Giardia Vaccine for Dogs

by Susan Leisure
A giardia vaccine is no longer part of a dog's health plan.

A giardia vaccine is no longer part of a dog's health plan.

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As a good owner, you want to give your pooch the best protection against disease. While giardia is a common parasite that could affect your dog, a giardia vaccine is not the best way to protect your pup.

Understanding Giardia

Giardia is a small parasite that can cause a condition called giardiasis. This small bug can be found in the waste of other infected dogs, and it can live in the environment for several weeks under the right conditions. Some dogs with giardia won't have any symptoms at all, but many will have mild symptoms that include diarrhea, vomiting and gas. Giardia usually responds well to treatment and isn't life-threatening. However, older and younger dogs, and those with compromised health, may have more serious complications if they pick up this bug.

The Purpose of Vaccines

Most of the vaccines that dogs get are designed to prevent a disease. Serious diseases like rabies, distemper and parvovirus are often fatal or cause significant health problems. American Animal Hospital Association's Canine Vaccination Task Force recommends four core vaccines for every dog: distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus and rabies. The vaccines stimulate the immune system to develop antibodies against these viruses, so if your dog does come in contact with the viruses, his body is ready to fight them.

Giardia Vaccine

Fort Dodge Animal Health developed a giardia vaccine in 1999 called GiardiaVax. The giardia vaccine was developed not to prevent giardiasis in healthy but as part of the treatment for dogs already infected with giardia. Instead of stimulating the immune system to develop antibodies against the parasite, the giardia vaccine prevented the shedding of the giardia cysts into the environment through feces and vomiting. The vaccine didn't treat the infection in the dog with giardiasis but helped prevent it from spreading to other pets by changing the progression of giardiasis in infected dogs.

Discontinuation of the Giardia Vaccine

In 2009, after 10 years in production, Fort Dodge stopped making GiardiaVax, the only vaccine approved for the treatment of giardia. The giardia vaccine was never considered a core or recommended vaccine, as studies showed it wasn't very effective in treating giardiasis. Its main uses were in kennels or shelters where giardia was likely to be a problem. Because it wasn't highly effective, the manufacturer stopped production. Currently, no giardia vaccines exist, so prevention is the best way to keep your pooch free from giardia. Practice good hygiene with your pet by scooping poop regularly, washing out water bowls daily and washing your hands after both activities.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

About the Author

Susan Leisure is the director of an animal welfare organization and owner of a holistic pet supply store in Atlanta, Georgia. She has a master's degree from Emory University, and is currently completing a degree in clinical pet nutrition.

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