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Dog Park Dangers

Bringing your dog to the dog park can be an excellent way for your pet to socialize with other animals and get some great exercise, however it can come with a few possible dangers as well.  As long as pet owners understand the risks, they can minimize them.  Here is a list of some of these possible dangers.

Other Dogs:  When you bring your dog to the dog park, you expose it to many things, including other animals.  You need to make sure your dog is healthy and up-to-date on all vaccinations. Most veterinarians recommend vaccinating against Bordetella (kennel cough) and canine influenza for dogs that stay in boarding facilities. Mingling with other dogs at dog parks or obedience classes is another reason to protect your dog with these vaccinations. Your dog also should be spayed or neutered.  If you have an intact female, make sure not to take her to the park during her heat cycle. You cannot guarantee the other dogs at the park are in great health, but you can do your best to protect your dog if they aren’t.

Parasites: Parasites can live in the environment and be easily transmitted causing an infection.  If you frequent dog parks, make sure you deworm your pet regularly.

Giardia is a very serious health concern in dogs and can be picked up easily in dog parks if conditions are not properly managed.  Although Giardia can live several weeks to months outside in wet, cold, environments, standing water is a definite danger zone.  Water dishes that are left out at dog parks could be contaminated.  It is best to bring your own water for your dog.

Injuries:  Running and playing fetch are common activities at a dog park. However, a dog running at full speed can do quite a bit of damage if they step into a hole.  Make sure you are aware of the condition of the area where your dog is playing to help avoid such injuries.

Heat:  Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency situation for your dog. Dogs do not sweat like we do, so they have a much harder time controlling their body temperature when they are exposed to high temperatures.  Taking steps to prevent heat stroke is far better than trying to treat it.  Do not take your dog out at the hottest part of the day.  The only way dogs can cool down is to pant.  Make sure to have plenty of water on hand and let your dog rest in the shade if the weather is hot.  The first symptom is excessive panting and stumbling.  They will seek out water to lie in or drink.  Sometimes they simply collapse.  If you feel your pet is experiencing heat stroke, seek out the nearest veterinary hospital immediately.

Liability: Dogs and small children are typically a good playful combination, however, children can pose a bit of a problem at dog parks.  A child running up to an unfamiliar dog because he thinks the dog is cute and wants to play with him, can cause a dog to feel like it has to defend itself, and that will never lead to a good outcome.  A child’s diminutive height places them at muzzle level, so children are always among the first injured.  Be aware of the situation around you so you can prevent this type of occurrence from happening.

Puppies:  Puppies should be socialized and exposed to other dogs at a young age to grow up a well-adjusted adult dog.  However, a puppy’s immune system is young and the multitude of stimuli at a dog park can prove overwhelming to a puppy’s health.  Consult your veterinarian and follow his or her advice before you take your puppy to a dog park.  If you decide to take your puppy to a dog park, it is imperative that his vaccinations remain current.

For some dogs, the dog park is the main place they get to interact with the world outside of home.  Dogs need exercise not only for their bodies but also their minds.  They need to explore the world, learn new scents besides other dogs, take in the scenery, and feel different things on the pads of their feet.  If all care is taken to avoid adverse situations, the dog park can be a wonderful experience for you and your pet.

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Veterinary Technical Services Department

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