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.

Ehrlichiosis in Dogs

EhrlichiosisEhrlichiosis is a disease spread from the bite of a tick. The brown dog tick is the primary host of this serious disease, which was first seen in military dogs returning to the US from the Vietnam War. The organism that is carried by ticks and causes the Ehrlichiosis infection is called a rickettisa, which is similar to bacteria. This disease should be taken very seriously as untreated cases can result in death.

There are three phases of the Ehrlichiosis infection. The acute phase occurs in the first two to four weeks of infection. Fever, weight loss, nervous system anomalies, respiratory distress, bleeding disorders and other symptoms can be seen during this initial stage. The second phase of the disease is referred to as the subclinical stage. The symptoms that are seen in the acute stage are normally not present in this stage and basically subside. Dogs that are infected may continue to shed the organism, they may totally eliminate the organism during this stage or they may progress to the chronic phase of the disease. Many of the symptoms present in the acute phase may return along with lameness, anemia, swollen limbs and blood clotting problems. Each progression from one phase to the next makes treating Ehrlichiosis more difficult and this is why early detection is very important for treatment to be successful.

Although preventing Ehrlichiosis is not easy, avoiding areas that are heavily infested with ticks is one measure that can be taken. If you live in a heavily wooded area with known cases of Ehrlichiosis, you want to consider treating your yard for ticks or calling a professional exterminator to perform this service.

Ehrlichiosis can be detected with a blood test; however, a positive result may not occur for two to three weeks into the acute phase. Therefore, multiple tests may be necessary to confirm an infection. If caught early enough, treatment of the disease can be successful if the dogs immune system remains strong. Dogs that are in the chronic phase with a weakened immune system have a poor prognosis and a lower rate of survival. Treatment normally begins with blood transfusions to combat the anemia and leads to antibiotic treatment. Specific antibiotics, such as Doxycycline or Enrofloxacin may last anywhere from one to four months.

Toxoplasmosis in Cats

Toxoplasomosis

You may have heard that Toxoplasmosis is a disease that is dangerous for pregnant women and immuno-compromised individuals. Beyond this basic information, many myths abound. Does it mean you need to give up your feline friend? Do you need to get tested? Is it safe to clean the litter box? A little knowledge can go along way towards addressing your concerns and fears.

What It Is
Toxoplasma gondii is a tiny protozoan that can infect any mammal. Cats are considered the main host, since they are the only animal in which the organism can complete its entire life cycle.

How People Get It
Although cats are frequently blamed as the primary source of infection, this is a misconception. More commonly, people are exposed when they eat undercooked meat. Scientific studies show that the organism can be found in up to 20% of meat samples tested.

Cats can be a source of infection, but it is less common. Cats get the organism by hunting outdoors and eating other infected animals. When a cat first becomes infected, it goes through a brief period in which it can pass the organism in its feces. This only lasts for a few weeks. When the organism is passed in the cats feces, it is not immediately infectious to humans; it must sit for several days first. If the litter box is cleaned out daily, it is quite unlikely for cat owners to directly contract the organism from their own cats.

cat face

Its more likely for a person to be infected if they garden in soil in which cats have defecated. The organism can survive in the soil for years. The organism still must be swallowed. This could happen if a person put his hands in his mouth without washing or ate unwashed vegetables that were grown in the contaminated soil.

The final method of infection is congenital, when a pregnant woman with an active case of Toxoplasmosis passes the organism to her fetus while it is in the uterus. Women are only likely to be infectious to their fetuses when they initially become infected.

Toxoplasmosis in People
In the United States, only 1-2% of people show evidence of exposure to Toxoplasma. The organism does not cause any symptoms at all in most people. Immunosuppressed individuals are much more likely to become infected by Toxoplasma and may suffer serious consequences such as encephalitis. Infection of a fetus with Toxoplasma can result in miscarriage, congenital brain disorders, or congenital eye disorders.

Symptoms in Cats
Symptoms in cats are rare, but are more likely to occur in young cats with weak immune systems and in cats that are immunosuppressed as a result of infection with Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) or Feline Immunodeciency Virus (FIV). Symptoms can include weight loss, pneumonia, and eye disorders.

cat

Diagnosis
Whether it is necessary to be tested for Toxoplasmosis is a decision that you should make with your physician. There are blood tests available that can detect if you have a current, active infection or if you have been exposed in the past, but do not have a current infection.

Preventing Toxoplasmosis
To minimize the chance of exposure to Toxoplasma, always cook meat thoroughly. Wash your hands, cutting boards, and utensils after working with raw meat. Wear gloves when gardening outdoors. Clean litter pans every day. The need for pregnant women and immunocompromised people to avoid cleaning litter boxes is controversial. Women who test positive for exposure prior to pregnancy are unlikely to pass the disease to their fetus, so it is probably safe for them to clean the litter box. Women who have not been previously exposed and immunocompromised individuals should probably avoid cleaning litter boxes if possible, especially if their cats hunt.