What are Giardiasis?
The most obvious signs of giardiasis include odorous and soft diarrhea that may or may not contain blood and mucus. Cats that are suffering from giardiasis are experiencing intestinal discomfort and also at risk of becoming severely dehydrated. To prevent complications, it’s important to take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as you begin to spot the symptoms.
Giardiasis is an infection caused by the Giardia intestinalis parasite. The parasite can affect humans and animals, and in fact, is a common cause of “traveler’s diarrhea” in people. Cats can become infected after eating or drinking things that have been contaminated, mainly groundwater or animal feces. Once the parasite has been introduced into your cat’s body, it will latch onto its intestinal wall and begin reproducing and feeding, causing immediate discomfort and sudden diarrhea.
Symptoms of Giardiasis in Cats
Your cat may begin to exhibit symptoms of giardiasis suddenly without any warning. The most obvious sign of giardiasis is diarrhea with a strong odor, which is usually soft or watery, and may even be slightly discolored. Some cats will also have blood or mucus in their stool. However, this is not the only symptom of giardiasis. Some of the others include:
- Weight loss
Causes of Giardiasis in Cats
Giardiasis is caused by the Giardia intestinalis parasite, which can infect both people and animals. Cats have to drink or eat the parasite in order to become infected. Usually, cats develop this infection after drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated feces from another animal. Once the parasite is in your cat’s body, it will attach to the intestinal walls and begin to reproduce.
Diagnosis of Giardiasis in Cats
Cats can quickly become dehydrated if they continue to have diarrhea without getting medical attention, so it’s important to take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible for treatment. Be sure to tell the vet when the symptoms began and how often the diarrhea has occurred. Giardiasis is characterized by strong-smelling, soft, fecal matter, so the vet will need to know if this is how your cat’s fecal matter looks and smells. You should also let your vet know about your cat’s diet. Cats can often get diarrhea from changes in their diet, so if you haven’t made any changes, it’s important to rule this out as a potential cause.
The vet will need to test your cat’s stool in order to provide an accurate diagnosis. Either a fecal smear or fecal flotation test will be done on the sample. If your cat has giardiasis, the parasite will be present in his fecal matter, however, it’s not guaranteed that every stool sample will contain the parasite. Therefore, the vet may need to test multiple samples in order to confirm it is giardiasis. It’s possible that he will ask to test samples from three different days before making an official diagnosis.
Treatment of Giardiasis in Cats
In some cases, the vet will not be able to spot the parasite in the cat’s stool even if it is present in the cat’s body. If no other causes of the symptoms can be identified, the vet may diagnose your cat with giardiasis even though he has not actually seen the parasite.
Unless your cat is very weak, you should be able to take him home after consulting with the vet. However, if your cat has suffered severe dehydration or electrolyte imbalance from vomiting and having diarrhea, he may need to receive fluids via an IV.
No medications have been approved to treat giardiasis in cats within the United States. However, vets will still administer prescription medications, most commonly metronidazole, to treat giardiasis. This will usually need to be given for a period of up to one week.
Your cat will also need to be thoroughly bathed to ensure there are no parasites hiding in the cat’s fur.
Recovery of Giardiasis in Cats
The majority of cats will fully recover from giardiasis after receiving the proper medication, but those who already have weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of developing complications. To prevent your cat from contracting giardiasis again after he has recovered, you will need to keep his living environment as clean as possible. Ask your vet how you should sterilize his bedding, toys, and any other items he may come into contact with. If you have other pets, make sure they are checked for giardiasis right away.
While your cat is taking medication, it’s important to bathe him on a regular basis with shampoo recommended by your vet. It’s best to keep your cat indoors so he is not exposed to any contaminated feces from other animals.
After you have administered the full course of medication, bring your cat in for a follow-up visit to retest for the parasites.