Giardia is a single-celled parasite that lives in the intestine of several vertebrates, including human beings, dogs and cats.
Individuals become infected through the ingestion of contaminated water, food or other substances that have been soiled with faeces containing the parasitic cystic form.
Most individuals infected with Giardia do not become ill. However in those who do, giardiasis can cause diarrhoea and weight loss. Very young or immunosuppressed individuals (for instance FIV/FeLV positive cats) are more at risk than adult/healthy ones. Also, animals kept in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions are at high risk of infection.
Giardia can be diagnosed by a faecal flotation test carried out on a faecal sample. Occasionally it can be diagnosed by examining a fresh smear under the microscope.
If your animal is diagnosed with this disease your veterinary surgeon will be able to prescribe some treatment. However good hygiene, prompt removal of faeces and cleaning up areas of your animal’s coat that may have become contaminated with faeces are paramount in order to eradicate the infection.
Giardia can potentially be transmitted from animals to humans but the majority of human cases are due to human-to-human transmission. Environmental disinfection and good personal hygiene are important to prevent accidental spread to humans.