Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Giardia- Diagnosis and Treatment

Recently we acquired a new puppy, soon after we noticed her stool was light in color, oily and loose. We suspected worms or Giardia. The vet had us bring a fresh stool sample and under microscopic analysis Giardia was found. She was on a course of Flagyl(metronidazole) for 7 days and everything seemed fine. About a week later, she started again with very loose and light colored stool. Again, she had Giardia. We decided to do some research on this parasite and wanted to share this information with all dog and cat owners.

What is Giardia?
Giardia are actually protozoans (single celled organisms) and are commonly found in the intestines of many animals, including dogs and cats. A small percentage of animals can carry Giardia their entire life and never show any symptoms. Infection with Giardia is called Giardiasis. Puppies show diarrhea, have very odoriforous,bloody or mucousy stool with gas. Other symptoms are weight loss, listlessness, mucus in the stool, and poor appetite. Giardia affects the health of your dog or cat. Untreated, this parasite will impede your animals ability to utilize the nutrients in their food.
How are animals infected with Giardia? Dogs and cats become infected with Giardia by eating the cyst form of the parasite, then in the small intestine, this cyst opens and releases a trophozite. Trophozite have hair-like structures that flap back and forth allowing them to move inside the small intestine. These trophozites attach to the animal's intestinal wall, reproduce. It is unknown at what stage this happens, but this trophozite then encapsulates, produces a cyst and then that cyst is excreted in the animals feces.
Now, another animal that comes in contact with grass, dirt or water that has been contaminated with the feces can become infected.
Diagnosis: Diagnosis is confirmed by finding the cysts or motile stages in feces by microscopic examination. A negative report does not rule out Giardia! Because cysts are only passed periodically, it is important to have several fecal exams done. At least 3 fecal exams are recommended over a period of 7-10 days. Vets recommend at least one fecal exam one week after finishing a course of Metronidazole or Panacur.
Treatment: Fenbendazole (Panacur) is the recommended drug to remove gastrointestinal parasites. Metronidazole (Flagyl) daily for at least 7-14 days is another treatment. Our vet has our 12 week old labrador puppy on both now. In order to help establish a healthy gut, she also recommended Fortiflora powder.
The most important thing about ridding your animals of this horrible parasite is to keep everything clean. You can use solutions of Lysol, bleach, and quaternary ammonium compounds against Giardia. In other words, take all the toys and wash with a small amount of bleach. Wash the water and food bowls every time they are used and disinfect with bleach. I wipe down my tile floor in my kitchen now once a day with a bleach solution.
We are also making sure to wipe her anus after defecating and wiping her paws with baby wipes everytime she has walked outside.
I didn't mention that we also have four cats, all who are on Flagyl for 7 days. Giving a cat this medication is difficult, as it dissolves quickly and will fizz in their mouth.
I take a Greenies Pill pocket, break it in half and then mold it exactly over the pill. I then make sure I push it down the cats throat.
Giardia is a tough parasite to get rid of, so you must be diligent with treatment and the disinfection process, otherwise you will always be in battle with this monster.
Prevention of infection: Giardia live in cold wet environments like lawn, parks, streams. So keeping your dog or cat from these environments can be difficult. I would recommend disinfecting your dog's paws after walks and don't allow them to drink from ponds or streams while out. It is also a good idea to keep your dog bathed to help wash any unwanted Giardia cysts off the coat.
Kennel owners have a huge problem in keeping this disease contained. Cleaning the kennels with a 1 part bleach to 5 parts water solution(1:5) or 1:10 solution of bleach can usually kill the cysts within one minute. Make sure you allow this area to dry for several days before bringing the dogs back to the kennel area. Again, clean the perianal areas as much as possible.
Transmission to humans? I have been doing research on this, and yes, this disease is transmittable to humans. Make sure all those who play and handle your animals wash their hands often with an antibacterial soap for a long enough time and with warm water. This should be emphazised especially with small children that crawl on the floor where your animals have been.