Blog, Outdoor Skills

Hiking With Your Dog? Can They Get Giardia?

Most hikers and backpackers who adventure out into the Wilderness are pretty familiar with “Treat the Water” before you drink. But how many of us let our dogs drink out of any kind of water source? Humans filter water so we don’t get water born parasites like Giardia. But did you know your dog can get Giardia also?

In fact, dogs are more likely to get Giardia than humans since they expose themselves unknowingly more than Humans. Giardia must be ingested by your dog in order for him to get the parasite. Your dog can get Giardia by drinking water that has been contaminated by feces or by eating something that has been contaminated by feces, like grass. Since dogs love to put things in their mouths, this means that there are plenty of ways your dog can pick up the parasite in his environment, whether it is by chewing on a stick, eating poop, or drinking from a puddle.

For backpackers that hike popular trails like the Appalachian Trail, this means they could be much more exposed to Giardia because of the number of privies and the lack of Leave No Trace principal, Pack it In, Pack it Out.

It even get’s worse. Once the parasite is in your dog’s intestines, your dog can spread the parasite, even if he or she doesn’t show any signs of infection. This is concerning, especially if you have more than one pet in your house. While transmission from dogs to cats and cats to dogs is unlikely, the transmission from dog to dog is certainly a cause for concern. If one of your pets is diagnosed with Giardia, you should talk to your vet immediately about the protections you should take to protect your other pups.

Giardia in dogs act’s much like Giardia in Humans. Much of the symptoms can be the same.

These symptoms include:

Weight loss
Failure to gain weight
Poor coat appearance

According to the AKC (American Kenel Club) the way to prevent your dog from getting Giarida is making sure your dog has access to fresh, clean water at all times. Also not to bring your dog to places where there are large amounts of dog feces, as this will limit the possibility of exposure. Of course, when you are hiking on the trail, and crossing a bunch of creeks and streams.

A Giardia vaccine has been developed for dogs and cats and is available in the US. Unfortunately,  our Vet say’s this vaccine has not been particularly helpful in preventing or treating Giardia-related disease. It may help to reduce the  shedding of Giardia, but it has apparently been largely ineffective in preventing or treating actual infection by the parasites in the first place.

This is another reason that sometimes it’s better to keep your dog on a leash. This way you have a little more control where your dog goes. We can’t tell you how many times Dino has rolled in feces’s. It’s a mess. So keep aware of your dog in the backcountry and don’t assume they can drink any kind of water.

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In 2003 I completed a Thru-Hike on the Appalachian Trail. Since then I have over 12,000 miles underfoot and 20 years of backpacking, and camping experience. Certifications include WFA, WFR, LNT Trainer, and belong to AORE. Have been guiding backpacking trips for over 10 years. The outdoors has taught me one thing. Trusting the Trail! really does provide everything a person needs.

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