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Giardia in Cats

Giardia in Cats

Giardia is a group of protozoan parasites (identified by the letters A through H) that can infect people, as well as dogs and cats and lead to symptoms such as diarrhea and upset stomach. Today, our Crystal Lake vets discuss how to tell if your cat has Giardia and how you can help their symptoms.

Cat Giardia Parasite

Giardia duodenalis is a type of microscopic parasite that can infect various mammals, including cats, dogs, and humans. There are different strains of Giardia, labeled as A to H. Cats are typically affected by strain F, while strains A and B are more commonly associated with human infections. However, although rare, it is possible for cats to carry strains A and B, potentially causing infection in their owners.

This condition is frequently observed in kittens and cats that are already in poor health due to underlying issues.

Managing Giardia can be challenging for pet owners because treatment may not always be successful, and reinfection is common.

How is giardia spread?

All strains of giardia are transmitted via the fecal-oral route. This means that the giardia parasites are present in an infected cat's stool, when other animals (or people) come in contact with the infected stool the parasite makes its way into the new host's body by ingestion or inhalation. This can happen by direct contact with contaminated stool, by the inhalation of soil that has been in contact with contaminated stool, or by ingesting water that has become contaminated.

Can you get giardia from your cat?

Giardia infections are frequently seen in humans, with the most common method of transmission being through contaminated water.

Although cats can carry the A strain of giardia (while dogs can carry the B strain), the transmission of giardiasis from cats to humans is not very common.

However, it is still advisable to take precautions to minimize any potential risks. This includes wearing gloves when handling cat litter, thoroughly washing hands after interacting with your cat, and disinfecting items that come into contact with your cat (such as litter boxes, water bowls, bedding, toys, etc.). It is especially important for individuals with weakened immune systems to be vigilant about disinfection if their cat is diagnosed with giardia.

You can disinfect surfaces using a solution of chlorine bleach diluted at a ratio of 1:16 or 1:32 to ensure effective sanitation.

What are the signs of giardia in cats?

Giardia parasites damage the cat's intestinal wall and typically lead to the sudden onset of foul smelling diarrhea. Not all cats infected with Giardia will show signs of infection, however if your cat has giardiasis you may also notice:

  • Cat's stool is soft to watery and may have a greenish tinge or contain blood.
  • Excess mucus in the feces may be apparent.
  • Vomiting may occur in some cases.
  • Lethargy in some cases.
  • Symptoms of giardiasis listed above may persist for several weeks resulting in weight loss.

It is not uncommon for diarrhea related to giardiasis may be intermittent. Fevers are not typically associated with giardia infections in cats.

What is the treatment for cat giardia?

Giardia in cats can be challenging to completely eliminate and may require repeated treatments or combinations of treatments in order to completely eliminate the parasite. The elimination of the disease can be difficult because some giardia strains can be resistant to medication. As a result, multiple drugs or more than one attempt at therapy may be needed.

Fenbendazole and metronidazole are the most commonly prescribed treatments for giardia in cats.

  • Fenbendazole may reduce clinical signs and shedding of the parasite. This treatment is administered to the infected cat orally for 3 to 5 days and is safe for pregnant cats.
  • Metronidazole is a medication that appears to be more effective at treating giardia in cats than dogs. Treatment is given for 5 to 7 days and is not safe for pregnant cats.

In certain cases, the two medications can be given in combination to fight giardiasis.

Your vet may also prescribe a highly digestible diet until your cat's stool hardens. Prolonged bouts of vomiting and diarrhea can quickly result in dehydration so it's important to ensure that your cat remains well hydrated.

How long will my cat have giardia?

It generally takes between 3 to 5 days for the parasites to be cleared from the stool once antibiotic treatment begins, and 5 to 7 days for symptoms to resolve.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat experiencing the symptoms of giardia? Contact us today to book an appointment for your feline friend. 

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