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Common Illness in Puppies: Giardiasis and Coccidiosis

By Colleen Williams and medically reviewed by Sarah Wallace DVM
published: May 13, 2018 - updated: January 19, 2023 • 2 min. read
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Puppies are very susceptible to contracting diseases that older dogs’ immune systems can fight off. Giardiasis and coccidiosis are both parasitic infections that are common among young dogs.


The most common way giardiasis is passed onto new hosts is via contaminated water, such as drinking from a puddle or shared water bowl at the dog park. Giardiasis and coccidiosis can also be transmitted via ingesting feces or soil infected with the parasites.  Up to half of young puppies will contract giardiasis in their life; the condition is easily treatable.


Symptoms of Giardia and Coccidia

The main symptom of coccidiosis is watery or soft and pungent diarrhea, but many dogs may never develop diarrhea as a symptom of infection. Giardia symptoms include fatty stool or diarrhea, which may contain blood or mucus, as well as gas, vomiting, and weight loss. Diarrhea is a serious health issue and can also be indicative of many other illnesses; make an appointment with your veterinarian if you notice any sudden changes in your pet’s stool.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your veterinarian will require a stool sample to test for any parasites. Examining the stool under a microscope may allow the veterinarian to easily see any organisms present, but sometimes they are elusive and additional fecal testing may be required.

If diagnosed with giardia, a prescription medication to kill the parasites will be prescribed.  Rehydrating your dog is essential, as diarrhea is extremely dehydrating. Additional fecal examinations will be performed in a few weeks to test the medications are working and look for any organisms still present. Additional rounds of treatment may be needed.


This condition is spread through infected feces; keeping your yard clean can greatly reduce your pet’s chances of contracting the disease. Giardiasis is also common in kennels. Until your dog is around a year old, refrain from boarding him – if you have to leave them at home, consider having a friend or family member babysit. The crowded conditions in kennels are conducive to the rapid spread of contagious diseases.

These intestinal parasites can present a significant challenge for a puppy’s underdeveloped immune system. If your puppy shows any of the above symptoms, seek immediate veterinary attention; giardiasis and coccidiosis can be fatal if left untreated.

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The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical diagnosis, condition, or treatment options.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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By Sarah Wallace DVM

Dr. Sarah Wallace is the vice president of telehealth at Galaxy Vets, based in Fort Collins, Colo. She is actively working to increase access to veterinary care, to develop more effective communication strategies to bridge the gap between veterinarian knowledge and pet parent understanding and build happy and sustainable veterinary teams. Dr. Wallace studied biology at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and attended veterinary school at Western University of Health Sciences in California. After graduation, Dr. Wallace started working with Just Food for Dogs, an innovative pet food startup out of southern California advocating fresh, whole-food diets for dogs. She also completed a small animal rotating internship at San Francisco Veterinary Specialists - receiving one-on-one training with San Francisco's top veterinarians in internal medicine, neurology, dermatology, oncology and surgery. After working in clinical practice, Dr. Wallace joined the field of telehealth. Dr. Wallace writes and reviews blog content for Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. Dr. Sarah Wallace on LinkedIn Cardinal Veterinary Works Consulting

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