Giardia


Also known as Giardiasis, Giardosis, Lambliasis, Lambliosis.

What is it?

Giardiasis is the disease caused by infection of an organism of the genus Giardia. They are protozoal parasites that can be contracted from contaminated food/water sources. Giardiasis is not a common disease, especially for sugar gliders in captivity. Additionally, they are not born with it. This disease can lead to the death of a sugar glider if untreated.

Signs of infection

A sugar glider infected with Giardia will have diarrhea, and may suffer nausea and can be lethargic. Diarrhea in sugar gliders can lead to dehydration. Another sign is steatorrhea, which is excess fat in the stool, and can give stool a white or pale coloration and foul odor. These symptoms may be signs of other problems or other types of infections, all of which require veterinary care.

How the disease is spread

Giardia infects from via a fecal to oral path. This means that any surface that comes into contact with feces from an infected animal has the potential to infect other animals, humans included, that may touch those surfaces and then end up touching the mouth in some way. This disease is [[Zoonotic]], which means that the disease can pass from species to species.

Note: if humans contract Giardia, it is potentially deadly if not treated promptly. If you or your gliders have any signs of Giardia, an immediate vet and doctor visit should occur.

Cysts that are excreted from an animal can exist outside of an organism and potentially infect or reinfect for up to a month. This makes getting rid of a Giardia infestation extremely difficult.

A sugar glider cage is extremely dirty, as well as the sugar gliders themselves. The cloaca of a sugar glider comes into contact with every part of the cage, so the entire cage should be considered contaminated. The gliders themselves can be contaminated, especially their fur, as cysts excreted from the cloaca can contaminate any surface.

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Detection

Generally, a trip to the vet is necessary to confirm a Giardia infection. A fecal analysis will need to be performed including a direct smear of fresh feces. Unfortunately, because of the diarrhea, multiple fecal tests may be necessary for detection. Left untreated, Giardia causes inflammation of the intestinal tract which can also lead to poor absorption of nutrients.

A video can be found on idexx.com, which sells a home detection device, that demonstrates the life cycle of Giardia.

What your vet should tell you

As new medical information becomes available to veterinarians, the medication administered may change. Your vet should be more knowledgeable than this resource regarding type types and amounts of medication to give your glider.

Your vet should give you explicit instructions on quarantining your animal and should also stress the importance of cleaning. Your vet should give you instructions on how regular you need to be cleaning the cage and what sort of precautions you should take in order to prevent infection with other animals or humans in the household. In an immune compromised individual, it can be life threatening.


SEE ALSO

Giardia Centrifuge
Merck Veterinary Manual - Giardiasis



Additional Footnote sources cited: Katie Phillips, DVM, Dublin Animal Hospital, Colorado Springs, CO

This page is in Category Health.

Notes

1^Giardia in sugar gliders is the same as giardia in dogs/cats as far as transmission and clinical disease. A board certified parasitologist confirmed that marsupials are affected the same as dogs/cats.
    Search for
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Last Edited March 26, 2013



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