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Giardia in Cats

Giardia in Cats

The Giardia group of protozoan parasites are labeled A through H. No matter the type they can cause severe symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea. Here, our Killen vets share some of the signs of GIardia in cats and how this condition can be treated. 

Cat Infections: Giardia

Giardia duodenalis is a protozoan parasite that can infect many different mammals, including humans, cats, and dogs. There are various different strains of Giardia that are categorized by the letters A to H. Cats generally become infected with assemblage F, whereas humans are typically susceptible to assemblages A and B. On the other hand, while rare, it is possible for cats to harbor strain A, potentially infecting their owners. 

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.

If you have many different pets in the home then you may be wondering 'Can a dog infect a cat with Giardia?' and the answer is no. Dogs are generally affected by the B strain of Giardia.

The Transmission of Giardia Among Cats

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 through 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 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.

Nonetheless, we recommend taking precautions such as wearing gloves while changing cat litter, washing your hands well after handling your cat, and disinfecting items that come in contact with your cat (including the litter box, water bowls. bedding, toys, etc.). People with compromised immune systems should be particularly diligent about disinfecting if their cat is diagnosed with giardia.

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

What are the signs of Giardia in cats?

Giardia parasites can damage a cat's intestinal wall and typically lead to a sudden onset of foul-smelling diarrhea. While some cats that contract Giardia end up being asymptomatic, others may show a number of symptoms along with diarrhea, including:

  • Excess mucus in the feces may be apparent.
  • The 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.

Because of the nature of these symptoms, some cats may also experience weight loss when infected with Giardia. 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. If your cat shows any of the symptoms listed you should reach out to your vet to schedule an examination and diagnostics for your cat.

How are cat Giardia infections treated?

It can be challenging to completely treat giardia in cats. In order to completely get rid of the parasite,  repeated treatments or a combination of different treatment methods might be required. a Giardia infection can be extremely difficult to clear as the medications may be ineffective toward the parasite. As a result, your vet may indicate that a combination of medications is needed.

Fenbendazole and metronidazole are the treatments most often prescribed 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.

There may be some cases where the vet recommends that a cat be treated with both simultaneously. Your vet will ultimately determine the best course of action.

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 the infection should be completely cleared in around 5 to 7 days.

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 Killen vets today if you are concerned that your cat may have contracted a parasite such as Giardia.

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