Giardiasis in Ferrets
An intestinal infection, giardiasis is caused by the protozoan parasite Giardia. Contamination can occur from direct or indirect contact with the infected cysts, which are shed in another animal's feces. This can cause the ferret to have difficulty absorbing nutrients from food or lead to diarrhea. In addition to affecting ferrets, giardiasis is seen in dogs, cats, and humans.
Symptoms and Types
The signs and symptoms of giardiasis will vary. Some ferrets will not have any outward signs (especially if the infection is mild), others will become debilitated. If a ferret has another concurrent and chronic disease, such as Helicobacter, the ferret may become lethargic and suffer from diarrhea, anorexia (an unwillingness to eat), or vomiting episodes. Moreover, some ferrets may have stools that appear grainy, suggesting they are not properly absorbing the foods they eat.
One of the most common causes of the parasitic infection is the ingestion of infected fecal material, as the cysts are shed in animal feces. The most common cause of transmission, however, is actually waterborne, as the parasite prefers the cool and moist environment. Dogs and cats may also infect ferrets by sharing water bowls with ferrets.
To diagnose giardiasis, a veterinarian will want to rule out or diagnose other causes for symptoms or malabsorption such as lymphoma or inflammatory bowel disease. Diagnostic tests may include diagnosis of cysts or removal of cysts from the colon or intestine. Fecal tests, meanwhile, may confirm the presence of Giardia organisms.