Giardia and Pets: What You Need To Know

Feb 15, 2022 | Dog, Cat Advice

Giardia is a small parasite that can affect animals and humans, which is why you need to know the symptoms and how best to treat it to stop it from spreading. 

What is giardia? 

Giardia is a single-celled parasite that attacks the lining of the intestines in animals and humans. It can cause very severe, watery diarrhoea and other symptoms. 

Giardia can also easily spread as it can be caught anywhere there are infected poo particles. This means it can be spread via pet bedding, water, food, other animals or the environment, such as a local park or your garden. 

How long can giardia survive in the environment?

The parasites can survive for months both outside and on your pet’s coat, even after the original poo particles are gone. This means that it can be easy to get reinfected, which is why it’s so important to follow the full course of treatment. 

Giardia can survive for:

  • Several months in cold water or soil
  • Longer in soil at colder temperatures than room temperature
  • Longer in water at colder temperatures
  • Longer in cool, moist environments

What symptoms does giardia cause?

Symptoms of giardia are similar in pets as they are in humans. So if your pet experiences these symptoms, you should take care to wash your hands after you’ve touched them as well as when you’ve touched their toys and bedding or have come into contact with their poo. 

Giardia can cause several symptoms, including:

  • Watery diarrhoea with a strong smell
  • Gas
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Eating less
  • Fatty poo (ranging from soft to watery and with a green tinge)
  • Blood in poo

When should you see your vet?

While your pet may experience a case of diarrhoea at some point, it may not always be caused by giardia. However, it is important to keep an eye on them as continued diarrhoea can be a sign of various illnesses. 

It is recommended that you take your pet to the vet if:

  • They have had diarrhoea for more than two to three days
  • They’ve had intermittent diarrhoea for two weeks or more
  • They are experiencing diarrhoea while taking medication
  • They have diarrhoea and other health issues
  • You have a young pet (kitten or puppy) or an older pet with diarrhoea

You should also make an appointment with your vet if your pet has been in contact with another animal that has giardia. 

If your pet is experiencing symptoms and you start to as well, you should also make an appointment with your GP, as you may need treatment too. 

How is giardia treated?

To be treated for giardia, your vet needs to first test your pet to see if the parasite is present. This means sending a sample of your pet’s poo away for analysis. 

If you suspect that your pet has giardia, you may want to collect a sample before your appointment. Just be sure to thoroughly clean your hands and anything that comes into contact with the poo thoroughly after collecting a sample. 

If testing shows that your pet does have giardia, it can be treated with either antibiotics or a specific worming medication. Often, it is treated with a combination of both. You may be advised to also put your pet on a gentle diet to help their gut heal, as well as give them probiotics.

However, as giardia can survive for so long outside of the intestines, you also need to ensure you stick to a full treatment regime to avoid reinfection. As well as administering medication you’ll need to:

  • Wipe your pet’s bottom after a poo so they don’t have to lick themselves clean
  • Wash their bedding every day on a hot wash
  • Pick up their poo and clean the area down with hot water afterwards
  • Change litterboxes daily
  • Remove standing water that is not in use
  • Wear gloves when cleaning up poo and bedding
  • Wash your hands regularly 

It is also a good idea to limit your pet’s access to common outdoor areas while they are being treated for giardia in order to avoid it spreading to other animals. 

This course of treatment should see your pet’s diarrhoea improve after a couple of weeks, although in some cases, more than one course of medication is needed to fully get rid of the parasite. Once giardia has been dealt with, there are not usually any ongoing issues. 

If you suspect that your pet has giardia, give us a call to make an appointment as soon as possible so they can be tested and treated.

We look forward to welcoming you and your pets