Does your pet love to drink water out of puddles? If so, you need to learn a bit more about a little parasite named “Giardia.”
Giardia are parasites that live in the small intestine of dogs and cats. Giardia is not just found in rescue pets…..Many puppies and kittens from the very best breeders are often affected. Also, a small percentage of pets can carry Giardia but be asymptomatic so it is very important for every pet to be tested.
Giardia is very common and can easily be transmitted to humans, particularly children. Giardia is a protozoal infection of the intestines that is transmitted by water or fecal ingestion. Giardia causes intermittent diarrhea and/or vomitting. However, SOME PETS MAY HAVE NO SYMPTOMS!!!!! It is very important to have a fecal smear and ELISA test to doublecheck. This is especially important if your pet has access to open streams or playtime with other pets.
Treatment for giardia needs to be a multipronged approach. While the medications may kill the giardia, the intestines are now in an inflamed state and can affect the long-term health of your pet. Your treatment strategy will need to include: 1) antiparasitic medications such as Panacur and Flagyl prescribed by your veterinarian 2) hygiene to prevent reinfestation 3) supplements to repair and rebuild your pet’s intestinal tract. The effects of giardia can have a long-term impact on your pet’s immune system and bowel function. Many pets diagnosed with IBD later in life, suffered from giardia and/or worms as puppies and kittens. In order to help prevent these long-term effects, we highly recommend the use of Probiotics to help reduce inflammation in the intestinal tract and rebalance intestinal flora.
Here are some hygiene tips in case you have a pet with giardia. Please note that this list is not all-encompassing and it is very important to work with your veterinarian to handle the problem:
1) Wash your pet and your pet’s bedding several times during the first 2 weeks of the treatment period.
2) Use a baby wipe or wet paper towel and gloves to wipe your pet’s rear end after your defecation
3) Reinfestation is a HUGE PROBLEM. If at all possible, keep your infected pet separated in an isolated area. You may want to ask your veterinarian about proactively treating other pets although the medications can be harsh and cause other problems. Be sure your infected pet only urinates and defecates in an isolated area (no grass is best) away from where other pets may go.
4) ALWAYS wear gloves when picking up stool infested with giardia or parasites/worms and then throw the baggie into another baggie with a tie on top. Immediately pick up the stool if possible. Giardia can set into the ground, concrete etc.
5) After you clean up the area, please use Bleach or a cleaning product containing bleach. Be prepared–you could need about 30 rolls of paper towels in a 10 day period and several bottles of cleanser. Wash your shoes after walking on the infected area as cleaning up diarrhea is not easy and it is easy to step on it (ick!).
6) Keep children, workmen, pets and housekeepers away from the trash. Put a big note on your trash barrel making sure they know to stay clear.
Additionally, it is important to understand that pets affected with giardia will need some after-care. Many pets can develop inflammatory bowel disease because the inflammation in the bowel has not been addressed.