Why may my dog or cat have diarrhea you ask? It is possible that he or she may be infected with a type of parasite called Giardia. Giardia is a protozoan parasite that occurs worldwide. Giardia even affects humans and is primarily acquired from other humans through contaminated drinking water while swimming in lakes or swimming pools. It appears that transmission from dogs and cats to humans is rare. Even so, at Full Circle, we believe that very young children or adults with an otherwise compromised immune system should consider limiting their exposure to Giardia- infected pets.
Transmission of Giardia occurs from fecal-contaminated water, food, contaminated objects or through self-grooming. The cysts, called Trophozoites, attach to the surface of the small intestine which results in an inability to digest food properly and ultimately diarrhea. Dog strains of Giardia are known to affect cats and cat strains are not known to affect dogs.
At Full Circle Veterinary Hospital in Dartmouth we can test your pet for Giardia by examining a fresh sample of stool with a microscope as well as performing a specific diagnostic test using fresh stool. Giardia cysts can be difficult to see with a microscope and therefore both tests are usually recommended.
Treatment usually consists of a couple of different types of medication however; the efficacy of medication used to treat Giardia is sometimes only 50-60%. For this reason we also recommend using a probiotic as well as bathing your pet to remove fecal debris and associated cysts. We also recommend daily removal of fecal material from your yard and litterbox. Outside areas such as grass, soil, etc. are difficult to decontaminate. Inside areas can be steam cleaned and commercially available disinfectants can be used. Always allow areas to dry completely after cleaning. It is also important to practice good hygiene with hand washing after use of the toilet and before feeding or handling pets in the case of a human who has contracted Giardia and hand washing after handling pets that are infected.
By: Dr. McPherson