What are Giardiasis?

Giardiasis is uncommon in ferrets, especially those who are kept inside and away from other animals, but it is still a risk that every ferret owner should know about. Animals at pet stores often have giardiasis, so if you ferret came from a pet store, it’s possible he could have been exposed to the parasite. 

If you believe your ferret has giardiasis, take him to a veterinarian for treatment as soon as you can. Most cases of giardiasis can be easily treated with medication, but if you delay treatment, your ferret may suffer from complications such as dehydration. 

Giardiasis is an infection caused by the Giardia intestinalis parasite. This parasite can affect many different kinds of animals, including humans. Ferrets develop giardiasis after ingesting the parasite either by eating contaminated feces or drinking contaminated water. After ingestion, the ferret may begin to experience severe diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite, and lethargy. 

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Symptoms of Giardiasis in Ferrets

The most obvious sign of giardiasis is diarrhea, which means your ferret will experience frequent bowel movements that may contain stool that is softer than usual. The stool may also appear grainy or have blood in it. Besides diarrhea, your ferret may also exhibit other symptoms including:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy

Causes of Giardiasis in Ferrets

Giardiasis is caused by the Giardia intestinalis parasite, which can affect ferrets, dogs, cats, and humans. To develop giardiasis, ferrets must come into contact with the parasite by eating feces from an infected animal. It can also be transmitted through contaminated water, which is actually more common than fecal transmission.

Diagnosis of Giardiasis in Ferrets

If you see signs of parasitic diarrhea, take your ferret to a veterinarian for treatment as soon as possible. Let the vet know what symptoms you have observed and when they first began. You should also tell the vet if your ferret has come into contact with other animals. 

The vet may ask you questions about your ferret’s diet. Because certain foods or a change in diet can cause diarrhea, the vet will want to know this information so he can eliminate this as a possible cause of the symptoms.

Once other conditions have been eliminated, the vet will take a stool sample from your ferret to look for the parasite and confirm the giardiasis diagnosis. Either a fecal smear or fecal flotation test will be done on the sample to test for the parasite. However, not every stool sample will contain the parasite. It’s possible that the vet will have to take multiple samples before finding the parasite. 

Treatment of Giardiasis in Ferrets

If your ferret has been diagnosed with giardiasis, treatment will begin right away. It’s possible that the vet will diagnose your ferret with giardiasis even if he has not seen any parasites in the stool sample. This only happens when there are no other known causes of the symptoms and the vet has a reason to believe the tests are inaccurate.

The vet will prescribe medication that will help eliminate the parasite from your ferret’s body. These medications can be administered at home for a period of one week. The vet may also thoroughly wash your ferret before allowing him to go home with you so he can remove any other parasites that may be on his skin or hiding in his fur.

In most cases, your ferret will be sent home with you after being diagnosed. But, some ferrets may suffer from complications including dehydration, which can occur because of diarrhea. If your ferret is experiencing severe dehydration, the vet may need to keep him until he has regained his strength. Your ferret will receive fluids via an IV that will quickly rehydrate him. Once he is in stable condition, he will be released to you.

Recovery of Giardiasis in Ferrets

Most ferrets will make a full recovery from parasitic diarrhea. To help your ferret recover, it’s important to follow the vet’s instructions closely and administer all medication as needed. You will also need to continuously bathe the ferret to ensure he remains clean and does not become infected again. The vet may ask that you clean your ferret’s bedding and toys so everything in his environment is sterile and free from parasites.

Keep your ferret away from other animals that could be infected with parasitic diarrhea. If you have other animals in your home, you should take them to the veterinarian for testing as soon as possible. 

Your vet will ask that you bring your ferret back into the office for additional tests after treatment. At this time, the vet will take more stool samples to test for the parasite. If the parasite is still present, more medication may be prescribed.