What is Giardia intestinalis?

Giardia is a common single-celled parasite that lives in the intestinal lining and can disrupt the normal functioning of the intestine.


Incubation period?

From the time the infection is picked up, it takes about a week before cysts can be detected in the stool.
Symptoms often come later, if they come at all, a cat may not have any symptoms at all.

What are the symptoms of Giardia?

Symptoms appear in the form of recurrent diarrhoea, weight loss (rare) and sometimes vomiting, especially in young cats where there are many cats.

The parasite often behaves as an opportunist, i.e. symptoms can appear in connection with stress, sudden feed changes or intestinal disturbances for other reasons.
As an opportunist, it takes the chance to reproduce when the cat's immune system is impaired for some reason.
Giardia occurs in both healthy and sick cats, and the cats can thus have giardia without having any symptoms whatsoever.
Giardia in itself rarely causes any weight loss.,

When the parasite comes out of the cat, a change takes place where it goes from its mobile form (trophozoite) to a form of cyst that is protected by a slightly thicker shell, it can then survive in the environment a little longer.

Above all, it is common for kittens to excrete cysts of Giardia in their feces.
These cysts are hardy and can survive for several months in a moist and cool environment, for example 1-3 months in 10°C water and 2 months in soil that is 4°C.

However, like other parasites, Giardia is sensitive to heat and dehydration. In a dry, warm home, you can expect the cysts to survive for a week or so.
If you close off a space (with normal room temperature), so that the cats do not have access to it for two weeks. Can you be sure that after this time the space is completely free of giardia.
If you need to clean something that is not easy to wash, you can therefore make sure to close these things in a room with normal or higher than normal room temperature for two weeks.

Freezing also kills the cysts, how long it takes depends on how low the temperature is. At -20°C the cysts die within a week.
The cysts are resistant to several disinfectants so mechanical cleaning is most important in decontamination.


What kills Giardia?
What applies is mechanical cleaning, i.e. mop with ordinary cleaning agent such as soap.
Steam cleaning can help with remediation.
Wash textiles at 60° C. Don't forget traps, beds, pillows, stuffed animals, carpets, sofa covers and more that the cat has come into contact with.
You can also put things in "quarantine" for two weeks to allow the giardia cysts to dry out and die.
However, make sure it is normal room temperature and a normally dry environment.


Is Giardia contagious to other cats?

Yes, Giardia is contagious, the cysts can be transmitted via the immediate environment if cysts are there.
As well as direct transmission, i.e. the cysts in infected faeces are taken up via the mouth, for example when the cats lick each other.

Ten cysts are enough for infection.
But also remember that a cat that ingests giardia cysts is able to get rid of them on its own under the right conditions.
It is when the number of cysts builds up in places where the cats like to sleep or move and they then ingest more and more cysts that it can eventually become too much and there is an outbreak with symptoms. A few cysts that the cat ingests and in an environment where the cat is free from stress and kept will usually heal on their own.

Can cats give Giardia to humans?
The extent to which infected cats can transmit infection to humans is debated.
Giardia intestinalis is divided into different so-called genotypes or assemblages where cats usually have the cat-specific one that is not zoonotic, F.
What percentage of cats have Giardia?
About 30 percent of healthy kittens carry Giardia without showing any symptoms.

How is Giardia treated?
In the first instance, fenbendazole treatment 50 mg/kg body weight (Axilur) once daily for three to five days is recommended.
Many times it may be necessary to give Axilur for 5 days, then have a break of three days and then again give 5 days and sometimes it may be necessary to repeat after 2 weeks.

Alternatively, one can treat with human medicine containing metronidazole, 25 mg/kg body weight (Flagyl) twice daily for five to seven days.
On the last day of treatment, it is an advantage if the treated group can be moved to a thoroughly cleaned environment, preferably after previous shampooing of the coat.

The recommendation of fenbendazole as the first choice is based on a shorter duration of treatment and fewer side effects than with the second choice metronidazole.
This especially applies to young cats. In the literature, there are several treatment proposals and dosages.
Affected cats should contact their veterinarian for assessment and choice of treatment.

ATTENTION! I am not a vet, I have no other evidence than words of praise from other breeders and that I myself have used with good success!
Unfortunately, due to healthy cats being treated over and over and over again, many cats, especially from abroad, have contracted Giardia, which is resistant above all to axilur, sometimes also Flagyl.
There is another very simple and effective medicine, however, I almost don't want to recommend it as I am worried about what will happen the day we have a litter of young individuals seriously affected by Giardia and we in our eagerness to "eradicate" an amoeba that has existed on earth since before man walked on two legs and in our attempts to have giardia-free catteries instead made Giardia resistant to just about every medicine available, what do we do then, I wonder.
Well the medicine I'm talking about is a medicine for TriTrichomonas in pigeons (NOTE there is NO point trying to treat TriTrichomonas in cats with it, it won't work), it takes Giardia in cats very effectively. Even very young kittens can be treated, kittens as young as 2 weeks old have been successfully treated.

Pantrix alt. Gambamix (10 mg Carnidazole per tablet): 1 tablet per 500 g of the cat's body weight (Pantrix are smaller but difficult to dissolve in liquid, Gambamix are larger but very easily soluble).
The exact dose is important for small kittens, so weigh the kittens to the nearest gram and dose so that you get the most accurate dosage possible.

Treatment schedule:
If the giardia outbreak is new and not previously treated with other medication, a single dose is sufficient in the vast majority of cases.
If you want to be absolutely sure, treat on day 1 and 6, i.e. twice.
In cases where the giardia outbreak has lasted for a long time or has previously been treated with Axilur or Flagyl, you should take medication on days 1, 3, and 6.

At a lot! severe attack with severe diarrhoea, the following schedule is used:
Give medication for three consecutive days, then take a six-day break, then give medication for two consecutive days, take another six-day break, and finally give another final dose. 
However, this treatment regimen should really only be reserved for very severe cases.
A cat that lives alone in a shelter and does not have serious symptoms does not need to be treated, it will heal on its own.

Recommendation for remediation of the environment in connection with Giardia?
  • Treatment + shampooing of the animals in question
  • Mechanical cleaning daily during treatment: scrub surfaces thoroughly to remove all remains of faeces, use for example soap and water.
    Allow to dry thoroughly. To avoid cleaning an entire home, rooms can be closed off for 1-2 weeks so that any cysts dry and die.
  • Wash textiles, such as sleeping mats and blankets in the washing machine at 60°C, let dry. Things that cannot be washed can perhaps be put in the freezer at -20°C for a week.
  • Wash food and water bowls in a dishwasher if you have one, let dry. Otherwise wash by hand and let dry, change the food and water bowl daily preferably more often.
  • Underfloor heating and/or a sauna can be used to raise the temperature and dry items that cannot be washed in a machine.
  • Remove faeces as often as possible, i.e. empty the boxes as often as possible.

In case of more extensive problems, the following may be relevant

  • Steam wash (100 degrees for one minute) followed by thorough drying.
  • Disinfectant for surfaces when they are cleaned and dry: Chlorine. In terms of experience, it has been shown that even Virkon can kill Giardia, however there is no documentation for this.
How can I prevent Giardia??

The three most important points to protect cats from infection:

  1. Establish quarantine for new cats entering the cattery.
  2. Limit the total number of cats in the cattery and establish smaller groups of cats without mutual contact.
  3. Have many litter boxes. According to the Swedish Agricultural Agency's animal welfare regulations, there must be at least one litter box per two cats. Clean them daily.


Finally compilation Giardia?
Treat primarily with Axilur (fenbendazole), 3-5 days. Keep in mind that a cat that is very loose in its stomach will re-infect itself to a much higher degree than a cat that is firmly in its stomach.
Therefore, if the cat(s) are very affected, many times it may be necessary to give Axilur for 5 days, then have a break of three days and then again give 5 days and sometimes it may be necessary to repeat after 2 weeks, alternatively treat for 21 days in a row.

Give probiotics in connection with Axilur as Axiluren itself can cause loose stomach, so some form of probiotics is good to give.

If they have an upset stomach, it can be helpful to shave the fur around the bottom to reduce the amount of hair that feces can get stuck in.

Remember to change food and water bowls 1-2 times a day, especially the water bowl.

Keep toilet boxes very clean, remove faeces as often as possible.
Have as good a sand as possible, i.e. a sand that creates very hard lumps very quickly and thus also dries out the faeces very quickly. 

Try to divide the cats into smaller groups, preferably have a space that is allowed to be completely cat-free, where you can then move finished cats.

The self-tests today are often effective and can be advantageously used for random samples at home or to get a picture of whether the cats are free after treatment, remember to always wait at least a week before testing after finishing treatment. If the home tests are free, you can then send in a collective test (see test-taking instructions on SVA's website) to SVA for a final check. (SVA is for Sweden only but you probably got a lab in your country to send stool samples).
Remember that there is always a small risk of false negative test results.

Remember that it is not in the nature of the parasite's to kill its host!

A cat/kitten with giardia rarely shows symptoms such as emaciation or that they are otherwise unwell.
In cases where emaciation occurs, it is usually something secondary in the cat or in the environment that giardia can benefit from or that itself causes the symptoms without giardia's help.

The article has been read and corrected by a parasitologist (but not a veterinarian) from SVA to avoid inaccuracies up to this point in the article.
Some tips and advice that exist but that I don't feel I can really vouch for, I'm not saying that they don't work, or that they are in any way either harmful or not harmful. But just that I feel that there are not enough scientific facts or that there are other factors that make me personally not want to write them as a recommendation, but only as a suggestion that other breeders have tested or read.
But I still think it's worth mentioning them so that everyone can read for themselves and form their own opinion.

Silver Water - Decifying
In the drinking water, have also seen that in some cases it is given orally, have also seen and heard about where they sprayed e.g. furniture, buttocks and furs with silver water for its decifing properties, whether this has an effect or not and whether it is harmful to give oral or not, I have not been able to find out.

Ozone machine
This absolutely works, but the question here is whether it is worth it for the average person to run out and buy their own ozone machine.
This of course depends on how you live and what your conditions are, in an apartment, relatively normal villa, well the advantage is perhaps that you can kill in a few hours rather than 2 weeks, but the question is whether you have the possibility to use it, an open floor plan is clearly a problem and there are some safety regulations with the use of an Ozone machine.
If you live in an older house with high humidity, where it can also be difficult to clean and you have many small rooms rather than an open plan, certainly then an Ozone machine can be of great help to you. But like I said, everything is relative and you have to look at your own circumstances, whether it's worth rushing out and buying one or not.

Low-carbohydrate diet
There is some evidence that a low-carbohydrate diet helps the cat to have a good stomach and to get rid of Giardia.
Whether it is that the cat gets stuck in the stomach and the intestine can be treated more easily that does it, or whether the reduced carbohydrates somehow affect the Giardia is difficult to say.
But this is absolutely not something that hurts to try. There seems to be some information on this if you look, and many owners of cats with Giardia have experienced definite improvement from feeding a low carb diet.


By: Malin Sundqvist