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Giardia are protozoans (single celled organisms) and are commonly found in the intestines of cats and dogs.   Giardiasis is the intestinal disease caused by this parasite.   Giardia is found in soil, water or surfaces that have contaminated with the faeces of infected animals.  

The symptoms are usually diarrhoea, sometimes vomiting, listlessness and poor appetite, and this may lead to weight loss and dehydration, especially in young animals.   These signs are also associated with other diseases of the intestinal tract, therefore, positive identification of these organisms is an important aspect of a thorough patient workup.   Symptoms normally begin 1 – 2weeks after becoming infected.

Diagnosis is confirmed by finding the cysts in faeces.   A negative reading does not rule out Giardia.   Because cysts are only passed periodically, several faecal tests may be necessary to diagnose this condition.

Treatment consists of antiprotozoal drugs which your veterinarian will prescribe for your pet.   The choice of drug, the dose rate and the length of treatment will depend on the severity of the infection.   All infected animals should be treated, whether or not they show clinical signs.

Most streams on the North Shore may contain giardia.   Kittens and puppies are more susceptible than adult animals, however, those that have been infected with giardia, and are now free of disease, can still be carriers of the disease.   It is potentially transmissible to humans, so good hygiene precautions should be observed when handling affected animals.

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