Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Parasite Profile: GIARDIA

Over the past few months, we at Royal City Animal Hospital have seen many pets in Guelph who have been infected with an intestinal parasite called Giardia. Some of these cases have been detected through routine fecal testing as done as part of the pets annual health examination. Other cases have come to us presenting with a complaint of diarrhea in the dog or cat. 

What is Giardia?
Giardia is a single celled parasitic organism (protozoan) that affects the gastro-intestinal tract of animals and people. It is not a worm, bacteria, or virus.
Giardiasis is the name of the diarrheal disease caused by this parasite.

Canada Geese in Guelph's Speed River
A dog or cat can become infected with Giardia when it swallows the cyst stage of the parasites through any of the following ways: 
Contaminated water such as ponds, puddles, standing water, and streams are the most common sources of Giardia infection. 
Geese, beavers, deer, cattle, and other wildlife are also carriers of this parasite and pass the cysts off into their stools
Giardiasis is also a common occurrence in environments that are densely populated such as kennels, pet stores, animal shelters, and puppy mills.

Giardia LifeCycle 
What are the Symptoms of Giardiasis?
Giardia infection can cause a variety of intestinal symptoms, such as 
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach or abdominal cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flatulence (Gas)
  • Greasy stool that can float
  • Dehydration 
  • These symptoms may also lead to weight loss

How is Giardia Diagnosed?
Giardia is diagnosed through routine fecal testing as done through your veterinary clinic. Giardia is a microscopic organism so will not be detected with the naked eye. Routine fecal testing may fail to detect tiny cysts which are shed inconsistently in the feces. If your veterinarian suspects Giardia to be the causative agent of your pet’s diarrhea, a specific test which tests for the presence of the Giardia antigen (cell protein) may be requested to help detect the presence of Giardia.

How Is Giardia Treated?
Your veterinarian has several treatment options for Giardia, and the prognosis is very good in most cases. 

Can My Dog or Cat Give Giardia to me or my family?
If your dog or cat is diagnosed with Giardia, good personal hand hygiene and environmental disinfection are very important to prevent the spread to humans. Immediately pick up and dispose of all fecal matter that your pet produces to help limit potential reinfection, or the spread to other pets. Any surfaces that can be safely treated with bleach, should be disinfected with a diluted bleach solution (approximately 1/4 cup bleach to 1 litre water), Lysol and other common household disinfectants may also be effective. 
Wipe your dog's or cat's hind end after a bowel movement to ensure any cysts that are shed do not get to stick to the fur. 

If you have any questions about Giardia or other intestinal parasites, please contact us at 519-763-4992 for more information. 

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