Giardia duodenal is a tiny microscopic parasite that causes giardia infection. Many wild animals without any symptoms can shred giardia duodenal. It is very contagious and can spread from animals to animals, animals to humans, and human to human. So, are you wondering, do squirrels carry giardia?
Yes. Domestic and wild animals carry giardia, including raccoons, ducks, swine, deer, mice, and squirrels. It causes severe loss of body water content through diarrhea and vomiting. The majority of the animals are silent carriers of the disease. To prevent giardia, remove squirrel fecal matter from your property as soon as you spot it.
Continue reading the article to find symptoms, treatment, and prevention of giardia.
What Are The Symptoms Of Giardia?
Giardia causes almost similar symptoms in all organisms, including animals and humans. Typically, many animals carry the disease without showing any disease symptoms. According to research, it is estimated that about sixty or more percent of dogs and cats show no signs and symptoms of giardia infection.
Animals that carry giardia will shed it in their stools, which can contaminate water supplies and surfaces. Any human or animal that drinks contaminated water or eats from contaminated utensils will become infected.
Initial symptoms are severe abdominal pain, cramps, bloating, gas, flatulence, and nausea, followed by diarrhea and vomiting. Rapid water loss causes dehydration, fatigue, and loss of appetite, which results in drastic weight loss.
What Does Diarrhea From Giardia Look Like?
Giardia duodenal increases bowel movement causing digestive issue which results in diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. The diarrhea is a foul-smelling and watery poop that can alternate with soft and greasy stools.
An animal or human suffering from giardia will pass stool more than two times and a maximum of five times within twenty-four hours. In severe cases, it can be greenish or yellow instead of brown. Diarrhea contains a small number of infected pallets.
In animals with a weak immune system, the infection can be severe and causes dysentery, which is blood-containing watery poop. Diarrhea causes lower abdominal discomfort and extreme loss of body water content making the patient dehydrated, tired, and weak. It will also cause a loss of appetite.
Can Squirrel Suffer From Giardia Infection?
Only fifteen to twenty percent of animals carrying giardia show symptoms. The rest are the carriers without suffering from the symptoms caused by giardia infection. Adult squirrels have a well-built immune system and can fight off the disease symptoms.
But squirrel babies have immature immunity, which means their immune cells cannot fight the infection, and they will display symptoms. Initial symptoms of giardia in a squirrel are watery- foul-smelling diarrhea with extreme abdominal pain.
The squirrels suffering from giardia infection will be sluggish and weak. It will not play around like regular and will poop almost everywhere. Giardia infection causes abdominal cramps and increases bowel movement, so the number of squirrel poops can also increase.
How Giardia Spreads From Squirrels?
Infected squirrels inside your house will shed the giardia parasite in their poop. Anything that touches the infected squirrel poop will become contaminated.
Infection can occur after accidentally ingesting contaminated food and water. Giardia from infected squirrels can spread in the following ways.
Infected squirrels that poop in your yard, house plants, or attic leave behind multiple giardia germs. If you touch squirrel poop without any gloves, you can become infected.
Pet animals can accidentally come in contact with the infected squirrel poop or contaminated soil while playing in the yard or on the roadside.
Squirrels can poop inside the backyard pool, and swimming in that pool without cleaning can transmit giardia infection.
Pet dogs are curious and can lick or eat infected poop from the soil. It can also drink water from the pool contaminated with the infected squirrel poop.
It can also transmit to humans through house pets, like when your infected dog licks you on the face can transmit giardia germs.
How Long Can Giardia Live In Squirrel Poop?
Giardia can survive for several months in a favorable environment. It lives for months inside the squirrel intestine, and when passed outside in stool, giardia can survive for weeks to months, depending on the climate.
Giardia can live for one to three months in cold weather and up to six months in the spring and fall seasons. In extremely sunny conditions, giardia can survive for one week.
A temperature above fifty degrees Celsius can kill giardia. If the temperature rises to fifty-six degrees, it kills the giardia in the squirrel poop. When in a freezing temperature, giardia in squirrel poop will not survive at all.
Therefore, giardia in squirrel poop thrives only in moderate temperatures, similar to the squirrel’s body temperature. Extreme temperatures, hot or cold, will kill the parasite.
If a squirrel poop inside a freezing water body or hot water, giardia will not live for more than a few days. However, the giardia parasite in squirrel poop grows well in the soil for months.
Can You Get Giardia From Squirrels?
Yes, you can get giardia from squirrels. They transmit giardia to other organisms via the fecal-oral route. Humans suffer from giardia infection after ingesting the germs from contaminated food and water.
When squirrels carrying giardia poop inside the freshwater bodies, they contaminate the water. It infects all the organisms that drink the contaminated water.
Giardia can also transmit via utensils washed from contaminated water. It thrives in soil contaminating the plants. If you accidentally touch this plant with bare hands and put them in your mouth, you will become infected immediately.
Additionally, cleaning squirrel poop with bare hands and then eating before washing hands can cause giardia infection.
How Do I Get Rid Of Giardia From My House?
Giardia can survive for several months inside cold water and grass. When an infected squirrel is living inside your home, your family is at a high risk of giardia infection.
Follow the steps below to remove giardia from your home and yard.
- Inspect your yard, attic, and roof for the presence of squirrels or poop. If you find any holes in the top exterior of the house, the high chances are the culprit is a squirrel.
- Wear gloves and immediately remove the squirrel nest. If there are no squirrel babies, just old rotten squirrel things, throw the nest in a large plastic bag. When you find any presence of life in the nest, it is better to relocate the nest.
- Declutter and clean the house to prevent the squirrel from revisiting your home. Throw away the things that are no longer in use, like old cartons, newspapers, magazines, books, mattresses, carpets, and furniture.
- Trim the bushes and cut all the branches that lead to your house.
- Place garbage bins far from your house because leftovers in garbage bins attract more pests than anything else.
- Install the fences around your house plant to keep squirrels out of it.
- Drain all the water from the pools when they are not in use. You can also cover it with a net.
- To clean the squirrel poop, wear gloves and a face mask and use a broom and large dustpan to pick it up. Cover the dustpan with a plastic bag to prevent it from becoming infected. You can also throw away all the material after use to ensure no contamination.
- After picking up the squirrel poop, wash all the areas with diluted bleach. However, I do not recommend using bleach in the yard as it will kill the grass and plants. You can use bleach and water solution on the patio and sidewalks.
- Typically hot, dry temperatures kill the giardia in the grass. You can use a plastic trap sheet on the grass to prevent squirrels from visiting your yard.
Squirrels can carry giardia for a long time without showing signs or symptoms. They shed the parasite in their poop. Therefore, contaminating every place where they poop.
The giardia from squirrel poop can infect humans and animals via direct contact or ingestion of the giardia germs. Even a tiny amount of giardia parasite can cause severe infection in humans, which lasts from several days to weeks.
Common symptoms are abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and foul-smelling diarrhea resulting in dehydration and loss of weight. Other than medications patient needs I/V fluids to recover the fluid loss.
Mahato MK, Singh DK, Rana HB, Acharya KP. Prevalence and risk factors associated with Giardia duodenalis infection in dairy cattle of Chitwan, Nepal. J Parasit Dis. 2018 Mar;42(1):122-126. doi: 10.1007/s12639-017-0975-6. Epub 2018 Jan 16. PMID: 29491570; PMCID: PMC5825377.