Giardia is a microscopic parasite that causes the diarrheal illness known as giardiasis. Giardia is found in the environment – on surfaces or in soil, food, or water that has been contaminated with faeces (poop) from infected animals.
Giardia is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and makes it tolerant to chlorine disinfection. While the parasite can be spread in different ways, soil and water is the most common mode of transmission.
What is Giardia?
Giardiasis is a diarrheal disease caused by the microscopic parasite Giardia. A parasite is an organism that feeds off of another to survive. Once a person or animal has been infected with Giardia, the parasite lives in the intestines and is passed in faeces (poop). Once outside the body, Giardia can sometimes survive for weeks or months. Giardia can be found within every county of Ireland and around the world.
Your dog or cat might get infected by:
Young pets, like puppies and kittens, have a higher risk of illness than adult dogs and cats.
Anything that comes into contact with faeces (poop) from infected animals can become contaminated with the Giardia parasite. These parasites are extremely resilient and will remain in the environment even after the faeces have been picked up.
It is not possible to become infected through contact with blood.
What is the risk of human transmission?
The risk of humans acquiring Giardia infection from dogs or cats is small. Good personal hygiene is essential. Always wash your hands before and after handling the animal or belongings (toys, bowls, bedding etc). Do not allow them to lick your face. Pick up any faeces immedintaly and wash hand thoroughly afterwards. The exact type of Giardia that infects humans is usually not the same type that infects dogs and cats.