Health & Wellness
An outdoor cat has the opportunity to explore uncharted territory, but their time spent outdoors puts them at a greater risk of contracting infections. Giardiasis, for example, is an infection caused by the giardia parasite, which can survive for several months in contaminated water and soil (like a puddle your cat may be interested in drinking from), Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch by The Dodo’s on-staff veterinarian, says.
If your cat contracts giardia, try not to stress — there are ways you can manage this infection at home, Dr. McCullough tells The Dig. Here’s everything you need to know about how giardia can impact cats and what you can do to help your best friend feel better.
Not to get too technical, but giardia is a protozoa, aka a microscopic animal with thread-like structures that allows it to swim, Dr. McCullough explains. Basically, giardia causes an infection in pets called giardiasis, which is transmitted from contaminated soil, water or food.
Giardia is fairly contagious between cats — exposure usually happens through contact with an infected cat’s stool after it’s deposited in their litter box or the environment in which they do their business. The good news: giardia rarely affects people, but it’s still important to wash your hands after interacting with a sick cat or gardening around potentially contaminated soil, Dr. McCullough says.
“Good hygiene is the most important way pet parents can protect themselves from an infected cat,” Dr. McCullough says. “Pet parents should dispose of pet waste immediately and clean their cat's back end to remove any stool that may be attached to the fur.”
Cleaning your home is another way to control the spread of giardiasis. “Hard surfaces, like patios and sidewalks can be disinfected with a 1-part chlorine bleach to a 32-part water solution,” Dr. McCullough adds. Just make sure your pet doesn’t get into this mixture!
According to Dr. McCullough, symptoms of giardiasis in cats are typically mild and usually cause diarrhea and abdominal pain. But, not all infected cats show signs, which can make it challenging to know if your pet is sick.
Young cats are most at risk of giardiasis because of their immature immune systems and general curiosity — but that doesn’t mean cats of all ages can’t catch it. If your pet starts showing signs of infection, take them to the vet for a fecal test and recommended treatments, Dr. McCullough says.
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Giardia treatments are pretty standard, but you should always talk to your vet to confirm a cat’s treatment plan. “Veterinarians treat giardiasis in cats with oral medications, such as common dewormers and antibiotics, that can also treat giardia,” Dr. McCullough says.
Recovery time is based on the severity of your cat’s infection. Some giardiasis infections are resistant to treatment and may require multiple therapies, Dr. McCullough explains. Cats without giardiasis symptoms often recover without treatment, she adds.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any remedies for curing a cat’s symptomatic giardiasis infection at home. Always talk to your veterinarian about the proper treatment plan for your pet.
Dr. McCullough reminds us that the best way to prevent giardiasis in cats is to practice good hygiene and to monitor your cats while they’re playing in soil or around water.
Photo by Kevin PETIT on Unsplash