What is Giardiasis?
Giardiasis is an intestinal infection in humans and animals, caused by a microscopic protozoan parasite Giardia duodenalis (also known as G. intestinalis or G. lamblia).
Giardia is a single-celled parasite that lives in the intestines and infects older dogs or young puppies. Giardia can be transmitted by water that is contaminated by feces. This is why it is so incredibly important to give your pets fresh water daily.
Effects of Giardiasis
Giardia may cause diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite and lethargy. Many dogs, may never show symptoms at all. Giardia exists year-round but this parasite is more commonly found in cool and moist conditions. Some dogs may have less energy but fever is not is a common symptom.
Puppies with immature immune systems and dogs who are immunocompromised are more likely to show clinical signs. Giardia is not life-threatening, and many dogs never show symptoms at all.
- Loss of appetite
Who Is More At Risk
- Older Dogs
- Dogs who have immunocompromised systems
Diagnosis and Treatment
- Fecal Flotation
- ELISA Test
So far there is not a 100% way to detect Giardia as they shed intermittently. This means that dogs do not pass giardia cysts every time they eliminate. A fecal or swab sample may be taken. It is possible that nothing may show up.
Several fecal tests over a period of days may be taken to better the odds of finding Giardia proteins or cysts. The veterinarian may perform the ELISA test, which is a new blood test capable of detecting giardia.
The veterinarian also needs to rule out any other causes for the symptoms related to Giardia. Giardia cysts are typically found during routine checkups in dogs who show no symptoms. Together the owner and the veterinarian can decide if treatment is necessary for dogs who show no symptoms.
The FDA has not approved treatment specifically for Giardia. However, there are medications that many veterinarians have found to work as a treatment for Giardia. Common drugs used are fenbendazole and metronidazole, roughly three to ten days to treat Giardia.
Some dogs are given the combination of the two if necessary (dogs with refractory diarrhea). Can be given with other drugs if dehydration, or severe diarrhea is present.
A change in diet may help lessen loose stool, this diet is low- residue and highly digestive. More severe cases have to have follow-up testing performed two the four weeks after the initial treatment.
Feces should be removed immediately as Giardia cyst are immediately infective. Dogs with Giardia should also be bathed regularly as they may have cysts stick in their coats.
Prognosis is good in most cases. Keeping in mind that puppies, senior dogs, and dogs with immunodeficiency are most at risk. Dogs need to be retested two to four weeks after the initial treatments.
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