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.
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.

Beware of Chicken Jerky Treats from China

The FDA is continuing to caution pet owners about potential problems from chicken jerky treats originating from China.  The first warnings were issues in 2007 and 2008 with a drop in the number of cases in 2010, however, more than 350 cases have been reported to the FDA in 2011.  See report on MSNBC

The dogs affected from the treats are showing symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. Some dogs have also exhibited signs related to a decrease in their kidney function by drinking more water and an increase in their urination.

There was not a specific brand of treats cited, but all complaints have been on chicken jerky treats obtained from China.

Most of the dogs that have had problems are the smaller dogs that have eaten the treats within a few weeks before becoming sick. A lot of these dogs consumed the treats as a large part of their diet. Some pets had upset stomachs and some suffered renal failure. Most dogs have recovered with treatment, but there are some unconfirmed cases of a few dogs dying from their illness.

Treats, especially jerky treats should only be fed occasionally and not as a major portion of your pet’s diet. If your pet does experience vomiting or diarrhea, please contact your veterinarian for diagnostics and treatment. Especially with the smaller dogs, they can become quite dehydrated within a short period of time and may need intravenous fluids until their tiny stomachs can tolerate food again. Be sure to mention any treats your dog may have consumed or any change of diet to your veterinarian.
If you suspect a problem stemming from a treat or pet food, you and your veterinarian can report it to

Cancer in Cats

Cancer is the leading cause of death in senior cats. As we already know, this is a very serious disease that can affect virtually all areas of your cats body. However, the spread of cancer is more rapid when certain areas of the body are reached, such as the lungs or liver. There are too many forms of cancer to discuss in this post; so instead, we will discuss various signs that you can be mind of and the veterinary options available.

There are many symptoms to watch for that might indicate your pet has developed a cancer. It is important to realize that many of these symptoms can be related to several other illnesses, so do not assume your cat has cancer until he has been officially diagnosed by a veterinarian. Unexplained weight loss, abdominal distention, respiratory distress, difficulty swallowing, changes in bowel consistency (diarrhea or constipation), blood or mucous in the stool, unusual bleeding or discharge, lameness, growths that can be felt through your pets skin and any areas of skin discoloration should be reported to your veterinarian. Remember that these symptoms are merely indicators that you should bring your cat to see the veterinarian.

Unfortunately, there are no blood tests to determine whether or not cancer is present in our cats. Therefore, acquiring a sample of the tumor through biopsy is often necessary and this sample is normally sent off to a specialized pathologist for microscopic examination. Many cancers can be cured if caught early enough and if the lump is small enough to surgically remove. Even after a lump is removed, your veterinarian may wish to send the sample to a pathologist to ensure that the margins of the growth are cancer free.

If your cat is diagnosed with cancer, many of the same treatment options available to humans are also available for pets. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for pets is offered at most veterinary specialty practices in major metropolitan areas. Your veterinarian will be able to share more information about these treatment options with you. It is important to understand that these therapies are costly and some forms of cancer are more easily treated than others. If chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy are not an option, your cat can be treated symptomatically, and depending on how aggressive the cancer is, your cat may be able to live for several months to a year. Other medications and therapeutic options will be outlined by your veterinarian.

There are steps that can be taken to avoid cancers. Having your pet spayed or neutered will drastically decrease the chances of various reproductive cancers. Feeding your cat a high quality diet and keeping him at a healthy weight will also help to prevent certain cancers. Obesity is a major cause of many cancers in pets. It is impossible to prevent all cancers and genetics also play a role in this disease. If you have any additional questions about a specific cancer or are concerned about your cat, please do not hesitate to discuss this with your veterinarian.

Cancer in Pets

Splenic CancerOur pets are living longer and as a result they are also susceptible to some of the same illnesses as senior humans. One such illness is the development of cancer which is now the leading cause of death in our senior dogs. Cancer can affect many different organs from the skin, to the liver or lungs. Many factors may increase the susceptibility to cancer, such as genetic predisposition, exposure to insecticides, environmental toxins, second hand smoke, and many more.

Since cancer can affect many different organs, it is up to you and your veterinarian to monitor your pet for any changes in their weight, eating, urination, stool consistency, drinking more or less water than usual and changes in breathing.  Semi-annual exams and screening blood work can help detect problems when they are most able to be treated. Daily grooming can help you detect any lumps or bumps that may be skin cancer. Oral exams, dental x-rays and dental cleanings can detect oral cancer. Some cancers sometimes can only be found by x-rays or  exploratory surgeries.

Your family veterinarian is your first defense against cancer with early detection and removal or biopsy of the cancer. Once the cancer is identified, then treatments can be initiated depending on the type, size and location of the cancer. Just like in people, treatment can range from surgical excision, radiation and chemotherapy or combination of therapies. If you are located in a major metroplex or near a veterinary university, you may be able to consult with a veterinary specialist in oncology to determine the best treatment for your pet. The goal of cancer treatment is not always to eradicate the cancer entirely, but to lengthen the time you have left with your pet and to improve their quality of life.