Giardiasis is an infection caused by the Giardia parasite that can affect dogs, cats, and humans. Today, our Gaithersburg vets explain Giardia, how it spreads, and how it is treated.
What is Giardia in pets?
Giardia is a type of parasite that can cause intestinal infection in both pets and people. There are different types of this parasite, and it's labeled A through H. Dogs usually get types C and D, cats get types F, and humans get A and B.
Giardia infections are usually not very dangerous in cats. Still, it can be more serious in kittens, older cats, or those with weakened immune systems, such as cats that have Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) or Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV).
What are the signs of Giardia infection in pets?
The main symptom of a giardiasis infection in pets is diarrhea.
Pets with Giardia may also lose weight, have chronic diarrhea, with a fatty stool that has extra mucus, and sometimes, their poop may look greenish or contain blood. Vomiting and low energy may also be present in pets with giardiasis.
Many pets will be carriers of Giardia but remain asymptomatic. This means they will never exhibit symptoms of the illness but can still pass it on to other pets and, in rare cases, humans.
How are pets infected with Giardia?
Giardia, a tiny parasite, comes in two forms. The first form lives in the intestines of infected animals and is quite delicate. The second form is tougher and is found in their feces. It can survive in the environment for several months, especially in wet and cool places.
When a pet swallows the thought cyst form of Giardia, it becomes infected. Once inside the cat's intestine, the cyst transforms into the organism's feeding form and attaches to the intestinal wall to feed. If sufficient numbers are present, clinical signs of damage to the intestinal wall will develop.
Eventually, the pet passes infectious cysts in its stool. This happens around 5 to 12 days in dogs and 5 to 16 days in cats. These cysts can infect another animal. Giardiasis can be transmitted by eating or sniffing the cysts from contaminated ground or by drinking contaminated water.
Can you get giardia from your pets?
In rare cases, humans can be infected with type F giardiasis from pets. This is known as "beaver fever" in humans.
Immunocompromised people, such as people with HIV or cancer, should avoid cleaning a cat's litter box with a known giardiasis infection if possible.
How is Giardia treated?
If your pet is diagnosed with Giardia, they will likely be given anti-arastic medicine to take by mouth for 5-7 days.
All pets diagnosed with Giardia should be tested again two to four weeks after finishing the treatment.
How do I prevent my pet from getting re-infected or getting my other pets sick during treatment?
Giardia cysts can make your pets sick if they're left in their environment. So clean up your cat's poop from the little box right away, and don't let them share it with other pets.
Tell your vet if you have other pets, even if they seem fine. Your vet might give them medicine because giardiasis doesn't always show symptoms and other pets could be spreading it.
All household animals should be bathed regularly to remove cysts from the hair coat. You should also be sure to disinfect your pets' environment (crates, beds, etc.) and wash their water and food bowls daily.
Cleaning should take place until at least a few more days after all pets in the household have completed their medication.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.