Question: My puppy had diarrhea and a fecal test showed she had giardia, a parasite in her intestines. Is this common in puppies? Can she pass it on to other dogs at the park, or to me?
Dr. Marie McKibbin: Giardia is a relatively common parasite that can infect humans as well as dogs, cats, rodents and beavers. The parasite infects the wall of the bowel and produces cysts, which are passed in the feces. These cysts can infect other animals that ingest food or water that has been contaminated by the giardia cysts. The parasites in the cysts can survive for months in a moist environment.
While it is possible for people to become infected with giardia from a pet, this is very rare. This parasite is fairly specific for its host, meaning dog giardia strains infect only other dogs. Good hygiene practices, such as scooping up the poop in your yard and careful hand-washing, offer the best protection for you and your family, but it isn't possible to completely eliminate the risk of exposure to parasites. Fortunately, giardia infections respond well to treatment, so your pup will grow up to be a normal, healthy pet.
Dr. Marie McKibbin practices at the Owen Sound Veterinary Clinic, Owen Sound, Ont.