Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have two 6-month-old kittens, one of whom tested positive for giardia when he was 10 weeks old. He was subsequently treated three times with Panacur (due to persistent symptoms despite four negative fecals) but he and his brother still have totally evil smelling, runny stools and flatulence to go with it. All of my cats (I have four) and dog were treated and bathed, blankets washed and the litterboxes changed daily, disinfected etc. throughout the treatment period. It seems like conventional meds aren’t doing the trick for these guys so I’m considering holistics but I’m having a difficult time finding good info on the efficacy of natural remedies for treating giardiasis. Any suggestions?
Other info: I’ve got them on a grain free diet because they have eosinophilic granulomas for which we have yet to discern the triggering agent, they are strictly indoor, and we’ve tried Science Diet Z/D which just seemed to make the diarrhea worse and the Science Diet W/D because it has more fiber, but it didn’t help either. They’ve been on Baytril and Clavamox (for upper respiratory infections, they were very sickly when I adopted them). Neither antibiotic cleared up the runs and I gave them probiotics each time the antibiotic treatment ended. Other than the diarrhea, gas and allergies, they seem pretty happy and playful — just extremely stinky, somewhat itchy and occasionally poop-footed. Please Help!
Siouxsie: Our research on giardiasis in cats indicates that it is not very common in the general cat population — but as with most parasitic diseases, cats that are already sick or unwell (subclinically ill due to poor nutrition or unhealthy environment) are much more likely to be infected. For those of you wanting to know more about giardia, the about.com page on the disease contains some good basic information.
Thomas: Panacur (fenbendazole) is used pretty often for treatment of giardia infections. However, Flagyl (metronidazole) has been found to be especially effective in treating this disease. Both of these medications are antibiotic and antiparasitic.
Dahlia: Since giardia can be transmitted to humans as well as to other animals, you must completely and regularly disinfect litterboxes and bedding. It sounds like you’re doing a good job taking care of the disinfection angle, so we don’t think you have to worry too much about transmission to the rest of your family.
Siouxsie: It sounds like your kittens may have gotten a rough start in life. Perhaps they were strays or spent their early life in a shelter environment. Maybe their mother didn’t get adequate nutrition during her pregnancy, or maybe she couldn’t feed her kittens and they were bottle-fed until they were weaned. Any of these environmental factors can lead to weakness and susceptibility to infections.
Thomas: Mother’s milk contains vital antibodies to diseases and nutritional requirements for growing kittens. This is why it’s best if at all possible to have kittens suckling on their mothers until it’s time for them to start eating solid food.
Dahlia: But since you can’t go back and undo their prenatal and neonatal history, what you need to do now is to deal with the present conditions and make sure those kittens are as healthy as can be.
Siouxsie: Probably the reason you can’t find online information about holistic treatment for giardiasis is because it really requires a veterinarian’s assistance. Giardia is a serious and potentially fatal disease, primarily because the diarrhea can lead to severe dehydration which can cause all sorts of major problems.
Thomas: If you want to undertake a holistic care program for your cats, you should find a qualified holistic veterinarian in your area. In the United States, the major organization for holistic veterinarians is the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. At their website, you can find a directory of practitioners all over the US and Canada. Simply click the “Find a Holistic Vet” button, which will open a window that will allow you to search by state, province or modality. In England and western Europe, there are similar organizations, but we’re not sure there are many resources available in other parts of the world.
Dahlia: Most of these holistic vets will be willing to work with your regular vet to design and implement a treatment program that will incorporate the best of both worlds. If you ask your vet about a referral to a holistic vet, he or she might know practitioners in your area.
Siouxsie: Most vets used to pooh-pooh the idea of holistic care for sick animals, but as time went on, many of them began to see that holistic care combined with regular veterinary medicine could provide good management of chronic illnesses. Our vet, Doctor Sarah, has always been open-minded about using holistic treatment as long as it doesn’t prevent Mama from seeking regular veterinary care when it’s needed.
Thomas: So basically, Kelly, we’re sure there is a holistic way of treating giardiasis and the symptoms that linger after the treatment is over. But you really should work with a holistic veterinarian to undertake that treatment.
Dahlia: We’re lucky that Mama is smart enough to know that home treatment with holistic remedies is not in any way a replacement for care by a vet! We hope that all our readers are equally wise.
Siouxsie: But there are some things you can do at home to help manage the diarrhea. All cats get diarrhea from time to time, whether it’s from eating too-rich food, a diet change, eating spoiled meat, an antibiotic regimen, or whatever.
Thomas: Food issues and antibiotic treatment are the two most common reasons we ourselves have suffered from episodes of diarrhea. We’ve had to take antibiotics occasionally, and we know that there is nothing less likely to cure diarrhea than antibiotics! That’s because in addition to killing the bad bacteria that make us sick, antibiotics also kill the good bacteria that live in our intestines. Mama has had good luck giving us a teaspoon of organic plain lowfat or nonfat yogurt each day we’re taking the antibiotics.
Dahlia: The lowfat or nonfat part is particularly important, because we cats don’t have a great tolerance for cow milk. In fact, cow milk products can give us diarrhea because of our lactose intolerance. Trust us, we love the taste of yogurt even if it doesn’t have any fat in it!
Siouxsie: And there are some foods that just give us stinky, nasty poop, too. Even some “premium” brands of food have had the unfortunate effect of causing everyone to want to evacuate the room when we go to the litterbox!
Thomas: Some cats are sensitive to the type of grains used in dry cat foods. Anecdotal evidence suggests that corn is the biggest culprit when it comes to intestinal irritation in cats, so we’d suggest that you read the ingredient list on your cat food very carefully and find one without corn if at all possible.
Dahlia: You can certainly treat the diarrhea symptomatically using holistic remedies at home. Dr. Richard Pitcarin in his book Natural Health for Dogs and Cats lists a number of things you can do to help eliminate diarrhea in your animal.
Siouxsie: The first thing he suggests is a liquid fast for 24 to 48 hours because that allows the intestines to “rest.” We’d say you should only fast your cat under veterinary supervision because fasting can be very harmful for cats — particularly if they’re already sick. If you do undertake a liquid fast, Pitcairn suggests making a vegetable, rice and meat broth and adding a bit of soy sauce to provide amino acids. Once again, do not fast your cat unless you have a veterinarian’s permission and supervision!
Thomas: For acute diarrhea, Dr. Pitcairn recommends the homeopathic remedy Podophyllum 6C for treatment of diarrhea with a forceful, gushing stool that smells particularly bad. Give one tablet every 4 hours for a total of three treatments. Provide no food for 10 minutes before or after the treatment. Do not give any other treatment for the next 24 hours. If your kitty is not noticeably improved by then, try another remedy.
Dahlia: Natrum muriaticum 6X is appropriate for long-lasting diarrhea of cats. The diarrhea is usually dark and offensive-smelling and associated with the cat acting uncomfortable after eating — sitting hunched up on all fours. Give one tablet every 4 hours for a total of three treatments. Provide no food for 10 minutes before or after the treatment. Do not give any other treatment for the next 24 hours. If your kitty is not noticeably improved by then, try another remedy.
Siouxsie: If you can’t find that particular strength of either of these homeopathic remedies, get the closest you can (if you can’t find 6C, try to find 12C, for example) . Our friend, veterinary homeopath Kaetheryn Walker, says “if you can’t find the exact dose, any dose will do.”
Thomas: Mama finds homeopathic remedies at her local health food store. These businesses and some natural drug stores will sell homeopathics. If you can’t find homeopathic remedies in your area, Homeopathy Overnight will be able to send them to you.
Dahlia: You might also try the flower essence called Digestive Woes, offered in Green Hope Farms’ Animal Care collection. We like Green Hope Farms’ essences because they’re preserved with red shiso root rather than alcohol, unlike most other flower essences and herbal tinctures. They taste kind of yummy, and they work well too.
Siouxsie: So, Kelly, we hope we’ve been able to provide you with some ways you can treat your poor kitties’ chronic diarrhea. You might even find that as you resolve some of their other health problems and food sensitivities, their granulomas become less of a problem too.
Thomas: Good luck, and please let us know how things work out for you.
Dahlia: Happy New Year to all of our readers. We hope the next year is filled with abundance and joy and happy kitties!
I have a wonderful Holistic Veterinarian. She does telephone consults. She can tell you supplements and treatments and work with your local Vet for any prescriptions if necessary. I’m in CA and she’s not close to me, but just a phone call away! She helped me with my dogs with cancer & they lived longer, happy lives.. My new rescue dog has Giardia, so I’ll give her a call.
Tina Aiken, DVM, Kilshannagh Vet Clinic 518 329-5213