Giardia is an intestinal protozoan that is commonly found in puppies. It is so common in dogs and cats that it is generally considered to be part of the natural intestinal flora. Giardia is especially common in the western half of the United States and the Northeast, though it is found throughout the country.
Occasionally, puppies that undergo big changes (i.e. rehoming, traveling, or major diet changes) may experience intestinal imbalances which can lead to Giardiasis. Giardiasis is an active infection of giardia producing watery, mucousy light-colored stools. Diarrhea in puppies can lead to dehydration and lethargy, so supporting your Mi-Ki’s health is important to help your puppy get back to his or her playful self.
Human and Pet Safety
Generally, dogs and cats don’t become infected with the same type of giardia as humans contract. Most human cases of giardia infections come from contaminated water sources. Rarely, some cross infections between people and puppies have been reported, however. Any animal showing signs of infection (from giardiasis or any other illness) should be considered a potential infection source to humans. Children and immunocompromised individuals should take greater precautions.
The reverse is also true – people with any sort of infection should also be considerate of animals in their care. Use common-sense hygiene practices such as hand-washing after using the toilet, after food preparation, before feeding, watering, and handling your Mi-Ki. This will help keep your Mi-Ki healthy.
If you or someone in your family is in a higher-risk category with a compromised immune system, please let us know. If this is the case, we will use whatever tools are available to us to ensure your Mi-Ki puppy is as giardia-free as possible. Your puppy will always be given a deworming protocol before adoption.
Giardia Drug Treatments
There is currently no FDA-approved drug to treat giardia in Mi-Kis or any dogs or cats. Managing clinical signs of diarrhea should be the goal of treatment. Eliminating giardia from any puppy, adult dog, or kennel is unlikely as the organism is present in the environment, and your puppy will enjoy time outside. There are no known methods of disinfecting grass and soil from giardia cysts. Giardia cysts can survive for weeks and even months in almost any climate.
There are several off-label medication options that veterinarians and kennels have for minimizing the risk of infection for giardia. It is also important to manage other co-infectious organisms since other parasites may compound intestinal distress.
Fenbendazole is the least toxic drug used to manage giardia and other parasites and can even be safely used during pregnancy.
We have traditionally treated puppies with a 5-day regimen of fenbendazole before going home. This was to hopefully have fewer reports from our clients’ veterinarians of giardia-positive stool or an ELISA (antibody test.) We have since revised this regimen based on the latest research that the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) states, “the majority opinion of the CAPC Board is that asymptomatic dogs may not require treatment.”
Metronidazole is another off-label antibiotic used to treat giardia in puppies. Many breeders would routinely administer this before puppies went to their homes in hopes of negative fecal test reports.
Unfortunately, metronidazole has been linked to brain and liver damage in puppies. Therefore, this treatment for giardiasis should only be done under veterinary supervision for safety.
For resistant strains of giardia, some veterinarians will recommend metronidazole in combination with fenbendazole. Again, this is not an FDA-approved drug combination.
Secnidazole – a promising option against giardia
Some Mi-Ki breeders believe the giardia they have battled has become resistant to fenbendazole and many have concerns about using metronidazole. Therefore, several breeders are starting to use Secnidazole which has shown a lot of promise against the pesky protozoan. Secnidazole has to be compounded and there isn’t much data on dosing yet. We are keeping an eye on this option as the risks associated with this product include reports of nausea and possible elevated liver enzymes.
Should your veterinarian decide that your Mi-Ki would benefit from any of these off-label treatments, follow your veterinarian’s recommendations. Do not skip doses. Verify the correct dosages as they will be callibrated to your Mi-Ki’s weight.
Revival Animal Health has helpful tips regarding giardia and interpreting test results:
“Remember to treat the dog, not the test results. Recent treatment and lifestyle should be considered when developing a treatment plan. Unless a negative result on both microscopic evaluation and ELISA testing is required, as in the cases where a sub-clinically affected dog or cat lives in a home with immunocompromised people with high zoonotic risks, only treat if the dog or cat has clinical signs of abnormally soft stools or similar signs.”
Royal T Mi-Kis’ parasite & disease prevention protocols
We are aware that overtreating any parasite or germ may create drug-resistant forms, so we are hesitant to use routine or chronic antibiotics. We are hopeful that a regular safe deworming protocol and a more natural regimen with probiotics and good nutrition will have our Mi-Ki puppies’ immune systems functioning as they should to keep imbalances in check.
There are important things we do to limit our puppies’ exposures to parasites and other infectious organisms. For instance, we treat our entire kennel with Safeguard fenbendazole twice a year to keep Giardia and other parasites in check. This regimen is followed by bathing everyone!
Pyrantel pamoate is also a safe dewormer that we use at two-week intervals on our growing puppies. It features a wide dosing safety margin and ensures puppies are protected against roundworms, hookworms, and pinworms (though we really haven’t seen signs of these parasites.)
Prebirth puppy protection and planning
We have previously used an end-of pregnancy fenbendazole protocol in an effort to reduce transmission to nursing puppies. While we’ve had fewer reports of giardia in puppies who were treated in utero with this regimen, we’ve also had some moms experience preterm labor and neonatal loss when using this protocol. We are still evaluating if fenbendazole during pregnancy is affecting litter outcomes negatively or positively.
Our pregnant mothers are bathed with a skin-safe germicidal treatment before delivery to provide a clean birthing environment for our puppies.
Keeping Mi-Ki Manor safe from giardia and other pathogens
We keep Mi-Ki Manor here at Royal T Mi-Kis meticulously clean and dispose of waste promptly. We use Rescue® Disinfectant Cleaner as a pet-safe solution to keep the floors and other surfaces clean and safe. We wash our dogs’ bedding with chlorhexidine solution rather than bleach as bleach has been implicated in fading puppy syndrome. Fabrics softeners are used sparingly due to the toxic chemicals in most brands. Our puppy pad holders are also misted with skin-safe chlorhexidine after being scrubbed with hot soapy water.
We have even been known to use UV-C sterilizing wands on our birthing boxes, pens, puppy pad holders, incubator, and bedding as an extra step to create a clean environment for our dogs!
With visitors, we will likely have guests slip their shoes off before meeting our Mi-Kis. If this isn’t possible, we offer shoe covers to be worn. This protects our unvaccinated puppies from unknown exposures, especially to parvo. Handwashing before and after visiting with dogs is also recommended.
Other causes of diarrhea or other intestinal distress
Not all diarrhea or loose stools are due to giardia. Some soft stools may be due to your Mi-Ki puppy experiencing stress, adjusting to a new diet, a new water source, or even having too many new treats, including people food . Too much Forti Cal or Karo syrup can also cause soft stools. (Karo syrup is often recommended to remedy puppy constipation!) Environmental exposures can also cause loose stools including lawn chemicals and household cleaners.
It’s always prudent to limit your Mi-Ki puppy’s exposure to new dogs. Only allow your puppy to socialize with animals that are known to have been fully vaccinated and that aren’t experiencing symptoms of illness such as diarrhea, or respiratory symptoms. Infectious diarrhea can be spread from one dog to another.
Do not bring your new Mi-Ki puppy to parks, or areas where unknown dogs have been playing or defecating until they are fully vaccinated.
How to support your Mi-Ki’s health when experiencing diarrhea
Nutritional Care: If your puppy has an upset tummy, in the short term, feeding a bland diet of bone broth, rice, boiled chicken, turkey, or another easily-digested diet will calm your Mi-Ki’s GI tract.
Adding probiotics can also bring your dog’s intestinal health into balance. We like Life’s Abundance Wellness Tabs for a daily probiotic dose and nutrition for intestinal balance. For acute gastrointestinal upset, we recommend Proviable®️-DC Capsules by by Nutramax®️ to reestablish gut flora after antibiotic use. Kaolin-Pectin is also helpful for getting diarrhea under control.
Slowly reintroduce your puppy’s regular diet — hopefully, a high-quality one with probiotics already included. We recommend Life’s Abundance Small/Medium Puppy food. Life’s Abundance puppy food has prebiotic fiber and guaranteed live probiotics for a healthy gut biome.
Supportive Care: Giving your puppy good hydration with electrolyte therapy such as Breeder’s Edge Puppy Lyte, and additional treatment of symptoms with products such as Kaolin-Pectin will help your Mi-Ki bounce back quickly and shorten the course of the disease.
You may find other recommended products and suggestions for keeping your Mi-Ki puppy healthy on our Puppy Care and Recommendations Page.
Remember that parasites, protozoans, and bacteria have been around since the beginning of time. These organisms can’t be fully eliminated, but they can be managed and brought into balance so you won’t have to keep your Mi-Ki in a bubble!