Giardiasis is a medical condition that refers to an intestinal infection caused by the protozoan parasite giardia, and this parasite can also infect animals, including cats. Giardia is the most common intestinal parasite found in humans.
Contamination can be from direct or indirect contact with the infected offspring(cysts), but typically, cats will acquire the infection by ingesting the infectious cysts that are shed by another animal through its feces. The organisms, once ingested, make their way into the intestine, often causing diarrhea. Treatment for this infection is usually performed on an outpatient basis with a good prognosis.
Symptoms and Types
Symptoms are more apparent in younger animals than in older animals and can be either sudden, temporary, intermittent, or chronic in nature. In some cases, cats will exhibit diarrhea that is soft, frothy, greasy, and with a strong, awful odor or excessivemucus.
One of the methods by which this parasite spreads is through the ingestion of infected fecal material, as the cysts are shed out of the intestines through the feces. But, the most common cause of transmission is actually waterborne, as the giardia parasite prefers cool and moist environments. Up to 100 percent of animals housed in kennels will develop this infection due to massive exposure and closely shared living spaces. In general, the prevalence of infection in cats is relatively low -- only 11 percent are diagnosed with the infection.
Your veterinarian will want to rule out other possibilities for the intestinal infection, such as improper digestion (maldigestion), unabsorbed nutrients (malabsorption), or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) prior to recommending a treatment option for your cat. Your veterinarian will also want to differentiate between giardia and other primary causes of large bowel diarrhea. A fecal smear is normally sufficient to test for their presence of the giardia parasite, since the organism is primarily detected in the feces, although it is possible to have a false positive result from the test.