‘Difficult to diagnose’ parasite causes dog, cat bowel issues

Ask the Vet

Q: “Penny,” my yellow Lab, had diarrhea for a couple of weeks. I took her to the vet last week, and I was told she had a parasite called Giardia. I’ve had dogs all my life, but this is a new one for me. Where would Penny get this parasite? R.D., Lenoir City

A: While Giardia is certainly not the most common parasite we see in dogs and cats, we do find Giardia occasionally. The parasite is found in the environment after being shed in the feces. The infectious stage of Giardia can live outside for a few months if the weather is cool and damp. It is likely that Penny licked standing water, contaminated soil or infected stool while outside. It is also possible for Giardia cysts to adhere to fur and then be licked off.

Giardia can be difficult to diagnose, as it is not always visible on a typical stood sample test. Specialized testing is often required if Giardia is suspected. Penny will have oral treatments that you will give at home, and you veterinarian will ask you to bring a stool sample back later to ensure that the Giardia has been eliminated.

Giardia is rarely zoonotic, which means transmissible from pets to people. Even so, prompt clean-up of bowel movements from the yard and handwashing are recommended.

Best of luck to Penny. We hope she is feeling better soon.

If you have questions about your pet, you may e-mail Dr. Myers at lenoircityac@gmail.com