Giardiasis is the name of the disease caused by the intestinal parasite known as Giardia. Giardia is a protozoan parasite, a one-celled organism, that can infect dogs, cats, people and other animals.
Giardiasis is considered to be a zoonoses, a disease that can be passed from pets to people. It is a common water-borne disease and can also be food-borne as well.
How Do Pets Get Giardiasis?
The most common means of infection is drinking water that is contaminated with Giardia cysts. This may be a lake, a puddle at the dog park, tap water from a well source, or any other source of contaminated water.
Less often, pets can become infected through ingestion of contaminated food, through contact with feces from other dogs or cats that are infected or through contact with contaminated objects.
How Do People Become Infected?
People most often become infected from drinking from a contaminated water source in much the same way that dogs and cats can become infected. Infection can also occur by putting a contaminated object in your mouth or through ingestion of feces from an infected person or animal. Infection by eating contaminated food is also possible.
Protect Your Family and Your Pets from Giardia
There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of becoming infected with Giardia.
- Practice good hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly and frequently. Wash your hands after handling animals. Teach your children to do this also.
- Always wash your hands before handling food and before eating.
- Cook your food thoroughly before eating.
- Be cautious drinking from water sources that may be contaminated. If in doubt, use bottled water for drinking or boil the water before drinking.
- Do not swallow water while swimming.
- Wash all vegetables and fruits thoroughly before eating.
- Do not recycle pet waste for use as fertilizer for gardens and lawns. Do not discard of litter box waste or dog feces in your garden or lawn.