Possible parasite outbreak surfaces in Utah dogs

Posted at 1:02 PM, Mar 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-29 19:39:38-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Humane Society of Utah is warning pet owners of a possible parasite outbreak after several dogs were surrendered from different homes with infections.

The infection stems from food, water and soil that has been contaminated by an intestinal parasite called Giardia.

Officials believe the cases are tied to dogs who visit busy off-leash dog parks and hiking areas, and say water is the most common way to spread the parasite.

“As the snow melts, much of the pet waste which was hidden by the snow can now expose dogs to Giardia,” says Dr. Timna Fischbein, DVM, medical director at Humane Society of Utah in a statement.

Giardia infection can manifest itself as diarrhea, vomiting, foul-smelling gas, decreased appetite and weight loss in dogs.

The parasite is initially shed in a dog's stool and can live in the surrounding environment for months, experts explained.

When dogs groom themselves by licking their paws, they can ingest the parasite and can become seriously ill.

The Humane Society of Utah said water is the most common way to spread the parasite and recommends owners avoid dog parks and foothill trails while muddy and wet to avoid exposure to the parasite.

If your pet becomes infected, officials say to take them to the vet as there is no approved over-the-counter treatment available for infection.