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Questions and Answers about Giardia

Giardia blog editedGiardia is an intestinal parasite that is often implicated as a cause of diarrhea in dogs and cats. Here are some popular questions and answers regarding this prevalent parasite:

Q: What is Giardia and how is it spread?

A: It is a protozoa parasite that is transmitted through ingestion of cysts and infects the intestines. The cysts can be found on surfaces that are contaminated with feces from infected animals.

Q: What are the symptoms?

A: Sudden diarrhea is most common, but many infections have no symptoms and resolve on their own. In a small number of cases, severe diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, loss of appetite, and weakness can occur. Puppies and kittens are more likely to be infected with the parasite.

Q: How does it get diagnosed?

A: Your veterinarian will run a fecal parasite exam and the lab uses specific techniques in order to identify Giardia. Other tests, such as bloodwork or x-rays, may be recommended if the infection is severe.

Q: How is it treated?

A: Your veterinarian may prescribe metronidazole and/or Panacur (fenbendazole). If your pet tests positive for Giardia, it is recommended to treat your pet even if they do not show any symptoms.

Q: Can I get Giardia from my pet?

A: The risk for animal to person transmission of Giardia is very low. Research has shown that the strains that affect animals are different from the strains that affect people.

Q: How do I protect myself and my pets?

A: The following precautions can be taken to minimize infection or reinfection:

  • Proper hygiene such as hand-washing
  • Cleaning and disinfecting the environment
  • Disposal of your pet’s feces properly and promptly
  • Bathing your pet to reduce cysts on the haircoat
  • Not allowing your pet to drink from untreated water sources or standing water

Always contact a veterinarian with any questions or concerns about parasites.


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