Giardia Infection

Giardia Infection

March 27, 2018

Giardia is a protozoan parasite which can only be detected by examining a fecal sample under a microscope.  It infects humans, many domestic animals, and birds.  Most infections develop because your pet swallows the parasite when drinking from contaminated water, such as puddles, streams, lakes, shallow wells, and water contaminated by feces.

It is most common in young animals and in animals living close together, such as those in kennels, animal shelters, and pet stores. Signs of a Giardia infection are diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss and excessive gas.

Public Health Significance:

Giardiasis (the disease caused by the Giardia parasite) is among the most common causes of waterborne disease in the United States in humans.  However, most of the strains of the Giardia parasite infecting pets do not easily infect humans, although occasionally cross-infection may occur.  Most infections in humans are acquired through fecal contamination by other humans, especially in water sources such as swimming pools, streams, and rivers. Giardia is zoonotic (transmitted from once species to another) to humans; it is important to practice good hygiene when handling infected animals.  Giardia can cause diarrhea in humans.  If you pet is diagnosed with a Giardia infection, thoroughly cleaning the areas that your pet hangs out in is important.

Important Points in Treatment:

To be effective, medication to treat a Giardia infection must be given as directed by the veterinarian.  

Ways to reduce the Risk:

  • Fecal material should be removed from the yard or litter box regularly.  If your pet has an infection, remove the fecal material promptly.
  • Avoid allowing your pet to drink from streams, lakes, or standing water.
  • Have your veterinarian check a fecal sample after completing treatment to ensure that your pet is no longer infected.

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