What is Parasitic Diarrhea?
When traveling on holiday, you must be aware in certain places of the quality of food and water, so you do not get sick. One of the most common things you can pick up, and is not a very great souvenir, unfortunately, is giardiasis. Giardiasis is not only in humans, but animals as well. It is a very unpleasant sickness that will wreak havoc for a few weeks, but if treated will go away, and your pet will resume their health.Giardiasis is an intestinal infection of man and animals caused by a protozoan parasite that is ingested or transmitted by air.
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Symptoms of Parasitic Diarrhea in Dogs
Giardiasis is somewhat of a messy sickness, as it does affect the digestive system. However, if your pet is a carrier of giardiasis, they may not even show symptoms. Some pets, even as a carrier, do not show symptoms at all. Although this is rare, it's something to keep top of mind as you self-diagnose your pets health.
Symptoms will manifest as either sudden (acute), temporary (transient), non-continuous (intermittent), or ongoing (chronic). Diarrhea that introduces itself will have unique characteristics. These include:
- Excessive mucus
- Pungent and terrible odor
- Greasy in nature
Additional general symptoms include:
- Diarrhea (general)
- Sometimes blood in diarrhea
These symptoms should be reported (either over the phone, or via email) to your veterinarian as soon as possible because your pet will need to undergo tests and treatment to get rid of the disease and the risk of spreading it to others.
There are two classes of giardiasis. The first is trophozoite; this stage is where the parasites are actually live and mobile in the body. They move through the intestine, breeding and preparing to move to the second stage.
The second stage is called the cyst stage. The cysts are the eggs of the parasite that leave the body through feces and are then picked up and passed on to the next victim. Each animal that has a potential of picking up giardiasis is put under assemblages that classify the disorder and how they infect humans and animals. Canines are classed under Assemblages C & D.
Causes of Parasitic Diarrhea in Dogs
Giardiasis in dogs can be caused either by ingestion or by sniffing. The main places it will come from is from dogs either sniffing feces outside and contracting the cysts that way, or by eating or drinking it from a contaminated source, such as feces at a dog park. It's estimated that upwards of 50% of puppies will experience a case of Giardia and near 100% of canine that visit or are housed in a kennel during an owners vacation will develop it due to the close quarters and intense exposure to other animals feces.
Humans can also get giardiasis, normally through contaminated food and water. It is not thought that dogs and humans can pass the disease to each other, but it is argued that a few cases have seen humans catching giardiasis from handling feces. Dogs can pass the disease to other dogs definitely, but not cats or other animals.
Diagnosis of Parasitic Diarrhea in Dogs
A pet will go through extensive tests to see if giardiasis is the cause of all of their symptoms. The diagnosis will be made by:
- Direct fecal smear
- Fecal flotation
- Fecal ELISA
- Direct fluorescent antibody assay
A fecal flotation is the most accurate test. Veterinarians will use a Zinc and Iodine mixture to test solid or semi-solid fecal matter for cysts. The ELISA test is also an approved and accurate test used to test for giardiasis. It is a stain used that will show the presence of the parasite strain.
Sometimes giardiasis can be misdiagnosed because of the difficulty identifying cysts in feces if there has been a lot of shedding of the cysts. Also, yeast can also be mistaken for giardiasis because their forms are similar. However, because giardiasis is a living parasite, they will have two or more nuclei present.
Treatment of Parasitic Diarrhea in Dogs
There are no FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of giardiasis, but that obviously does not stop treatment. Normally, a combination of febantel, pyrantel pamoate, and praziquantel are used. These are all special medicines for treating worms and parasites.
If a pet is not showing clinical signs of giardiasis, they can take one course of the prescribed combination. For more serious cases, your pet may have to take this course plus an added antibiotic called metronidazole.
Recovery of Parasitic Diarrhea in Dogs
After your pet has gone through tests and has been diagnosed, they will allow you to return home with your pet and their medication. Once the entire course or courses of medication have been completed, you will most likely have to return to your veterinarian for a follow-up.
The follow-up usually consists of another fecal flotation of Zinc Sulfate to make sure that the treatment worked. If not, they will need more medication. Pets undergoing treatment should be quarantined.
In your home, you should bleach and clean every surface your dog has come in contact with. This includes their bedding and bowls. Do not return their belongings or allow them to touch anything until the items are completely dry. The parasites and cysts thrive in warm, wet environments and if your pet comes in contact with these conditions it could breed more parasites.
You should also remove feces from your yard daily and not allow your dog to go to parks or any other public place until they have been cured. Make sure as a pet owner you keep your hands clean; wash them regularly and do not put them near your face or mouth after touching your pet.
With treatment, your pet should feel better within a few days. The medicine must be completely taken, or the parasites could return. Without treatment, pets can become dehydrated and may die.