giardia is a protozoan parasite found in lakes, streams, ditches, and other outdoor water sources. The parasite is shed by wild animals high up in the basin, and as the water recedes, it becomes further contaminated by other animals living nearby. Any dog or cat that drinks from a pond, river, or other natural water source is likely to ingest the cysts of this persistent parasite. Once inside, the cysts hatch, grow and reproduce. Giardia causes profuse, uncontrollable diarrhea, often watery, sometimes accompanied by blood and mucus.
The most commonly used medications to treat Giardia are metronidazole, an antibiotic, and fenbendazole, an antiparasitic. Each of them is around 70% effective; that is, they only work about 70% of the time. Because some parasites can stay alive, recurrent infections are possible even after treatment.
However, there is a natural protocol for getting rid of Giardia, which has been used successfully (and safely) many times in dogs and cats. We even cleaned up a cattery that had a lot of infected kittens. Use digestive enzymes on an empty stomach. With no food in the system, digestive enzymes go to work on whatever else might be in the intestines, including parasites. It has been reported to work for coccidiaand you could also theoretically get rid of Toxoplasma, Cryptosporidia, Neosporum, Tritrichomonas fetusand similar protozoan parasites.
First, you’ll need a bottle of digestive enzymes (plant or mushroom based) and one or more syringes; you can usually convince your vet to give you some 3 or 6 cc syringes (no needles). Don’t get enzymes in combination with anything else, like probiotics or other supplements. They must be pure digestive enzymes alone. Make sure the product you select contains at least protease, amylase, and lipase (some also contain cellulase and other enzymes). These digest protein, starch, and fat, respectively. One product I have used is called Prozyme, which is available at many pet stores and online.
Please note that enzymes MUST be administered on an empty stomach. If you leave food for your pet 24/7, this protocol will NOT work. Food should be given with meals, at least 30 (preferably 60) minutes after each enzyme dose. If there is any food in the animal’s digestive system, the enzymes will digest the food and the parasites will thrive undisturbed. enzymes cannot be hidden in the pocket of a pill or in a piece of cheese, there can be no food in the belly!
Take 1 enzyme capsule for each animal to be treated and mix with a small amount of water to make a slurry. Use the syringe to administer the suspension orally. In most cases, it is easiest to insert the syringe into the corner of the mouth between or behind the teeth and apply the stream. The mix doesn’t taste too bad, but cats in particular don’t like to take medication. Be careful, but be firm.
Round 1: Give one dose of digestive enzymes 1/2 to 1 hour before meals in the morning and at night, and one dose at bedtime. Disassemble the syringe and rinse it after each dose (otherwise debris will build up and the plunger will stick). Repeat daily for 8 days.
Rest: Take a 1 week break. This allows time for the resistant cysts to “hatch”.
Round 2: Repeat the digestive enzyme treatment for 7 days.
And that is! In my 15 years of experience as a veterinarian, this protocol has been a much safer and more effective treatment than drugs.