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In-House Giardia Testing: A Win for Pets, Owners, & Veterinary Teams

In-House Giardia Testing: A Win for Pets, Owners, & Veterinary Teams

Infectious Disease


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Giardiasis is associated with a spectrum of clinical signs, varying from subclinical cases to severe GI disease. Infected patients can experience weight loss, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration; therefore, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) recommends testing in dogs and cats showing clinical signs and when treating positive cases.1 Repeat testing may be necessary, as intermittent shedding of Giardia cysts is possible.2

Testing of subclinical patients is more controversial. Patients can remain persistently positive or become reinfected,3 which can be frustrating to pet owners and the veterinary team. Whether pets infected with Giardia and showing clinical signs pose a significant zoonotic threat to humans is still uncertain, but studies have shown that, generally, humans and pets are infected with different assemblages (ie, subtypes),3 and the risk for transmission from dogs to healthy humans is considered to be low.Although fecal antigen detection can be a useful complementary test to fecal flotation, such as in cases where pets may be shedding Giardia cysts intermittently, neither fecal antigen detection nor fecal flotation is always effective as a sole diagnostic agent for parasitic infection in dogs and cats with clinical signs of GI disease. By providing easy access and nearly immediate results, in-house Giardia testing offers significant benefits to pets, owners, and veterinary teams.

Case Presentation

Sam, a 3-month-old neutered male crossbreed dog, was presented for evaluation due to diarrhea of several weeks’ duration. A manual fecal flotation was performed, results were negative, and Sam failed to respond to dietary therapy. Sam’s owner was understandably frustrated and worried about her puppy, and she expressed her desire to start Sam on treatment as soon as possible. The hospital had recently installed the VETSCAN IMAGYST™ platform and decided to run another test on Sam, which was positive for Giardia spp. It was suspected that Sam was not shedding Giardia cysts when the first fecal sample was evaluated, resulting in the first negative fecal flotation screen.

Following diagnosis, Sam was prescribed appropriate antiparasitic therapy that same day, and diarrhea quickly resolved.

Utility of In-House Fecal Giardia spp Testing

One study has demonstrated that giardiasis is present in ≈15% of dogs and 12% of cats showing clinical signs,4 highlighting a clear need for readily available and reliable fecal testing. Not only do positive pets pose a risk to housemates, but their clinical signs cause them discomfort and be disturbing to their owners. It could also be possible that they could pose a potential health risk to immunocompromised humans, although this has not been proven.5

Giardiasis is present in ≈15% of dogs and 10% to 12% of cats showing clinical signs, highlighting a clear need for readily available and reliable fecal testing.

It is important to take into consideration the pet owner perspective on persistent parasite infection and shedding in the home environment. Point-of-care technology allows for both a rapid and accurate diagnosis of giardiasis. In-house diagnosis also allows for initiation of treatment at the patient’s initial visit, provides convenience and peace of mind for pet owners, and eliminates the need for additional visits for owners to pick up medications and the need for clinic staff to call sometimes hard-to-reach owners to inform them of the results.


VETSCAN IMAGYST technology brings fast, accurate, point-of-care testing to fecal parasite detection. Results return within ≈15 minutes, allowing for rapid diagnosis. The innovative platform and high sensitivity and specificity of VETSCAN IMAGYST eliminates unnecessary retesting and minimizes the chance for human error due to misdiagnosis of fecal cyst, small cyst size, and inexperience. In addition, the shelf-life for the test kits is 24 months, with no refrigeration necessary, facilitating easy in-house storage.


GI disease is one of most common reasons for veterinary visits, with many pets suffering from diarrhea without a definitive diagnosis and failing to improve with empiric treatment such as dietary modification. This can be exceedingly frustrating for owners, as their pets continue to exhibit clinical signs without answers. Accurate point-of-care testing for common parasitic infections like Giardia is therefore of paramount importance. By performing in-house testing, pets are both diagnosed and treated, if indicated, sooner, ultimately helping to decrease risk for potential spread to both animals and humans and improve compliance and overall experience for both the pet and owner.


VETSCAN Imagyst™ is a trademark of Zoetis Services LLC or a related company or a licensor.

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