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What is Giardia in cats?

Giardia is a parasite that can infect people, dogs, and cats, and lead to symptoms such as diarrhea and upset stomach. Today our Rock Springs vets share tips on how to tell if your cat may be infected with Giardia, and what you can do to help resolve symptoms and prevent family members and other pets from becoming infected.

The Giardia Parasite in Cats

Giardia duodenalis is a protozoan parasite – and is what causes Giardia – that affects cats, dogs, and humans, among other mammals. Giardia is classified into several strains, each labeled with a letter ranging from A to H. Cats are more likely to be infected with assemblage F, while humans are more likely to be infected with assemblages A and B. Cats can, however, carry strains A and B, which can infect their owners.

The condition is most commonly seen in kittens and cats who are in poor health due to other underlying causes.

Giardia can be difficult for pet parents to deal with because treatment is not always effective and reinfection frequently occurs.

How is Giardia spread?

The fecal-oral route is used to transmit all giardia strains. This means that giardia parasites are present in the stool of an infected cat, and when other animals (or people) come into contact with the infected stool, the parasite enters the new host's body through ingestion or inhalation. This can occur through direct contact with contaminated stool, inhalation of soil that has come into contact with contaminated stool, or ingestion of contaminated water.

Can you get Giardia from your cat?

The most common way for people to contract giardia is through contaminated drinking water. While cats can harbor the A strain of giardia (dogs can harbor the B strain), giardiasis is rarely transmitted from cats to humans.

It is recommended that you wear gloves when changing cat litter, thoroughly wash your hands after handling your cat, and disinfect any items that come into contact with your cat (this includes litter boxes, water bowls, bedding, and toys, among other things). If your cat has been diagnosed with giardia, people with weakened immune systems should exercise extreme caution when disinfecting.

Can a cat infect a dog with Giardia?

Giardia is a parasite that can infect both cats and dogs, but the specific strain that affects each species is different. While it is possible for a cat to transmit giardia to a dog through contaminated feces or water sources, it is not as common as transmission between animals of the same species. 

What are the signs of Giardia in cats?

Giardia parasites damage the intestinal wall in cats, causing sudden bouts of foul-smelling diarrhea. Although not all cats infected with Giardia will exhibit symptoms of infection, if your cat has giardiasis, you may observe the following:

  • 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 to be intermittent. Fevers are not typically associated with giardia infections in cats.

What is the treatment for cat Giardia?

Giardia in cats can be difficult to eradicate, and it may require multiple treatments or a combination of treatments to completely eliminate the parasite. Some giardia strains are resistant to medication. As a result, multiple medications or therapy attempts may be necessary.

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 parasite 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 Mountainaire Animal Clinic today to book an appointment for your feline friend. Our vets are experienced in treating many parasitic conditions in pets.

    Looking for a vet in Rock Springs?

    Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Rock Springs cats and dogs. Get in touch today to request an appointment for your pet.

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