Giardia is a protozoal parasite. Once infected, a cat will be a giardia carrier for life.
Infection is relatively rare in healthy cats. It is more common in densely-populated groups of animals, such as in a cattery, pet store, or rescue shelter. Symptoms of giardia are increased during stressful situations: This is why giardiasis commonly occurs among rescue and shelter animals. Also, kittens have been shown to shed more Giardia cysts in their faeces than older cats.
Giradiasis is highly contagious and can be easily passed from one animal to another. The parasites can also be transferred to humans.
Transmission takes place through the faecal-oral route. This means that the animal defecates cysts and that another animal or human being is infected with this by means of receipt through the mouth. Only 10 cysts are needed in order to pass an infection to a new host. In case of an infection about 100.000 cysts per gram faeces is secreted.
Ingestion of the cyst stage of the parasite leads to infection. Once inside the cat’s intestine, the cyst goes through several stages of maturation. Eventually, the cat is able to pass infective cysts in the stool, where they can contaminate the environment and infect other cats.
Infection can also occur from drinking water which has been contaminated with the cysts.
The first noticeable symptom of giardiasis is usually diarrhoea or soft, discolored faeces. Faeces may also be covered in mucus. Other symptoms include excess gas, abdominal tenderness, loss of appetite and listlessness
It is very important to prevent dehydration; clean water should be easily available
There are many causes for diarrhoea and it is important to make the right diagnosis so that the right treatment can be given
Metronidazole (Metrazol) or fenbendazol (Panacur) can be given although there are some Giardia strains are not susceptible to metronidazol or fenbendazol. All animals in the household must be treated!
A good hygiene is very important. Always wash your hands after having touched your cat. Clean and disinfect the surroundings of your animal, this is important to avoid another infection.