Sunrise Pet Clinic: Educational Information

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What is Giardia and how is it transmitted?

Giardia is a protozoan; tiny, one-celled parasitic life forms, with the potential to cause serious illness. Cysts (the inactive form) are passed into the environment when an infected dog defecates and are found in contaminated water and fecal matter. Once ingested, the cysts open and discharge the mobile form known as the trophozoite. Direct contact can also result in contamination, especially with dogs that are shedding the cyst but show no signs. Try and keep your pet away from stagnant water sources by providing fresh water at frequent intervals.

Am I at risk for Giardia?
Giardia is a zoonotic condition, zoonotic to mean that it infects several species of animals, including humans. Due to the zoonotic properties of Giardia, proper sanitation is important when caring for your dogs. Pet owners should always wash their hands after cleaning dog runs or removing feces from yards; babies and toddlers should be kept away from animal waste in general but particularly waste from any dog with diarrhea. Infected yards should be thoroughly disinfected; ammonia and bleach are effective decontamination agents.

What are the signs of Giardia?
Active Giardia interferes with the absorption of food and in some dogs produces feces that are soft, oftentimes light-colored, and greasy with or without flatulence, while other dogs present with acute (sudden) explosive diarrhea.

How can I find out if my dog has Giardia?
Cysts, the inactive form of Giardia, are shed intermittently in the stool, thus they are often times missed using standard testing methods. The laboratory enlisted by Sunrise Pet Clinic uses the ELISA technology for fecal testing; this test is more sensitive as it detects Giardia proteins found in the feces. Having cysts in the environment can trigger an outbreak in people as well as their pets, therefore Sunrise Pet Clinic recommends annual fecal checks as part of your pets routine health screening. A fresh fecal sample, of sufficient quantity, will be sent to the lab with results in 24-48 hours.

The ELISA test is positive for Giardia, now what?
There are several treatment plans, which your veterinarian will provide for you. Both are effective and will be based on your pets age, weight and presenting symptoms.

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