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Giardia in Cats

Giardia is an infection that is caused by bacteria that are ingested or inhaled by your cat. It can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. Here, our Orange vets share some of the signs of giardia in cats, how it is transmitted and what the prognosis is with treatment.

What is the cat Giardia?

Giardia duodenalis is a protozoan parasite that can infect many different mammals, including humans, cats, and dogs. Different strains of Giardia are categorized by the letters A to H. Cats generally become infected with the parasite from Giardia strain F, whereas humans are typically susceptible to assemblages A and B. On the other hand, while rare, cats can harbor strains A and B, 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.

How does Giardia spread among cats?

Giardia is transmitted through the ingestion or inhalation of contaminated fecal matter.

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?

It is, in fact, possible for humans to contract Giardia, however, it is usually through the ingestion of contaminated drinking 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. This also answered the question 'Can a dog infect a cat with Giardia?', and the answer to this is no, as they both contract different strains of Giardia.

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.). If you or anyone in your family has a compromised immune system then you should ensure frequent disinfection occurs.

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 That a Cat Has Giardia

Giardia parasites can damage a cat's intestinal wall and typically lead to a sudden onset of foul-smelling diarrhea. While the common signs of infection are not always present in cats with Giardia, some of the symptoms you might see are:

  • 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.

If any of the symptoms listed above continue for extended periods, it can lead to complications like weight loss or dehydration. Fever on the other hand is not a common symptom seen in cats affected by Giardia.

How is Giardia treated in cats?

Cats infected with the parasite known as Giardia can be notoriously difficult to treat. To completely get rid of the parasite, repeated treatments or a combination of different treatment methods might be required. Eliminating the disease can be difficult because some giardia strains can be resistant to medication. This means that the use of more than one type of medication and therapy may be needed to successfully treat the infection.

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 three to five 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 five to seven days and is not safe for pregnant cats.

A highly digestible diet may also be recommended until your cat's stool hardens. Prolonged bouts of vomiting and diarrhea can quickly result in dehydration, which is a medical emergency

How long will my cat have Giardia?

It generally takes between three to five days for the parasites to be cleared from the stool once antibiotic treatment begins, and five to seven days for symptoms to resolve.

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.

Is your cat showing signs of a parasitic infection? Please contact our Orange vets today to schedule an appointment.

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