Giardia is a protozoan parasite
that lives in the intestine of affected
animals. It is unclear whether there are several species of this parasite
or whether there is one species that affect several different animals,
including people. These small parasites are very easy to miss on a fecal
exam and may not be present in the stool of animals infected with the organism.
Repeated fecal exams are sometimes necessary to identify this parasite.
Not all animals in which infection can be demonstrated have clinical signs.
This leads some people to believe that the parasite may not cause disease
. Most vets think that there may just be other factors, like the animal's
immune response to the parasite that cause some animals to develop disease
and not others. Clinical signs of giardia
include weight loss, inability
to gain weight appropriately during growth, diarrhea
, vomiting, lack of
appetite and greasy appearing stools. Them most commonly used medication
for giardia infection is metronidazole (Flagyl). The organisms come from
the environment and live in moist to wet areas. They are susceptible to
quatenary ammonium disinfectants, Lysol and dilute chlorine bleach. Keeping
the dog's environment dry helps a lot.
This disease may be contagious to people from infected dogs so good
sanitary practices, like washing your hands after handling an infected
puppy, are very important. If a family member develops similar clinical
signs, a physician should be consulted.