Do Pets Get Traveler’s Diarrhea?

Pet Travel Center

Just like humans, pets are exposed to germs and microbes when traveling. Add the stress of being away from home, and you may find your pet suffering from traveler’s diarrhea. Not only is this situation unpleasant and inconvenient for pet owners, but it can lead to serious health issues for pets such as dehydration. Therefore, when traveling with your dog, cat or rabbit, it’s essential to know the causes of traveler’s diarrhea, prevention methods, and what to do if it happens to your pet.

Causes of Diarrhea in Pets

Numerous situations can cause diarrhea in pets, especially dogs. The most common of these are:

  • Intestinal parasites
  • Bacterial infection
  • Diet change
  • Inflammatory disease
  • Medication side effect
  • Stress

The most likely culprit to cause traveler’s diarrhea, or giardiasis, in pets is a one-celled microscopic parasite called Giardia Intestinalis. This parasite is common worldwide and can survive outside the body for long periods of time, thereby being passed along to many species and resulting in diarrhea.

Giardia are found in contaminated soil, water, food, or surfaces. Most infection occurs due to accidental ingestion of the parasite. When it comes to pets, they are often infected through contaminated water sources such as lakes, streams, springs, and even puddles. Pets can also contract giardiasis through ingesting food or soil that has come into contact with contaminated feces.

Prevention of Diarrhea in Pets

The only way to truly prevent traveler’s diarrhea in pets is to remain at home with a caregiver or in a boarding facility. However, sometimes this is not a viable option due to relocation or moving. Besides, many pet owners enjoy their pets as traveling companions and don’t wish to leave them behind.

Thankfully, there are methods of prevention for pets and traveler’s diarrhea:

  • Provide clean water for your pet at all times, as well as proper nutrition just as you would at home.
  • Supervise your pet at all times and ensure they do not consume any potentially contaminated food, water, or soil.
  • Limit environmental contamination through prompt removal of feces and thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting pet areas when traveling.
  • Limit exposure for your pet by keeping them indoors to decrease the risk of becoming infected.
  • Maintain clean and dry living conditions for your pet when traveling, including their bedding, food and water bowls, and toys.
  • Consult your veterinarian before travel to see if giardiasis vaccine is available and for other medical guidance regarding safe travel methods or things to pack into the pet’s emergency kit.

Unfortunately, these preventive measures won’t guarantee that your pet will avoid traveler’s diarrhea. In particular, dogs enjoy sniffing, licking, and eating anything they can find, especially in new environments. Therefore, it’s important to know what to do if your pet is experiencing symptoms.

Do pets get travelers diarrhea - dog sad  and sick on bed
Like humans, pets can get traveler’s diarrhea.

What to Do When Diarrhea Hits Your Pet

If your pet is suffering from traveler’s diarrhea or food poisoning, the best course of action is to consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. This may be difficult when traveling, as you may be quite a distance from your vet. In that case, it’s best to contact your veterinarian by phone to get medical advice or take your pet to the nearest emergency animal hospital immediately. 

Traveler’s diarrhea in pets can indicate a serious health concern and lead to dehydration in as little as 24 hours.

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Make a note of other symptoms, such as blood in stools, loss of appetite, lethargy, and vomiting. The more information you can provide a veterinarian about your pet’s condition, the likelier they are to get proper treatment.

In the meantime, while waiting for veterinary treatment and to alleviate some of your pet’s discomfort, you can withhold food for 12–24 hours or feed them small amounts of easily digested food at frequent intervals, if they are interested. Your pet should have access to fresh, clean water at all times. It is unwise to give your pet any over the counter medication without the express consent and supervision of a veterinarian, as this can pose additional dangers.

Make sure to keep your pet safe in a clean, cool, dry environment and continuously observe them for any changes. Most importantly, give your pet extra loving and attentive care while they are unwell. Allow your pet plenty of time to recover and introduce food slowly once they are ready.

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