Giardia… YOU can get it from your pet!

Hello! Today I will be talking all about Giardia! Remember its something YOU and YOUR PET can get!!

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Me with a fecal cup for stool!

Giardia is the genus of a protozoan parasite that is infectious to BOTH humans and pets all over the world.  Giardia consists of flagellates, which mean they move by means of several whip-like structures called flagella. They live as a form called a trophozoite, or “troph” for short, in the intestine where they cause diarrhea. In fresh fecal samples, trophozoites can sometimes be captured. They swim around in a motion described as a falling leaf and appear as a funny face (see picture below – the two nuclei form the eyes and median bodies form the mouth).

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When stained, the Giardiaorganism appears to have a funny face.

After a short period of time outside the host’s intestine, the trophozoites round up and form cysts that enable them to survive environmental conditions without a host to protect them. The cyst can live for many months with two incompletely formed trophozoites inside, ready to infect a new host. Contaminated water is the classical source of a Giardia infection.

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Prime reason to test your dog for Giardia… Kisses!

After infection, it takes 5 to 12 days in dogs or 5 to 16 days in cats for Giardia to be found in the host’s stool. Diarrhea can precede the shedding of Giardia.  Infection is more common in kennel situations where animals are housed in groups.After it has been swallowed, the cyst shell is digested away, freeing the two trophozoites that go forth and attach on the intestinal lining. The troph has a structure called a ventral disc, which is sort of like a suction cup and is used to attach the organism’s body to the intestine. If the troph wants to move to another spot, it lifts itself up and swims to a new spot via its flagella (trophs tend to live in different intestinal areas in different host species depending the host’s diet). The troph may round itself up and form a cyst while still inside the host’s body. If the host has diarrhea, both trophs and cysts may be shed in the diarrhea; either form can be found in fresh stool.

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How Does Giardia Cause Diarrhea?

No one is completely sure but infection seems to cause problems with normal intestinal absorption of vitamins and other nutrients. Diarrhea is generally not bloody. Immune-suppressive medications such as corticosteroids can re-activate an old Giardia infection.

 

Diagnosis

In the past, diagnosis was difficult. The stool sample being examined needed to be fresh, plus Giardia rarely show up on the usual fecal flotation testing methods used to detect other parasites. Traditionally, a fecal sample is mixed in a salt or sugar solution such that any parasite eggs present will float to the top within 10 to15 minutes.  Some tricks that have been used to facilitate finding Giardia include:

  • Being sure to examine a direct smear of the fecal sample in hope of finding swimming trophs.
  • Floating the sample in zinc sulfate, a solution that has been found superior in getting Giardia cysts to float.
  • Staining the sample with some sort of iodine under the microscope to make the Giardia show up easier.

What has made Giardia testing infinitely easier is the development of a commercial ELISA test kit, which is similar in format to home pregnancy test kits. A fecal sample is tested immunologically for Giardiaproteins. This method has dramatically improved the ability to detect Giardia infections and the test can be completed in just a few minutes while the owner waits.

Giardia shed organisms intermittently and may be difficult to detect. Sometimes pets must be retested in order to find an infection.

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Sample of Giardia positive test result

 

Treatment

A broad spectrum dewormer called fenbendazole (Panacur®) seems to be the most reliable treatment at this time. Metronidazole (Flagyl®) in relatively high doses has been a classical treatment for Giardia but studies show it to only be effective in 67% of cases. The high doses required to treat Giardia also have been known to result in temporary neurologic side effects or upset stomach. For some resistant cases, both medications are used concurrently. Febantel is also commonly used for Giardia as it is converted to fenbendazole in the body.

Because cysts can stick to the fur of the infected patient and be a source for re-infection, the positive animal should be bathed at least once in the course of treatment.

Not all patients with Giardia actually have diarrhea but because Giardia is the most common intestinal parasite affecting humans in North America, treatment is generally recommended for the pet who tests positive even if no symptoms are seen. The idea is to reduce human exposure.

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Environmental Decontamination

The most readily available effective disinfectant is probably bleach diluted 1:32 in water, which in one study required less than one minute of contact to kill Giardia cysts. Organic matter such as dirt or stool is protective to the cyst, so on a concrete surface basic cleaning should be done prior to disinfection. Animals should be thoroughly bathed before being reintroduced into a “clean” area. A properly chlorinated swimming pool should not be able to become contaminated.  As for areas with lawn or plants, decontamination will not be possible without killing the plants and allowing the area to dry out in direct sunlight.

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Bath time to get clean!

There you have it! If you think your dog might have Giardia call to schedule an appointment today! 385-414-2188!

Straight from The Dog’s Mouth,

Love, Sequoia

Struvite Crystals… Pesky Buggers

What causes Struvite crystals?

Struvite crystals are also known as magnesium ammonium phosphate crystals, The causes of struvite crystals include extremely alkaline urine (often from a biologically inappropriate diet), high steroid use, abnormal retention of urine, a urinary tract infection, or another disorder of the urinary tract.

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Crystals under the microscope

Symptoms of Struvite Crystals

Some pets with show no symptoms, but common symptoms include frequent urination, straining to urinate, an abnormal urinary stream (for example, the dog lifts his leg and maybe a few drops come out, and then a few drops more), urinating in inappropriate places (especially if it’s an indoor kitty), cloudy or bloody urine, and oftentimes, increased thirst.

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Treating Crystals

The first thing to do for a pet with crystals to create a healthy urine pH that is neither too acidic nor too alkaline. A pH of 7 is neutral. Everything above 7 is alkaline, and everything below 7 is acidic.

Dogs and cats, as carnivores, should have a slightly acidic urine pH, optimally between 6 and 6.5. We want to maintain the urine pH at no more than 7, because a higher pH will predispose the animal to developing struvite crystals.

Some pets are genetically predisposed to producing a protein called cauxin, which is excreted into the urine, causing sterile crystals or sterile struvite crystalluria. This means the crystals can form without the presence of infection. These animals are very prone to chronic cystitis, as these sharp crystals cause microtrauma to the lining of the bladder that results in discomfort and irritation.

To reduce urine pH – which is the goal in most struvite situations – you must feed your pet a Veterinary Prescription food like Royal Canin Urinary S/O.

Creating more dilute urine by offering a moisture-rich diet is critical to avoiding a recurrence of crystals. A species-appropriate diet in combination with infection management is often effective at dissolving struvite crystals, but it can take a few weeks to several months for the crystals to completely disappear.

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Crystal formation chart

Why is it important to treat for struvite crystals?

If left untreated, struvite crystals will aggregate and form struvite stones. These stones can become lodged in the urethra or the ureters (the tubes that connect the kidney to the bladder). In most cases, the stones must be removed surgically along with any stones that don’t dissolve despite dietary changes and medical management.

Surgery to remove a bladder stone is known as cystotomy. Depending on the patient and the location and size of the stone, there are some other less invasive procedures that might be appropriate. These include a technique called laser lithotripsy that breaks down stones into smaller pieces that can then be voided out, and a procedure called voiding urohydropropulsion, which is a technique that involves manually expressing stones out through the urethra while the patient is sedated.

If your pet has been diagnosed with struvite crystals or stones, it’s imperative that you continue treatment until the condition is resolved, and then incorporate a proactive prevention plan to avoid recurrence.

A urinalysis should be completed monthly until all the crystals are dissolved and then every six months to ensure your pet isn’t brewing additional crystals or stones

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Me hoping I don’t end up in the dog house with crystals in my urine!!

To make sure your furry friend like me doesn’t get urinary crystals, you can take precautionary steps to avoid them, like giving your dog filtered water!

There you have it!

Straight from The Dog’s Mouth,

Love, Sequoia