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Giardia in Cats

Giardia in Cats

Giardia is a type of parasite that can infect cats, dogs, and humans, causing diarrhea and stomach discomfort. Our vets in Mooresville provide tips on identifying and managing Giardia infections in cats, as well as prevention techniques.

The Giardia Parasite & Cats

Giardia duodenalis is a protozoan parasite that can infect many different mammals, including humans, cats, and dogs. Giardia is classified into different strains from A to H. Cats are usually affected by assemblage F, while humans are vulnerable to assemblages A and B. However, it is also possible for cats to carry strains A and B, which could lead to infection in their owners, although it is rare.

This condition is most often seen in kittens and cats that are suffering from poor health as the result of other underlying conditions.

Giardia can be hard for pet owners to deal with because treatment isn't always effective, and reinfection often occurs.

How Giardia Spreads

Giardia strains are transmitted through the fecal-oral route. This means that if a cat is infected with giardia, the parasite will be present in their stool. When other animals or people come in contact with the infected stool, the parasite can enter their body through ingestion or inhalation. This can occur through direct contact with contaminated stool, inhaling soil that has come into contact with contaminated stool, or drinking water that has been contaminated.

Can Humans Get Giardia From Cats?

Giardia infections are common in humans, however, people most often become infected by drinking contaminated water.

While it is possible for cats to harbor the A strain of giardia (dogs can harbor the B strain) that people are susceptible to, the spread of giardiasis from cats to people is not very common.

We suggest being cautious when changing cat litter and wearing gloves. It's important to wash your hands thoroughly after handling your cat and disinfect any items that come into contact with them, including their litter box, water bowls, bedding, and toys. If your cat has been diagnosed with giardia and you have a weakened immune system, it's especially important to be diligent about disinfecting.

Disinfect surfaces that your cat comes in contact with using a solution of chlorine bleach at a dilution of 1:16 or 1:32.

Signs & Symptoms of Giardia In Cats

Giardia parasites can harm the intestinal wall of a cat and usually result in a sudden onset of diarrhea with a foul smell. Although not all cats infected with Giardia display signs of infection, if your cat has giardiasis, you may also observe:

  • Excess mucus in the feces may be apparent.
  • Cat's stool is soft to watery and may have a greenish tinge or contain blood.
  • Lethargy in some cases.
  • Vomiting may occur in some cases.

The symptoms of giardiasis listed above may persist for several weeks in cats which could cause weight loss. It's also not uncommon for diarrhea related to giardiasis to be intermittent.

In addition to this, we should also note that fevers are not typically associated with giardia infections in cats.

Treating Giardia in Cats

Eliminating giardia in cats can be a difficult task. Repeated treatments or a combination of various treatment methods may be necessary to get rid of the parasite completely. This challenge arises because some giardia strains can be resistant to medication. Therefore, multiple drugs or repeated therapy attempts may be required.

The most commonly prescribed treatments for giardia in cats are fenbendazole and metronidazole.

  • 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.

The Duration of Giardia Infections In Cats

When antibiotic treatment starts, it usually takes 3 to 5 days for the parasites to be eliminated from the stool. It may take 5 to 7 days for symptoms to go away.

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.

Contact our Mooresville vets today and schedule an appointment if your kitty is showing signs of giardia. Our vets have the skills and training they need to treat a range of parasitic conditions in cats.

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Lake Norman at Mooresville Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our veterinarians are passionate about improving the health of cats, dogs and exotic pets. Book your pet's first appointment today.

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