Giardia is a common intestinal parasite in dogs and it can be one of many causes of diarrhea. Giardia creates an infection in your dog’s intestines leading to diarrhea or loose stools … and eventually can cause malabsorption of nutrients.
Instead of dosing your dog with drugs, here are some natural remedies for giardia in dogs that are safe for your dog and his microbiome.
But first, you want to be sure you’re dealing with giardia.
Signs of Giardia In Dogs
Here are some signs your dog might have giardia.
- Loss of appetite
- Stools that are poorly formed
- Stools that are greenish or pale in color
- Extra-foul smelling stools
- Stools are coated or contain mucous
- Fatty or greasy looking stools
- Blood in stools
Giardia in dogs can also appear as intermittent or watery diarrhea. And some dogs may have bouts of vomiting. If several weeks pass before you realize it could be giardia, you may notice your dog losing weight. This is because giardia makes it difficult for your dog to absorb water, electrolytes and nutrients.
You can take a stool sample to your vet for testing (1). It should be fresh that day and collected in a clean container or even a poop bag. Keep it in your fridge if you can’t take it in right away.
5 Natural Ways To Get Rid Of Giardia In Dogs
These are some effective home remedies for your dog’s giardia.
#1 Oregon Grape
This is an effective natural antibiotic that helps fight parasites..
Dosage: 12 drops of tincture per 20 pounds of body weight, daily.
CAUTION: Never give Oregon grape to pregnant females or dogs with liver disease.
The oil in cloves makes it an effective giardia remedy. One study found that essential oil of cloves can inhibit the growth of parasites (2).
Dosage: One clove per 10 pounds of body weight daily. You can also mix a small pinch of clove powder in your dog’s dinner.
CAUTION: Follow recommendations as larger doses can be toxic, especially for small dogs.
Garlic has many benefits for your dog and one is that it’s a safe way to boost your dog’s immune system. Allicin is a compound in garlic that’s very effective against parasites (3). Garlic has to be chopped and then sit for 15 minutes to release the allicin before adding it to your dog’s food.
CAUTION: Don’t feed garlic to your dog if he’s taking cyclosporine or blood thinners.
Garlic Dosage For Dogs
- Small dogs: up to ¼ clove, 2x a day
- Medium dogs: ½ clove, 2x a day
- Large dogs: up to ¾ clove, 2x a day
- Giant breeds: up to 1 clove, 2x a day
Goldenseal can treat a variety of conditions. When it’s combined with garlic, it can be very effective against parasites like giardia.
Dosage: Mix dried powder into your dog’s food. Use 1 tsp per 20 pounds of body weight. You can also make it as a tea, and give ¼ cup per 20 pounds per day. If using a tincture, give 5 to 10 drops per 20 pounds, 2 to 3 times a day.
#5 Combination Remedy
This formula is from herbalists Gregory L Tilford and Mary L Wulff.
Herbal Combination for Giardiasis
NOTE: Use low alcohol tinctures for this formula. You can also dilute regular alcohol tinctures with an equal amount of water. But you’ll need to double the dosage if you dilute.
Add the following tinctures …
- 2 parts Oregon grape
- 2 parts licorice
- 2 parts cleavers
- 1 part garlic
Dosage: If you’re using a low alcohol tincture, give ¼ tsp per 20 lbs of body weight, 2x a day. If you diluted regular strength alcohol tinctures as above, double the dose. Give this about an hour before food. You can use this for up to 10 days.
Now that you have your action plan, let’s look at giardia in a little more detail.
What Is Giardia?
Giardia in dogs is caused by by a protozoal parasite. There are two forms of giardia:
- A trophozoite, found in the gut of infected animals.
- A cyst that’s shed in feces. This form can survive several months … especially in water or in damp environments.
Giardia infects your dog when he swallows a cyst that makes its way to his intestines. Then it transforms into a trophozoite that attaches and feeds from your dog’s intestinal wall. Some trophozoites transform into the cystic version. Your dog will pass infectious cysts in his stool after 5 to 12 days.
Here’s where your dog can get giardia …
- From the stool of an infected animal
- Playing in contaminated soil
- Contact with a contaminated surface like a kennel, and then licking himself
- Drinking water or eating snow that’s contaminated
Giardia is more common in the spring. That’s because as snow melts, it can contain fecal residue with the giardia protozoa. When your dog drinks from melted puddles, he can pick up giardia.
The CDC reports that giardia survives longer in cold temperatures. It can live for 1 to 3 months in water below 50º F. In water temperatures of 98.6º F or higher, it survives less than 4 days.
How To Control Giardia
Giardia in dogs can be a difficult parasite to get rid of if your dog’s environment doesn’t get consistent, deep cleaning. Your dog can be reinfected and continue the spread … or pass it along to other dogs in your family,. But don’t worry about it spreading to humans … people get a different type of giardia.
If your dog has giardia, use these safeguards …
- Clean your dog’s bedding, toys, food and water bowls
- Thoroughly clean household surfaces
- Maintain a dry environment (giardia likes damp conditions)
- Wear gloves when gardening to avoid contact with infected poop
- And as always, wash your hands after picking up poop!
Most important of all … support your dog’s immune system with a healthy, whole food diet that includes probiotics. Then you’ll be giving him a strong system to fight a giardia infection … as well as other illnesses.
These home remedies can help you get rid of giardia in your dog, and you’ll avoid using veterinary drugs like metronidazole that can damage your dog’s gut and cause other side effects.
1. Olson ME, Leonard NJ, Strout J. Prevalence and diagnosis of Giardia infection in dogs and cats using a fecal antigen test and fecal smear. Can Vet J. 2010;51(6):640-642.
2. Machado, M, et al. Anti-Giardia activity of Syzygium aromaticum essential oil and eugenol: effects on growth, viability, adherence and ultrastructure. Exp Parasitol. 2011 Apr;127(4):732-9.
3. Feng Y, et al. Allicin enhances host pro-inflammatory immune responses and protects against acute murine malaria infection.Malar J. 2012 Aug 8;11:268.