Giardia was first discovered in 1681
by the inventor of the microscope, Anton van Leeuwenhoek. It was actually a
self diagnoses as he examined his own diarrhea under the microscope. It has
since be seen throughout the world and is maintained by asymptomatic carriers
in the wild. It is also known as "beaver fever".
It is a protozoal organism. A protozoa is similar to a
bacteria however it has an intracellular nucleus like animal cells; as such it
is in a different Kingdom of life.
How does my dog get it?
Consumption of contaminated water or food. Symptoms
usually occur one to two weeks after ingestion. Common sources: creeks, ponds,
puddles in dog parks, anything with infected fecal contamination, etc
How is it diagnosed?
There are several fecal tests.
Fecal screening tests are commonly used to diagnose giardia. An ELISA test may
also be performed - please ask which test would be right for your pet.
Who gets it? and what are the signs of Giardia?
Am I at risk?
It is a common disease of people and is obtained through
fecal-oral contamination. It is important to wash your hands thoroughly after
touching your pet or cleaning up the feces from the yard. If you have further
questions regarding yourself or other human family members, please contact your
family physician at once.
What are the symptoms?
The most common sign.
can be light colored, soft, mucousy or explosive, watery and bloody.
Straining to defecate and flatulence (gassy) is
Additional symptoms include:
Who gets infected?
Dogs and cats - especially puppies and kittens.
Treatment and prevention of Giardia
What is the treatment for giardia?
There are several medications used to treat giardia. Fenbendazole (Panacur) and Metronidazole (Flagyl) are common choices. Please ask your veterinarian which medication is best for your pet. Sometimes they are also used in combination.
Self re-exposure appears to be a common reason for pets to have persistence in giardia infections. Daily bathing and washing of the pet's rear end can help reduce the amount of infectious cysts that the pet is exposing itself to. Also adding additional fiber to the pet's diet can also be beneficial in reducing giardia numbers in the intestines. Canned pumpkin is an excellent source of fiber for dogs.
Is there prevention?
The best prevention is to restrict your pet from eating or drinking contaminated food or water. When oing for long walks or hikes, it is recommended that you bring additional water and possibly snacks for your pet. Do not allow them to lick puddles, etc... If you are hiking or backpacking then any water used for pet consumption should be boiled first.
There is currently a vaccine against Giardia made by Fort Dodge. Before its use, there are several things to consider. It is not recommended by AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) for routine use. Furthermore, the vaccine does not prevent infection. It can reduce the severity and duration of the symptoms and also limits the fecal shedding of giardia cysts, thereby making the feces less of a contamination threat. Unless your pet is at high risk, has had repeated infections, currently has a persistent infection despite repeated treatments or has been recommended it by your veterinarian, you might want to skip this vaccine.