Giardia and Pets

woman and little boy laying on floor with dog and cat in living room at home

Dog and cat stool (poop) can contain Giardia germs and may make people sick even when the pet appears healthy. Symptoms of Giardia infection in both people and pets can include diarrhea, gas, abdominal discomfort, nausea, and vomiting. It is possible to be infected and have no signs or symptoms of illness.

Can I get Giardia infection from my pet?

The chances of people getting Giardia infection from dogs or cats are low. The type of Giardia that infects humans is not usually the same type that infects dogs and cats.

If you own other household or exotic pets, contact your veterinarian for more information. Some strains of Giardia can be shared between humans and animals, including chinchillas, beavers, birds, opossums, and monkeys.

How is Giardia spread?

Anything that touches poop from infected humans or animals can be contaminated with Giardia germs. People and animals become infected when they swallow Giardia germs.  

How does my dog or cat get infected with Giardia?

Your dog or cat might get infected by:

  • Being in contact with infected poop from another dog or cat
  • Rolling and playing in contaminated soil
  • Licking its body after contact with a contaminated surface (for example, a dirty litter box or dog cage or crate)
  • Drinking water from a contaminated creek, pond, or other body of water

Young pets, like puppies and kittens, have a higher risk of illness than adult dogs and cats.

How do I protect myself if my dog or cat has a Giardia infection?

The chances of getting sick with a Giardia infection from your dog or cat are small. However, there are some steps you can take to minimize your exposure to Giardia if you have dogs or cats:

  • Wear gloves when gardening to reduce the risk of coming into contact with infected poop or soil.
  • Clean and disinfect household surfaces regularly, and especially areas or supplies that your pet uses such as toys, bedding, and water and food bowls.
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after touching your pets, their food or treats, their poop, or their supplies.

If my pet has a Giardia infection, how do I clean and disinfect my house?

Visit the Clean and Disinfect section on the Prevention and Control page for the steps to take.

How do I reduce the amount of Giardia in my yard or outdoor environment?

Giardia is hard to eliminate from the environment, but there are things you can do to lower the chances of your pet getting sick again, and to help you and your family stay healthy:

  • Always remove poop from your yard or other outdoor areas by using a bag and throwing it away.
  • Change cat litterboxes daily.
  • Limit pets’ access to common outdoor spaces, such as dog parks or public trails, as much as possible if they have diarrhea or are being treated for Giardia.
  • Remove standing water (for example, empty any containers of water and remove any water from fountains that are not in use).
  • Do not use bleach or quaternary ammonium compounds in your soil or grass area, as they will not work.
  • Do not allow any new animals, especially young ones, to enter the yard or other outdoor space until advised by your veterinarian.

How long does Giardia survive in the environment?

  • Giardia can survive for several months in cold water or soil.
  • Giardia can survive much longer in soil at colder temperatures than at room temperature.
  • Giardia can survive longer in water at colder temperatures (for example, lake or puddle water during the winter, refrigerated water) than at warmer temperatures (for example, tap water, river or puddle water during the summer or fall).
  • Giardia survives much longer in moist, cool environments than in dry, warm environments that have direct sunlight.

How often and for how long should I clean and disinfect my home after my dog or cat is diagnosed with Giardia infection?

  • Clean and disinfect potentially contaminated items (for example, toys, water bowls and food bowls, pet bedding, floors, dog crates, linens, towels, litter box) regularly for as long as your pet is sick.
  • If your pet is taking medication, clean and disinfect potentially contaminated items frequently (daily if possible) until a few days after the last dose of medication is given.
  • Giardia survival depends on many factors, so we recommend that you consult your veterinarian for further advice.

How do I prevent my dog or cat from getting re-infected, or getting my other pets sick, during treatment?

  • If you have other dogs or cats, make sure you tell your veterinarian, even if they are not showing signs of diarrhea. Other pets may also be started on medication, depending on the situation. Even animals without visible signs of Giardia infection may be infected and shedding Giardia into the environment.
  • Bathe all household pets with pet shampoo following medical treatment to ensure no poop is in the pet’s coat.
  • Clean dogs’ and cats’ environment (for example, holding areas, floors, crates) and wash water bowls daily with soap and water. Clean cages, habitats, and supplies outside the home when possible to avoid contaminating surfaces. If that is not possible, clean them in a laundry sink or bathtub and then disinfect that area immediately afterward. See the Clean and Disinfect section on the Prevention and Control page for more information.
  • Limit your dog’s access to creeks, ponds, lakes, and other waterbodies to avoid re-infecting your animal and contaminating the water, which could make other animals sick. 

How do I treat my pet for Giardia infection?

  • If your pet has diarrhea that is not going away, seek veterinary care. Diarrhea has different causes and could result in dehydration or other serious problems.
  • Diagnosis and treatment of Giardia infection must be done by a licensed veterinarian.
  • No approved over-the-counter treatment is available for Giardia infection.
  • Giardia can be passed in poop intermittently, and an animal may appear healthy or without signs of disease before it stops passing Giardia. Repeated poop tests may be necessary.
  • Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations and take your pet to all follow-up appointments.