My pet has Giardia

Giardiasis in Dogs and Cats 

Your pet has been diagnosed with Giardia species.

What is Giardia?

Giardia is a single-celled protozoa which is a type of organism. It infects a range of species and human infection is also possible.

It is spread by the oro-faecal route.

What does this mean?

In some dogs it can be subclinical, so healthy pets may carry it and you may never know your pet has it. However, in young, stressed or immune-compromised animals it can cause clinical signs such as diarrhoea, blood and mucus in the poo, vomiting, lethargy, inappetence and weight loss.

In cats it almost always causes symptoms.

Cysts can remain in the environment for many months but are susceptible to desiccation and freezing.

How is it diagnosed?

It is usually picked up on a faecal test either under the microscope examination or with a Giardia antigen test.

Can it be treated?

Yes, it can be treated, but sometimes may take a few treatments to resolve. Resolution of symptoms usually suggests this has cleared but may still test positive on a giardia antigen test.

One treatment is a worming medication called Fenbendazole (Panacur). Usually a 5 day course can clear infection, but occasionally a few courses are required.

Sometimes a second line treatment with an antibiotic called Metronidazole is also warranted.

So it can spread to humans, what precautions can I take?

If there are immunocompromised people in the household strict hygiene and hand washing is particularly important.

Here are some tips:

Clean and dry the environment (including blankets, bedding etc)

  • Clean food and water bowls with boiling water and allow to dry
  • Bathe pets with chlorhexidine shampoos e.g. Hibiscrub or Malaseb to remove adhering faeces or cysts
  • Remove any faeces from the garden or parks to avoid animal-animal transmission and re-infection
  • No disinfectants are particularly registered for removing Giardia but good cleaning regimes are important
  • Personal hygiene with regular hand washing
  • Litter boxes should be washed with boiling water and allowed to dry before refilling
  • Prevent your pet eating its own poo
  • Immunocompromised people should particularly avoid handling faeces or faecal contaminated areas. Handling the pet should be followed by washing hands and drying thoroughly
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