2006 Articles

Parasites: Giardia & Whipworm

GIARDIA – Internal Parasite

Giardia is a one-celled protozoan parasite. Symptoms of a giardia infestation include chronic non-responsive diarrhea, poor coat and a distended stomach. All animals are susceptible to giardia infestation. In humans, this parasite causes diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloating and sometimes fever and nausea.
Since this parasite is spread from animal to animal by fecal contamination of food or water, prompt disposal of feces is very important. Although there is no clear evidence that giardia can be passed from dogs to humans, wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning up after your dog or after handling an infected animal. As with other parasites, dogs which are kept in uncrowded, hygienic conditions are less likely to be infected.

Diagnosis can be difficult since giardia is microscopic. Successive stool samples may need to be examined by your veterinarian. (The best test is the trichrome stain of fresh feces.) If your dog is found to have giardia, your veterinarian will prescribe medicine to kill the parasites. Since giardia is spread through fecal contamination of food, water and the environment, prompt disposal of fecal material is crucial.

WHIPWORMS – Internal Parasite

Whipworms are very thin, threadlike worms that are less than an inch long. They are hard to see without the aid of a microscope. Symptoms include weakness, anemia, weight loss and severe, bloody diarrhea streaked with mucus. Some infected dogs may not show symptoms or may only show intermittent symptoms.
Living off your dog’s blood, whipworms lacerate blood vessels as they tunnel into the intestinal wall. In the process, they cause irritation and inflammation. If left untreated, whipworms can cause your dog to die.
Dogs are infected with whipworms when they lick or sniff contaminated environments, usually the ground. Because the eggs may survive for up to 5 years in cold climates (less in warm climates), whipworm infections may be more common in colder areas.

Stool samples must be tested for the presence of eggs in order to diagnose a whipworm infection. Since the eggs are difficult to find, repeated samples may need to be tested. Only a few medications are effective against whipworms. Some vets recommend routine treatment of infected dogs in order to kill larvae that may have been missed in previous treatments. This treatment, repeated every two months, can last up to a year.

To prevent reinfection, remove feces from your yard and wash concrete runs often. Once an area has become contaminated with whipworm eggs, a hygiene program along with plenty of sunshine and dry weather is required before the area will be safe for your dog.