Updated: Apr 26, 2021
You may have suspected something was amiss, or maybe you were just running your annual fecal parasite screen. When your Media City Animal Hospital Veterinarian reports that your pet has Giardia, here's what you need to know.
How did my pet get Giardia?
Giardia lives in the gut of an animal. They are expelled in fresh stool and can contaminate water and soil and can live in animal fur in their cyst form. Your pet either drank contaminated water, licked another pet who was shedding Giardia cysts, or came into contact with feces that contained Giardia.
What is Giardia?
Giardia is a little microorganism that swims around in the host's intestine that attach with suction-mouths to the lining of the gut. They have two forms, a trophozoite "troph" and a cyst. The troph is the parasitic form, and the cyst is the infectious form that sheds in fresh feces. Both are detectable in a laboratory after about 5 days.
The classic symptom of Giardia is diarrhea, but some pets are asymptomatic carriers.
How to Eliminate Giardia:
Treating Giardia has two parts: medication and prevention of reinfection. You will need to be diligent about cleaning your pet and their environment outside while the medication does its job inside.
Medication: A combination of medications is usually prescribed for Giardia infection. Metronidazole, an antibiotic with some anti-inflammatory properties, and/or a de-wormer called Fenbendazole.
Prevention of Reinfection: During the course of treatment, you will need to bathe your pet at least once to clear away the cysts that may have attached to your pet's fur. You will want to clean their environment as well, paying special attention to the areas in your yard where your pet deposits their stool. Giardia cysts remain viable for several months once expelled, so be thorough when cleaning these areas. You will want to immediately clean any stool deposited by your pet during treatment, and wipe your pet's paws off after a bowel movement before they have a chance to groom themselves. Wiping their bottom with a wipe is an extra measure of protection against reinfection.
How will I know it's gone?
Once treatment is finished, you will resubmit a fecal sample to the lab for a parasite screen to confirm no more trophs or cysts are seen.
Can I get Giardia from my pet?
It's unlikely. It would require contact with the cysts in the same way your pet was exposed, which is probably not going to happen. But if you don't want to leave that to chance, wear gloves when handling your pet's feces and wash your hands before eating.