Giardia in Cats

Giardia in cats is often an asymptomatic disease caused by an intestinal parasite. Giardia can live in the intestines of cats, dogs or humans and may be transmitted from pets to humans and vice-versa. The parasite will affect the cat’s immune system and the pet can become susceptible to secondary diseases. Once detected, giardia can be easily treated.

Symptoms of Giardia

Commonly, a cat infected with giardia will not display any symptoms. The symptoms may be present in kittens, senior cats or cats with a weaker immune system.

The symptoms of giardia in cats include:

  • Diarrhea that is lighter in color than usual, is extremely liquid, contains traces of fat and has a foul odor
  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Fever
  • Susceptibility to diseases, when the cat has been infected for long, as the parasites will weaken the immune system

Also, cats that have a high number of parasites may often display symptoms of the disease.

Often, in asymptomatic cats, the giardia is detected during a routine veterinary checkup.

Transmission of Giardia

Giardia is a zoonotic disease, so if your pet is infected, you can get the parasite too.

Giardia can exist in 2 forms:

  • Cysts containing trophozoites; the cysts are protected by a layer of cells, which makes the cyst resistant to extreme temperatures and household chemicals, being able to thrive in a suitable environment for up to a month
  • Trophozoites; the parasites live in the small intestine of the cat and it divides and reproduces and some organisms are eliminated through feces.

Giardia is transmitted through cysts which can be present in the cat’s feces, but also in contaminated soil and water.

Giardia may also be transmitted from mother to kittens.

Diagnosing Giardia

Due to the fact that giardia often presents no symptoms in cats, the vet may accidentally discover the parasite during a checkup. The feces of an infected cat contain the cysts but not all the time. Several feces samples are needed to detect giardia.

There are also some tests that can be performed to find giardia antigens in the feces samples.

Treating Giardia

Once detected, giardia can be eliminated within a week. The typical treatment for cats with giardia is metronidazole, which is a medication that will not kill the parasites, but will help the cat eliminate all the trophozoites. Alternatively, the cat can get fenbendazole. The latter treatment option is also more recommended for pregnant and lactating cats.

It is important to clean the environment and make sure you wear gloves when you handle the feces of your pet.

Prevention of Giardia

A clean house and a proper hygiene for your cat can prevent giardia. A cat may ingest contaminated feces when he’s outside, so indoor cats are less exposed to giardia.

You can administrate cures of metronidazole to keep your cat healthy. The medication has no major side effects.

If your cat has been infected with giardia, you should get some treatment too.