What is Giardia? Antony van Leeuwenhoek discovered Giardia in 1600s while studying his stool. Giardiasis can be found in pets around the globe. It is a single-celled protozoan parasite, as you can see in the image to the left. It is not a worm or a bacteria virus. Giardia is also known as travellers’ diarrhea, or ‘beaver flu’. There are two types of Giardia. The first is called trophozoite, a fragile feeding form that lives inside the body of its host. A cystic form is second. This cystic form is more difficult than its counterpart and is excreted in the feces. The cyst’s hard outer shell allows it to survive in the environment for many months. The cyst can live for longer periods of time in damp or wet environments. There are seven types of genotypes. Below is a table that shows the seven genotypes as well as the animals they affect.
How can our pets get giardiasis in their pet?
Giardia can be transmitted to pets by licking their hands after they have touched contaminated soil or drinking contaminated water. Once the parasitic cyst is infective, it transforms into trophozoite and attaches itself to the pet’s intestinal wall. They then feed and multiply. The trophozoites reproduce by dividing themselves in two.
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The pet will infect the surrounding environment with infectious cysts within 5-12 days for cats and 5-16 for dogs. These parasites may go undiagnosed in small quantities. Clinical signs will only be detected if the pet has sufficient trophozoites.
What should you look for?
You will most likely be looking for sudden, foul-smelling diarrhea. Infected animals can also experience weight loss, intermitted diarrhea, and fatty stool. They often develop a greenish tint to their stool. They can also be soft or watery, and may sometimes contain blood. In some cases, lethargy and vomiting have been reported. Weight loss can occur as nutrients are not being absorbed in the same way as diarrhea.
Giardiasis does not usually pose a threat to the life of a healthy pet. Giardiasis can cause death in a puppy/kitten, or any pet with weakened immune systems. Giardia in pets should be tested again within two to four weeks of treatment.
How can I tell if my pet has giardia?
To determine if there are cysts in your stool, a fecal flotation can be performed at your veterinarian clinic. Fecal floats are usually treated with a special flotation product. Your veterinarian may occasionally examine the stool for parasites. Because they shed in a variety of ways, it is often possible to diagnose them by looking at medical history and clinical signs.
How is giardia managed?
One of two antibiotics will be prescribed by your Veterinarian for three to ten consecutive days. Sometimes, fluid therapy or diet modifications are necessary.
What can I do to avoid getting infected?
You can see that two genotypes can be harmful to us by looking at the chart. Yes, infected pets with these genotypes can infect us. Our pets will have the same clinical signs as us.
Always wash your hands after handling a pet with an infection. To reduce environmental contamination, pick up feces immediately after they have been deposited. After dealing with feces, wash your hands. Pets love to clean themselves so you might need to wait until the last test has been completed.