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An Introduction to Parasitology

Have you heard of Giardia? Are you concerned that your pet may have Giardia?

Giardia is an intestinal parasite that affects both humans and pets alike caused by a protozoan parasite called Giardia duodenalis. If your pet has been outside playing in contaminated areas, it is reasonable to be concerned about Giardia. 

This simple single-celled parasite has seven major genotypes from A to G. Genotypes A and B affect humans, F affects cats, and C and D affect dogs. The genotypes E and F are very rare, and their cases are hardly ever reported. 

Transmission of Giardia


Giardia causes a condition called Giardiasis in both humans and pets. The parasite is spread through cysts in the fecal matter of an infected animal. Through these feces, the surrounding environment becomes infected with the parasite. 

Adult dogs are normally the carriers of the parasite. Pets can come in contact with it by playing in infected sandboxes or drinking infected water. They can also get the parasite from sniffing feces or infected dirt.

Symptoms of Giardia


When your pet is first infected, you will notice that they will have watery diarrhea. The infection can cause foul-smelling gas, vomiting, reduced appetite, frequent urges to poop, and reduced energy in dogs. 

Pets can also have the parasite in their intestines and be asymptomatic. It is unknown how this happens because healthy pets do not get giardia tests. To prevent giardia from spreading, even from healthy pets, it would be best to throw away their poop. Also, it would be best if you emptied the cat litter bin regularly.  

Diagnosis of Giardia


First, your vet will ask for a complete history of your pet. They will then run a thorough physical examination to evaluate your pet's overall health. They will check for hydration, gas, intestinal pain, and Giardia exposure.

To check for Giardiasis in your pet, the vet will recommend:

  • A Parvovirus test: This test will eliminate the possibility that your pet has this fatal virus.

  • A Fecal test: This test will confirm if your pet has any intestinal parasites. Usually, the vet will send the fecal sample to the lab for further testing.

  • A microscope evaluation at the office.


Prevention of Giardia


There is no foolproof way to ensure that your pet will not be re-infected after healing. The best approach is to manage the environment of your pets. It would be best to disinfect all areas your pet has access to. You can utilize diluted bleach solutions or ammonia to clean. Managing the environment and steam cleaning is very effective against Giardia cysts.

Additional Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe

  • Schedule a pet fecal exam before you bring a new pet into the house.

  • Cover sandboxes/play areas outside when they are not in use.

  • Utilize a heartworm preventative because it targets intestinal parasites to ensure your pet is safe.

  • Schedule routine visits with the vet and have the fecal matter of your pet checked.

  • Keep your pet from hunting small animals and rodents.

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