Giardia in Maine Coon cats: symptoms and treatment

6 August 2022

Giardiasis in cats is a parasitic disease, the causative agent of which are flagellated protists parasitizing in the small intestine. These organisms can have two types of existence: in the form of trophozoites – actively moving organisms that live only in moist intestinal conditions, and in the form of cysts – more stable in the environment and protected by a shell of resting forms of parasites. Trophozoites can pass into the state of cysts in the large intestine, then stand out with feces and travel for a long time in the surrounding world before re-infection or infection with a new host.

Symptoms of giardiasis in Maine Coi and other cat breeds

One of the main symptoms of giardiasis is chronic diarrhea and vomiting. Trophozoites, attaching to the wall of the small intestine, interfere with the absorption of nutrients through the wall, which leads to poor digestion of food, poor absorption of fluid and nutrients. In addition, the animal’s immunity actively reacts to foreign organisms in the intestine, which leads to rapid detachment, death of intestinal cells, and increased intestinal motility. Not fully digested material enters the colon from the small intestine, as a result of which a high fat content may also be observed in the analysis of feces, stool may have a specific odor, have mucus impurities, less often blood.

However, often animals infected with giardiasis do not show any clinical signs, since their immunity is able to fight parasites and maintain the normal functioning of the digestive tract. Approximately 15-20% of stray cats are infected with giardiasis, but do not have any symptoms and quietly exist with this disease.

Ways of infection of cats with giardiasis

In addition to homeless animals, the source of infection with giardiasis can be simple tap water. Giardia cysts are very stable in the environment and they can only be destroyed with the help of chlorine-containing disinfectants. But the concentration of chlorine may not be high enough to kill all the parasites.

Diagnosis of giardiasis in cats

  1. Native smear. This is a smear of feces on a laboratory glass with the addition of a drop of saline. Under a microscope, moving trophozoites can be seen in fresh feces (which were stored no longer than 2 hours). However, only fresh and liquid feces are given for such an analysis. If the stool is decorated, it means that trophozoites either die in the large intestine, being destroyed by microflora, or they turn into cysts. And there is no point in examining such feces with a native smear.
  2. Painting the smear with different solutions (Lugol or Romanovsky-Gimza). This method does not require haste and is used to search for non-living trophozoites or cysts.
  3. Flotation method. This is a method when part of the feces is mixed with a solution of zinc sulfate, as a result of which cysts are collected in a thin film on the surface of the material. This film is further examined with a microscope.
  4. Express tests. Express tests are antigen tests, with the help of which a diagnosis can be made in 10-15 minutes without resorting to microscopy. The material is dripped onto the test field, where a chemical reaction occurs, resulting in a positive or negative result (as with pregnancy tests, for example).
  5. PCR. PCR is a polymerase chain reaction, the task of which is to search for the DNA of the parasite in the test material. PCR makes it possible to identify even the group affiliation of the protist, however, it can give a false negative result and requires expensive reagents.

Treatment of giardiasis

The most effective treatment of giardiasis in cats is with Metronidazole, a course of 5-7 days. However, Metronidazole may have a side effect in the form of a metallic taste in the mouth, as a result of which the cat may refuse to eat. A veterinary specialist should warn the owner about this and recommend force-feeding in such a situation. The more fluids and food the cat receives forcibly, the faster this effect will pass.

In addition to Metronidazole, Tinidazole can also be used, a course for 7-10 days.


When treating an animal, it is important to fully comply with the course and regime of giving prescribed medications, otherwise the effectiveness of treatment will not be guaranteed. In addition, to prevent over-infection, it is recommended to treat the cat’s tray, bowls, apartment with chlorine-containing disinfectants. Drinking water should not be drawn from the tap, to prevent contact with stray animals, it is recommended only to keep a cat at home.

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