Persistent or on-again/off-again cycles of diarrhea in a cat or a cattery situation can be caused by several possible parasites, however, the main three culprits to consider are:
Confirming The Diagnosis Of Giardia
Before any treatment is attempted for diarrhea in the cattery, it is essential to test for and confirm which parasite is causing the problem. The normal tests of stool floatation and microscopic examination procedures designed to look for common parasites such as roundworms will NOT detect Giardia (or Coccidia or Tritrichomonas Foetus).
If Giardia is suspected, your veterinarian can perform an in-office PCR specific IDEXX SNAP test for Giardia on absolutely fresh stool obtained at the time of the testing. Your veterinarian will use a loop to obtain a fresh sample at the time of testing for Giardia or Coccidia. There is also a vet lab test panel (e.g. Idexx Feline Diarrhea Panel) that includes the PCR Giardia and that can be helpful in determining the cause of the diarrhea if it is due to Giardia or by a combination of other parasites.
If TF (Tritrichomonas Foetus ) is suspected, a flush of 10 cc saline is injected into the anus and the wash of fecal material is then centrifuged before testing is done. The specific method for TF testing and diagnosis is contained in the new Owner’s Guide to TF at: http://www.cvm.ncsu.edu/docs/documents/ownersguide_tfoetus_revised_120909.pdf
Home Testing For Giardia
If your veterinarian is agreeable to home testing for Giardia, buy a few Idexx Giardia Snap tests from your vet and a supply of fecal loops to obtain fresh samples for testing at home. The tests are about $15 each (2010 pricing) when obtained from the veterinarian. The Giardia Snap test is specific for Giardia, extremely easy to use and very accurate. If you need to buy a quantity of 15 or more to do bulk Giardia PCR Snap testing at home, they can be obtained online. Google “snap giardia antigen test kit” or choose your country from the IDEXX Web Site Directory to see a list of suppliers of the test kit.
Treatment for Giardia requires a three-pronged approach:
- Treating all the cats for Giardia at the same time to prevent re-contamination
- Killing Giardia in the general environment
- Killing Giardia in the water source (if necessary)
Treating Giardia With Panacur
Give 100 mg of the active ingredient Fenbendazole/4.4 pounds (2KG) /cat for 7 days.
Dosing The Cats
It is important to perform the 7 day protocol on *every* cat and kitten in the house to avoid a problem with small kittens contracting Giardia once they start to use a common litter box or drink from potentially contaminated water sources.
There are *four* oral formulations from which to choose. Be very sure which concentration you are using, so that the correct dose is given for the right purpose. My veterinarian dispensed Panacur Small Animal 10% Oral Suspension:
- Each 1 ml of Panacur 10% Liquid (Shering-Plough) contains 100 mg active ingredient Fenbendazole.
- I dosed each cat at 1cc for every 5 pounds of body weight.
- I found the Panacur liquid easier than the granules to dose precisely.
- I lined up the cats, and dosed each one in turn according to their weight, then dotted their head with a small drop of the white Panacur fluid so I knew that they had been dosed. Of course, this probably works best on dark colored shorthaired cats like my Havana Browns, LOL. Otherwise you can do the “door” routine; putting all the cats on one side of the door, dosing each one in turn, then thrusting each treated cat/kitten through the door immediately after dosing, so that only the cats/kittens on your side of the door are still yet to be dosed, and all cats/kittens on the other side of the door are already treated.
- Kittens can be dosed with Panacur once they are 4-5 weeks old.
Panacur liquid is well tolerated by kittens and cats as it does not taste vile like Flagyl does. There is an added advantage to the Panacur, as it also removes pretty much every other kind of cat-indwelling worm except tapeworms (from fleas).
Panacur granules are also well tolerated in the food, but since you have to make sure that each cat gets an *exact* dose according to their weight, you can’t just dump it into the food and walk away. The one time I used the granules, I had to put each dose mixed into less than a teaspoon of food for each cat or kitten separately, and then force each one to completely eat their individual dose before I could put down the general food bowls.
You MUST treat EVERY cat in the entire house, for the entire 7 days if you are to completely eradicate the Giardia cysts from all the non-symptomatic carriers who will just re-seed it back into your most susceptible animals, and to you, if you are not careful!
It does not matter if cats are isolated in other rooms of the house, if the initial source of the Giardia is possibly in the well or tap water. You *have* to eradicate it from the entire population at ONCE to ensure it is really gone, and not just hiding in temporarily asymptomatic cats. Otherwise it will just come back with a roar the next time any cat or kitten becomes stressed, and they will just spread it back to everyone else again. It’s bad enough to have to do eradication procedures once, but so much worse to have to keep repeating the whole treatment procedure because of slipping up with even one cat. Treat everyone for the entire 7 days and the problem will not come back, assuming you fix the well or tap water problem that is the likely source of the initial Giardia infection.
Giardia In The Water Source
If Giardia is in your water source, you will need to boil all water for at least 3 minutes that is used for the cats as drinking water or mixed into their food. It is not enough just to use a Pur filter on the tap, as the Giardia cysts are very small in particulate size and some may not get filtered out with the Pur process. Only a vigorous rolling boil for at least 3 minutes after it first begins to bubble is sufficient to eradicate and kill giardia cysts from a water source. Alternatively, use gallons of store-purchased steam distilled water for all cat/kitten water bowls or any water that is to be used in food items for them.
Water and food bowls should be thoroughly cleaned each day as well.
Also, while the well or tap water is the most likely initial infection source, Giardia could be re-seeding itself from tiny particles clinging to the sides of the litter box if careful and *daily* litter box dumping and cleaning is not performed. This is no time to be using litter box fillers for more than a single day, or not thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting each box daily. Once the diarrhea troubles are completely over, you can go back to an every other day schedule for litter box dumping and cleaning.
In the meantime, vigorously scrub out every litter box each day with detergent on a 3M green scrubbing pad and once it is completely cleaned and the soap is rinsed off, re-rinse it with a small amount of pure regular strength bleach and allow it to dry completely before re-using.
I find it much simpler to have a complete second set of litter boxes so that one set can “rest” for a day while the other set is in use. Some breeders find it helpful to use an UV lamp or sunshine to help irradiate the cleaned boxes, but I have found the bleach rinse to be sufficient in practice. Steam sterilizing of the physically cleaned litter boxes is another acceptable alternative to using bleach sterilization.
Separate Litter Boxes For Mom and Kittens
In order to prevent a mother cat with Giardia from passing it on to her kittens you will need to Mom-proof the kitten litter box and to also prevent the kittens from using their Mom’s litter box.
One solution for Separate Litter Boxes For Mom & Her Kittens is to place the kitten’s low sided litter box under something that allows the kittens to use the box but is not high enough for an adult cat to use. To prevent kitten’s from using their Mom’s litter box, it should be placed on something high enough that the babies cannot climb up to use it. The photo on the left shows one set-up that can be used.
Another system is to turn an inexpensive 18 gallon plastic storage box (with the lid on), upside down, cutting a kitten-sized hole at ground level for the kittens to pass through, but not quite big enough for Mom cat to get through. Inside the storage box, place a low sided regular litter box for the kittens to use exclusively.
I use another of the plastic 18 gallon storage boxes, with the lid left off, placing the Mom’s litter box inside. The Mom cat can jump in to use the litter inside it, while the kittens cannot – at least until they are old enough to be treated with Panacur if needed.
Giardia must always be considered when a cattery experiences a problem with chronic diarrhea. Testing and initiating appropriate treatment and disinfection practices can eliminate Giardia.