Giardia is a microscopic, intestinal parasite that can affect any mammal. Contracted by drinking contaminated water or through ingestion of fecal material (directly or during normal grooming by pets), giardia causes diarrhea ranging from mild to severe. In the United States, the number one place to find giardia is in our beautiful home of Colorado. Summertime means an increase in the number of giardia cases that veterinary clinics see due to increased outdoor activity, such as camping and hiking, that provides pets with access to contaminated water or feces. Previously, vaccinations were available for the prevention of giardia; however, they have since become unavailable. Therefore, pet owners must now be extra vigilant when it comes to giardia. The diarrhea associated with giardia can lead to secondary complications including dehydration. Other symptoms of giardia may include vomiting and malnutrition. Pets that are experiencing these symptoms should be seen by a veterinarian to determine the cause. A fecal sample may be examined microscopically and a snap test may be completed to confirm if giardia is present. Giardia is typically treated with antibiotics and pets are monitored through fecal sample tests to ensure the giardia is no longer present. In severe cases, where the pet has become dehydrated, supportive care such as IV fluids may be used to assist in the pet’s recovery process. When you are enjoying the outdoors this summer, make certain that you provide your pet with clean water for drinking to reduce their likelihood of ingesting contaminated water.
Ask us at Animal Central for more information on Giardia or visit: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/giardia/
Dr. George Stroberg, DVM and Staff