Giardia is a protozoal infection that many have heard about infecting local water sources including most commonly stagnant water but also is found in running water. This is a worldwide disease and seen here on the Oregon coast regularly. It unfortunately can also transmit from your pet to humans via the fecal oral route, so wash your hands!
Our pets, both cats and dogs, once infected will typically have diarrhea and be very gaseous. The diagnosis is made from either direct identification of the parasite seen in a fecal smear under the microscope or via a snap test that detects the antigen in the feces. This infection is so common that typically with any diarrhea the feces are looked at under the microscope to rule out this protozoa.
Once diagnosed it is appropriate to either treat with fenbendazole powder or metronidazole tablets. The patients will typically show alleviation of diarrhea within 48 hours once the treatment is started. Depending on how sick your pet is on presentation, your veterinarian might add a treatment to help further the recovery, if necessary.
The parasite or disease is very responsive to treatment but it is imperative to bring the patient into the vet before the clinical signs cause too much compromise. As far as prevention, there is a vaccination but it needs to be stated that it doesn't prevent the disease, it just lessens the clinical signs. The best preventative is to limit or prevent ingestion of water from stagnant water supply and from small streams.
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