Giardiasis is an intestinal infection of both man and animals caused by a single cell, flagellated protozoan parasite Giardia intestinalis (also known as Giardia lamblia).
Giardia is composed of just one cell and it is not a bacteria, virus or a “worm”. This parasite is found worldwide and is a common cause of
“Traveler’s Fever”. Other names are “Montezuma’s Revenge”, “Rocky Mountain Hershey Squirts”, and “Beaver Fever”. Well, you get the idea. The parasite is found in contaminated water and if not properly treated can cause a diarrhea in people as well as our four legged friends.  A lot of dogs can be infected without displaying any signs of illness.
The Giarida life cycle consists of two phases. The delicate feeding form is a single cell with flagella, (the string like tentacles that make it mobile) and it lives in the gut of the infected animal. The cystic form is hardier and is shed in the feces of the animal and can survive several months in the environment, especially in water and damp areas.
Your canine friend can be infected  when it swallows the giardia cyst in contaminated water. The cyst then passes into the dog’s intestine where it develops into the trophozoite or the feeding form. It then attaches to the intestinal wall and begins to feed. If the giardia population is large enough, then there is enough damage to cause the clinical signs of diarrhea, which can be fatal in small puppies. The organism then becomes the cystic form which is passed in the feces and can re-infect the dog, or be picked up by other dogs or even people.
Giardia can be diagnosed with a special fecal floatation test or a direct smear but is often missed becgiardia_2009ause of its small size and inconsistent shedding. If Giardia is suspected, a .snap test can be performed on the feces to detect specific cell antigens to the organism. It is more expensive than the standard fecal tests, but is more accurate. Often times, a presumptive diagnosis is made with the clinical signs and the dog is treated without a definitive diagnosis.
Treatment for giardia consists of a round of antibiotics, such as metronidazole, for 5 – 7 days. Other parasiticides, such as fenbendazole, are often administered in addition to the antibiotics. If the diarrhea is severe, other medications to soothe the intestinal tract and even IV replacement fluids may be necessary.
Because of the potential exposure to the human members of the family, if your dog is diagnosed with giardiasis, disinfection of the area and good personal hygiene is important. Particularly, people that are immune compromised, such as AIDS or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, should use extra care when handling feces or giving medications.
To disinfect the pet’s area, diluted bleach (1 part bleach mixed with 32 parts water) can be used and other surfaces can be sprayed with Lysol. The cysts are also susceptible to drying so avoid over-watering the backyard so it can dry out. Wash the pet’s bedding with some bleach added to the water and then toss them into the dryer on hot setting should kill the majority of the cysts.
The best way to avoid infestation of your pet is to avoid areas where other dogs and wildlife aggregate. Bring your pet’s own water with you when you do go on excursions so they will not be tempted to drink from steams or standing pools of water. If you take your dog camping or swimming and they do break with diarrhea when they return, alert your veterinarian to the possibility of contamination so treatment can be started right away.
There was a giardia vaccine available called GIARDIAVAX, however, it was not a preventative. At best it may have reduced the shedding of cysts if a dog was infected. It has been removed from the market due to lack of sales.under license.

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis (Lepto for short) is caused by a bacterium that attacts the liver and the kidney in both people and animals.  The cat, luckily, is one species that seems to be resistant to the bacterial infection. The Leptospires are sprirochetes that live in water and have a spiral shape with a hook on each end. People and animals bcecome infected from swimming or drinking contaminated water or in direct contact with urine from an infected animal, such as raccoons, rodents or cattle. The Lepto spirochete has an uncanny ability to penetrate unbroken skin.  Once the victim is infected, the bacteria attacks  the kidney, the liver or the blood system. Signs begin to appear four to twelve days after exposure with signs varying depending on what organ is being attacked.

If the kidneys are attacked, renal failure can result. Early signs are fever, listlessness, excessive thirst and urination progressing to kidney shut down and the inability to make urine. Often times, the urine may appear brown or reddish.

If the liver is affected, the liver is damaged and the body becomes yellow or jaundiced. There will also be vomiting, fever and general illness.

The worst form is the hemorrhagic form. The dog will have a fever and develop small hemorrhages in the skin. The disease progresses to internal bleeding and bloody diarrhea and urine. This form is often fatal.

Diagnosis is often difficult because the early signs are similar to other diseases and antibody titers do not rise early in the disease.

Treatment consists of antibiotics and supportive therapy, such as intravenous fluids and a lengthy hospital stay. The fluids from the infected dog will shed the bacterium for several weeks, so care must be taken not to expose family members or hospital staff. Antibiotics are given for a few weeks after the illness to ensure killing all of the organisms. Some dogs may have lingering kidney damage resulting in chronic renal failure.

Prevention for dogs is accomplished with vaccinations. There are 4 major strains of Lepto that the vaccines will protect for. Every now and then, there are other strains that can pop up that are not covered by vaccinations. Since dogs are more likely to be exposed,  protecting them with vaccinations will help reduce possible exposure to their human friends. The downside is the lepto vaccine can cause allergic reactions in dogs. The reactions ususually result in hives or facial swelling and can be relieved with anti-histamines. I see more reactions in the Dachshunds than any other breed for some reason. Sometimes the vaccine may also cause soreness for a few days.  I feel that the benefits of vaccinating for this disease outweighs the risks of the vaccine, especially, since my clients live in a wooded neighborhood with possibility of exposure. If your dog lives in an apartment and never goes to the woods, swims in lakes or streams,  or has exposure to garbage where rodents may get into (a common source of infection), you and your veterinarian may fore go vaccinating.


LeptospirosisLeptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects both humans and animals and can cause serious symptoms. Vaccination of dogs and the use of common sense precautions can reduce the risk of exposure for you, your family, and your pets.

How Leptospirosis is Spread
People and dogs are exposed to the Leptospira bacteria via contact with infected urine or contaminated water, food, or soil. Wild animals and rodents are the natural source, but dogs and other domestic animals spread the disease too. The bacteria can enter the body by being swallowed, through contact with mucous membranes such as the eyes, mouth, or nasal passages, or through contact with broken skin.

Leptospirosis is found all over the world but is particularly problematic in warm, tropical climates. Sewer workers and people who work with animals or on farms are at higher risk for exposure. Many people and dogs contact the Leptospira bacteria by drinking or swimming in contaminated water while camping or engaging in outdoor water sports.

Symptoms in People
Symptoms appear within a few days or weeks after exposure and include a high fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting and/or diarrhea, abdominal pain, skin rashes, or jaundice. The disease can cause severe damage to the kidneys or liver, difficulty breathing, or meningitis. Because many of these symptoms are also seen in other more common illnesses, blood and urine tests are needed for diagnosis. Information given by the patient about possible exposure is also very helpful.

Symptoms in Dogs
Symptoms in dogs include fever, vomiting, dehydration and increased thirst, unwillingness to move, and jaundice. However, some dogs do not show any symptoms. Leptospirosis can progress to severe disease of the kidneys or liver, and can be fatal. Blood and urine tests are useful in diagnosis.

Leptospirosis is treatable in both pets and people but may require hospitalization. The bacteria are directly treated using antibiotics like Penicillin or Doxycycline and additional medications are used to reduce the symptoms. Intravenous fluids are helpful to reverse dehydration cause by vomiting or diarrhea. The key to effective treatment is prompt medical attention, before the bacteria has a chance to damage the kidneys and liver.

Preventing Leptospirosis
Dogs should be routinely vaccinated against the Leptospira bacteria. Unfortunately, there are many subtypes of the bacteria and vaccination against one subtype will not protect against another. Talk to your veterinarian about the most effective vaccine for the subtypes prevalent in your area.

Avoid drinking or swimming in water that is likely to be contaminated with wild animal urine. Discourage dogs from drinking this water as well.

Control rodents and clean up areas where mice and rats have urinated.

Wear protective clothing if working with contaminated soil or other material on farms, in sewers, or during rodent control. Wash your hands after handling animals or potentially contaminated material.