Giardia is an unicellular parasite that causes giardiasis. This is a contagious disease which can be transmitted from animal to animal through fecal-oral route. Cats get infected by drinking water contaminated with infected cysts and also while grooming.
Once the infected cysts enter the cat's intestines, they release two types of trophozoites. These trophozoites are in active form and start reproducing in the intestine. The cats get rid of the infected cysts while passing feces. These cysts can survive for a longer period in water.
The incubation period for giardia in cats is around two weeks. The symptoms of this infection include dehydration, green diarrhea, flatulence and bloating, stomach upset, vomiting, abdominal distention, stool covered in mucus, green colored stool, loss of appetite, and weakness. Kittens and cats having weak immune system are more susceptible to this infection. Due to weakness, you may notice changes in cat's behavior.
Stool samples are often tested for diagnosing this condition. For a complete diagnosis, three samples of stool are to be diagnosed for a period of seven to ten days. There are two methods by which infected cysts are detected. They are by fecal flotation and by the help of fecal smears. The latter one can detect the presence of active trophozoites.
The diagnosis shows the movement of the trophozoites in watery stool and the cysts are seen in hard stools. Another efficient method of diagnosing this condition is the ELIZA method. It is a costly method and should be done in a good laboratory.
Since this infection is caused by parasites, anti-parasitic drugs are mostly prescribed for the affected cats. Metronidazole, which is commonly called Fragyl, an oral antibiotic is often prescribed for treating giardiasis. Some other medicines that may be prescribed include fenbendazole and furazolidone. Pet owners who do not want to give strong antibiotics to their cats may choose an alternative of homeopathic treatments. Make sure that your cat drinks a lot of water. This is to prevent dehydration.
Measures must be taken to prevent your pet from catching this infection. Clean your pet's feet and paws with a cat-safe shampoo. If your cat is suffering from diarrhea, make sure you clean the anal area of your cat regularly. As a pet owner, you should take certain preventive steps by covering your mouth with a clean cloth thereby preventing entry of infected water to the mouth or nose. Clean the common pet areas by using cleaning agents like bleach.
Keep your cat healthy by giving proper food. Do take your cat for frequent check ups. A giardia infestation in cats can be cured completely, if proper medication is given on time.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.