New research provides more information on the debate about testing and treating of healthy dogs for Giardia. Two abstracts on the subject by researchers at Colorado State University were presented at the recent American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine conference.
In the first study (Clark et al), fecal samples were collected from 220 healthy dogs. Giardia was detected in 11.4% of samples, but no dogs carried assemblages (types) known to cause disease in people.
In the second study (Lappin et al), they evaluated whether treatment of healthy dogs that were shedding Giardia would eliminated the parasite. Sixteen infected dogs were treated with either fenbendazole or nitazoxanide. Eight (50%) of the dogs had to be removed from the study because of adverse effects from treatment! Of the dogs that completed the study, Giardia was still detected in 63% of dogs 34 days after treatment, indicating that the infection wasn’t eliminated or that dogs were quickly re-infected.
These studies provide more support of the notion that there is no indication to test or treat healthy dogs for Giardia. Testing makes no sense when the parasite is so common but most infected dogs are healthy, and when strains carried by infected dogs are usually of no consequence to people. Giardia is essentially a normal part of the intestinal microflora in many healthy dogs. Treatment of healthy carriers isn’t indicated because it can make dogs sick and because it doesn’t work very well. Remember: above all do no harm.
The bottom line is don’t bother testing healthy dogs for Giardia or treating healthy dogs in normal households.