The practice of veterinary medicine is always changing. New medications, surgical techniques and diagnostic tests change with the times. Even the basic stool analysis for internal parasites has changed. For years, we did a simple fecal flotation, which is not very accurate compared with current laboratory techniques.
Recently, many practitioners have begun sending stool samples to a reference laboratory for analysis. Labs test not only for internal parasite eggs but also for the parasite Giardia, a protozoa that can cause diarrhea in pets. If Giardia is found, there are several options on medication to prescribe.
For a pet with diarrhea and Giardia, we usually use Panacur, a commonly used worm medication, or metronidazole (Flagyl), a frequently used antibiotic. Sometimes we use them together.
Stool samples are useful for routine annual physical exams. Some boarding kennels require one prior to admission to be sure parasites are not passed on to other pets.
The incidence of Giardia varies with locality. It is estimated that 10 percent of household dogs can be positive for Giardia. For puppies, 30-50 percent can test positive. Dogs who have been in a commercial kennel situation often test positive for exposure.
Although humans can be frequently infected with Giardia, it is thought that dogs, cats and humans each have different types of this parasite. I am not aware that transmission from pets to people is a problem.
Do not be surprised if your well-cared for dog or cat is diagnosed and treated for Giardia. The parasite is quite common, and treatment is usually successful. Pets with frequent diarrhea should have their stools checked. Sometimes multiple samples have to be taken. Be sure to ask if testing for Giardia is included in your pet's stool analysis.
Lawrence Gerson is a veterinarian and founder of the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. His biweekly column is intended to educate pet owners. Consultation with a veterinarian is necessary to diagnose and treat individual pets. If you have a question you'd like addressed in Pet Points, email email@example.com. Please include your name and municipality or neighborhood.