Giardia is a hearty organism that can cause unrelenting issues in the animal shelter. One of its most challenging aspects is how difficult it can be to detect. At the 2013 ASPCA/Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Conference, Dr. Teva Hoshizaki, Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program Intern at Cornell University, shared her tips on quickly and accurately finding the critters:
The classic way for looking for Giardia is through a microscope of fecal samples. We need to do our examination with a special zinc sulfate flotation, which is not the normal way we do flotations if any of you have been involved in doing a little microscopy in your shelter. It’s not the normal way we look for parasite eggs. It’s a special solution.
The cysts are very small. They can look like yeast and are very delicate, which is why we need the special solution. Otherwise, we might not be able to find them. Basically, we need experienced personnel to look at these slides. Not just anyone can take a fecal sample to the microscope and find Giardia.
The other really important point I need to labor is that even if we go and get the sample from the animal that’s sick, they may not have cysts in the feces at that particular moment. We need to go and get another sample and another sample. We recommend at least three samples over the course of several days, so we’re screening multiple times to increase our sensitivity and likelihood that we will find one of those cysts.
What other options do we have for diagnosis, since clearly, looking for it on the microscope is maybe not the best solution for everyone? Luckily, we have the magic SNAP test, and I am sure most of your shelters have used SNAP tests. It is just like all of the other SNAP tests we use. It is looking for a special protein in the feces that’s going to be present whether or not the animal is shedding cysts. That’s really great for us. It’s much more sensitive. We are more likely to get a good result using SNAP tests.
There are other lab tests available. There are amino assays and the PCRs, but for most shelters what we’re really going to be dealing with is the microscope and the SNAP test. Just remember, in the back of your mind, there are other options.
Get more information, watch the complete video of Dr. Hoshizaki's presentation, and find out how to take a short follow-up quiz and receive a certificate of attendance, here.