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Giardiasis is a disease caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Giardia. This infection is very common in many species of wild and domestic animals including dogs, cats and humans. Giardiasis is rarely serious in healthy adult animals, and the parasites are sometimes discovered incidentally during routine fecal examinations. Young animals and pets in shelters are at an increased risk of developing this pet disease. 

How Giardiasis Affects Your Pet

Pets contract giardiasis by ingesting cysts shed in the feces of infected animals. Exposure can occur through direct contact with infected feces, contact with contaminated surfaces or drinking contaminated water. Once inside the body, the parasites multiply in the small intestine where they cause inflammation, decrease the absorptive ability of the small intestinal walls and reduce enzyme activity. After an incubation period of three to 10 days, the damage caused by the parasites often results in an acute illness characterized by diarrhea. If not treated, this pet health condition may become chronic. Chronic giardiasis can result in persistently soft feces, weight loss and intermittent bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. In most adult animals, this pet disease is mild. In puppies, kittens and animals with weakened immune systems, however, giardiasis can be much more severe. 

Common Symptoms of Giardiasis

Common symptoms of giardiasis in a pet include the following: Soft stools, Pale-colored stools, Gas, Mucous in the stool, Weight loss, Chronic intermittent diarrhea and Vomiting.

Treatments for Giardiasis

This pet disease is treated with anti-parasitic medications. In some cases, parasites are resistant to the initial treatment, so the treating veterinarian must try a different drug. Because the infection is contagious, all animals in households with infected pets should be treated for giardiasis. In very ill animals, including dehydrated pets, veterinarians must provide supportive care including fluid therapy, anti-nausea medications and any other treatments necessary to control symptoms. In addition to medicating infected animals, pet owners need to practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of these parasites. This involves disposing of feces quickly and cleaning contaminated surfaces. Cleaners effective against cysts include boiling water, steam and products containing quaternary ammonia compounds. For maximum efficacy, disinfectants should be allowed to settle on contaminated surfaces for 10 minutes or longer. In addition, contaminated surfaces should be dried thoroughly after cleaning because cysts survive best in moist environments. Grassy areas cannot be effectively disinfected and are considered contaminated for a month after infected animals have had access to them.

Breeds Affected

Members of all canine and feline breeds are susceptible to giardiasis. Young animals are especially vulnerable.

Pet Insurance

When adding a dog or cat to your family you want to make sure your pet is happy, healthy and protected. During its lifetime your pet is exposed to many illnesses and diseases and some breeds are affected by a congenital disease which is a condition existing at birth. At these moments when your pet is ill or maybe needs surgery, you want to be protected for the unexpected and high veterinarian costs.

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