Everything You Need to Know About Giardia in Cats
Giardia is a parasitic infection that can harm both people and animals. Infected cats can develop significant sickness from these microscopic organisms in the small intestine. Infection is frequent in cats, with up to 15 percent prevalence incidence. Giardia is a parasitic worm that lives in the intestines.
Giardia is a primary one-celled parasite species that causes Giardiasis, a digestive infection that affects both people and animals. Giardia is neither a worm nor a bacteria nor a virus. It's more common among kittens and older cats with weakened immune systems, and it's easy to pick up in large groups of cats in places like shelters and pet stores.
Symptoms and signs of Giardia in cats
While many infected cats show no signs or symptoms, several are diagnosed with Giardia. (However, symptoms can be mistaken for other intestinal disorders such as IBD and cancer.)
Giardia causes chronic, foul-smelling diarrhea that might be immediate or delayed. The stool is typically mushy or even watery, colorless, poorly shaped, with mucus present.
The following are other symptoms of a giardia infection
- Gradual weight loss
- Less Active
Cats may become dehydrated, lethargic, and have poor physical health in severe cases.
Not all cats infected with Giardia get sick straight away; some carry the parasite for years and pass it on to other cats before showing any symptoms. Although the disease is rarely fatal, it can be more dangerous in older cats and those with a damaged immune system.
Giardia can be asymptomatic; thus, any felines who may be at risk (such as freshly adopted kittens and cats) should be checked. In addition, if your cat spends time outside, your veterinarian may recommend annual testing.
What caused Giardia in my cat?
The giardia organism has two stages: a motile (swimming) stage and a cystic stage, with the cystic location serving as the primary mode of transmission from host to host.
Giardia cysts are shed in the feces of sick cats; the cysts are durable and can live in the environment for several months, particularly in wet and moist conditions. Giardiasis is produced when cysts are passed from one cat to another through intake of infected feces or contaminated water (the name given to the infection caused by Giardia).
When the cyst enters the cat's digestive system, it feeds by attaching itself to the intestinal wall. This is when a wide range of symptoms can appear.
The cysts will pass in the cat's feces anywhere between 5 and 16 days after ingesting them. Cysts thrive in open environments with high humidity, which is why transmission rates are highest in populated areas.
Giardia diagnosis in cats
The stool of the cat must be analyzed to provide an accurate diagnosis. In the feces, the parasite will be evident. However, because the parasite may not be present in every stool sample, many samples may need to be examined for confirmation.
- A fecal flotation test is performed by placing the feces in a tiny container and mixing it with a specific solution. Giardia eggs will float to the surface and adhere to the coverslip if they are present, allowing microscopic detection.
- A fecal smear test is a diagnostic test usually done in conjunction with the fecal flotation test, which aids in identifying probable causes of diarrhea.
- Some vets perform the SNAP test, which detects Giardia antigens (parasite-produced proteins) in feces samples in addition to fecal tests.
Giardia treatment for cats
Fenbendazole and metronidazole are the two most popular medications used to treat Giardia.
- Fenbendazole has been shown to minimize clinical symptoms and cyst shedding. The treatment lasts 3 to 5 days and is not harmful to pregnant cats.
- Metronidazole is an antibiotic that works better in cats than in dogs. Treatment lasts 5 to 7 days and is not recommended for pregnant cats.
The two medications can be given together in some situations, such as when a cat has refractory diarrhea that hasn't responded to treatment. Your veterinarian will advise you on the best course of action to take.
Because some giardia strains are resistant to therapy, eradicating the disease can be challenging. As a result, numerous medicines or many therapeutic attempts may be required.
The importance of supportive counseling cannot be overstated. Until the cat's stool hardens, a low-residue, highly digestible food is recommended. Ensure your cat is getting enough water to stay hydrated: vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration.
It's also crucial to carefully bathe your cat to ensure that parasites aren't hiding in the fur. Giardia can be prevented by cleaning your cat's food and water dishes, removing excrement from the litter box as soon as possible, and keeping the litter box clean. (Make sure you're wearing gloves to avoid contracting Giardia!)
Is there a way to get rid of Giardia in cats?
Yes. Medication can be used to treat Giardia. The most common antibiotic is metronidazole, although veterinarians may also prescribe fenbendazole, especially for pregnant or lactating cats.
Is Giardia infection in cats infectious to humans or other animals?
Giardia is very contagious among cats, and transmission between cats and canines is also possible. Although the strain found in people differs from that found in cats, it's always preferable to be safe and presume there's a chance of transmission, even if it's a small one. So use caution when handling an infected cat and cleaning up the litter box, food and water dishes, and toys.
How much does it cost to treat Giardia in cats?
If you suspect your cat has Giardia, you'll have to pay for both the diagnosis and treatment of the condition. These expenses include veterinary office visits because your cat may need to be seen multiple times; it's a good idea to include follow-up visits in your cat's medical costs. Veterinarians can run various tests, each with a distinct price tag.
When it comes to cost, geography plays a role as it usually does. The cost of living in larger cities is often higher, which translates to higher vet fees.
Giardia in cats: recovery and treatment
Once a cat has been afflicted, there is a 1 to 2 week incubation period. The body can react after that period; therefore, the faster recovery can begin, the sooner the medication is given. The parasites are usually eliminated from the stool in 3 to 5 days, and the symptoms disappear in 5 to 7 days. Even if the symptoms appear to have cleared up in the middle of treatment, the entire prescription must be completed. Stopping before the whole medicine term has been completed may result in giardia parasite resistance.
After treatment, a cat infected with Giardia should be retested; however, even if the test results are negative at this time, reinfection can occur later due to the difficulty of removing Giardia from the environment.
Giardia prevention in cats
When it comes to preventing the spread of Giardia, good cleanliness is crucial. The following are some best practices to follow:
- Clean and disinfect litter boxes thoroughly
- Feces should be disposed of as soon as possible.
- Following medical treatment, bathe all family pets to ensure no fecal residue in their coats.
- Keep all home animals away from possibly polluted water and limit outside access.
- When working with diseased animals or feces, use gloves and wash your hands frequently.
Is there a Giardia vaccine for cats?
There is currently no giardia vaccination available.
Giardia is a parasitic infection that causes diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss in cats. It's highly contagious and spreads quickly in crowded places like shelters. While medication can cure it, eradicating all giardia cysts from the environment is challenging; education aimed at avoiding the spread of Giardia and preventing infection in the first place is quite beneficial.
Hygiene is especially crucial in multi-pet families. If a pet has been diagnosed with Giardia, bathing all of the pets will assist in removing any cysts from the fur and prevent the pet from ingesting cysts while grooming. Cleaning the environment, which includes washing any bedding in hot water with bleach, can also be beneficial.
Fecal matter, mainly if it contains Giardia, should be eliminated from the pet's environment. It's best to avoid contact with feces as much as possible when walking your pet or living with an indoor-only cat.
Removing your shoes before entering the house, washing the feet of dogs who walk outside and may bring feline or canine Giardia inside, and washing your hands after returning from a dog walk can all assist in avoiding the spread of Giardia other parasites in your surroundings.