and have it treated if necessary to get rid of it.
Also remove any and all feces promptly. And regularly sanitize food and water bowls, toys and bedding.
Control of wild animals, particularly rodents, is also important to prevent reinfection.
How to Treat Coccidiosis in Dogs
Now, the best way to treat Coccidiosis is with a sulfur type antibiotic, given for 10 to 14 days. And of course, if your dog’s also sick as well, then your vet will give you some treatments for diarrhea and possible dehydration from the diarrhea. Also shampoo your dog with a chlorhexidine based shampoo to remove any cysts on the coat.
Robin, a US Labrador Retriever breeder also shared with me what in her experience is an amazing treatment for coccidia that can be done in 2 doses. They also don’t shed it everywhere. It works really fast symptoms can be gone in less than hours !
How to Treat Giardia in Dogs
An approved treatment for Giardia is Fenbendazole (50 mg/kg per day) given for 3–10 days. It is safe to use in pregnant and lactating bitches. Metronidazole is also sometimes used but can be toxic in high doses or if used over a long period.
Also shampoo your dog with a chlorhexidine based shampoo to remove any cysts on the coat.