Giardia

Giardiasis is an intestinal infection of both man and animals caused by a single cell, flagellated protozoan parasite Giardia intestinalis (also known as Giardia lamblia).
Giardia is composed of just one cell and it is not a bacteria, virus or a “worm”. This parasite is found worldwide and is a common cause of
“Traveler’s Fever”. Other names are “Montezuma’s Revenge”, “Rocky Mountain Hershey Squirts”, and “Beaver Fever”. Well, you get the idea. The parasite is found in contaminated water and if not properly treated can cause a diarrhea in people as well as our four legged friends.  A lot of dogs can be infected without displaying any signs of illness.
The Giarida life cycle consists of two phases. The delicate feeding form is a single cell with flagella, (the string like tentacles that make it mobile) and it lives in the gut of the infected animal. The cystic form is hardier and is shed in the feces of the animal and can survive several months in the environment, especially in water and damp areas.
Your canine friend can be infected  when it swallows the giardia cyst in contaminated water. The cyst then passes into the dog’s intestine where it develops into the trophozoite or the feeding form. It then attaches to the intestinal wall and begins to feed. If the giardia population is large enough, then there is enough damage to cause the clinical signs of diarrhea, which can be fatal in small puppies. The organism then becomes the cystic form which is passed in the feces and can re-infect the dog, or be picked up by other dogs or even people.
Giardia can be diagnosed with a special fecal floatation test or a direct smear but is often missed becgiardia_2009ause of its small size and inconsistent shedding. If Giardia is suspected, a .snap test can be performed on the feces to detect specific cell antigens to the organism. It is more expensive than the standard fecal tests, but is more accurate. Often times, a presumptive diagnosis is made with the clinical signs and the dog is treated without a definitive diagnosis.
Treatment for giardia consists of a round of antibiotics, such as metronidazole, for 5 – 7 days. Other parasiticides, such as fenbendazole, are often administered in addition to the antibiotics. If the diarrhea is severe, other medications to soothe the intestinal tract and even IV replacement fluids may be necessary.
Because of the potential exposure to the human members of the family, if your dog is diagnosed with giardiasis, disinfection of the area and good personal hygiene is important. Particularly, people that are immune compromised, such as AIDS or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, should use extra care when handling feces or giving medications.
giardia
To disinfect the pet’s area, diluted bleach (1 part bleach mixed with 32 parts water) can be used and other surfaces can be sprayed with Lysol. The cysts are also susceptible to drying so avoid over-watering the backyard so it can dry out. Wash the pet’s bedding with some bleach added to the water and then toss them into the dryer on hot setting should kill the majority of the cysts.
The best way to avoid infestation of your pet is to avoid areas where other dogs and wildlife aggregate. Bring your pet’s own water with you when you do go on excursions so they will not be tempted to drink from steams or standing pools of water. If you take your dog camping or swimming and they do break with diarrhea when they return, alert your veterinarian to the possibility of contamination so treatment can be started right away.
There was a giardia vaccine available called GIARDIAVAX, however, it was not a preventative. At best it may have reduced the shedding of cysts if a dog was infected. It has been removed from the market due to lack of sales.under license.

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