5 Health Risks at the Dog Park
1. Spread of Infectious Disease
Because so many dogs congregate at dog parks, it’s easy to spread illnesses, such as kennel cough. The vaccine for kennel cough can offer some protection, but there are multiple organisms and multiple strains of the organisms, so the vaccines are helpful, but they don’t cover everything. If they do get kennel cough after being vaccinated, it seems that they have less severe symptoms… but it’s no guarantee that they won’t catch it.
2. Intestinal Parasites
It’s also crucial to clean up after your dog. Intestinal parasites can be transmitted if people aren’t really, really diligent about picking up after their dogs. If a dog inadvertently steps in another dog’s poop and then licks his paws later, the dog could catch a parasite that way. But if owners are using heartworm preventive medication, that will help prevent the spread of some intestinal parasites, like roundworms and hookworms.
3. Threat of Heatstroke
On hot, humid days, watch your dog to make sure she doesn’t overdo it. Dogs have very few sweat glands, so they cool themselves primarily by evaporation off their tongue and mouth — otherwise known as panting — and evaporation off the foot pads. If it’s hot and moist, they won’t be able to cool themselves as well. If they’re really enjoying themselves and really running, sometimes they don’t know to stop. Always have cool water available and try to find a shaded spot where your dog can rest if she needs to.
It’s also a good idea to bring your own collapsible water bowl because illnesses can be transmitted through shared bowls. Though it’s not realistic to think your dog’s not going to run off and lap up water from the shared bowl or play with shared toys, it's still an important precaution.
4. Catching Fleas and Ticks
Dogs playing together can also pass fleas and ticks. Luckily, there are many good products available to help protect your pet from these parasites. Your options include topical oils, oral tablets or collars. When you're done at the park, do a tick check so your dog doesn't bring any of the disease-spreading bugs home.
5. Special Concerns for Puppies
They have lots of energy to burn and social skills to learn, but you definitely don’t want to bring your puppy to the dog park until he’s been well vaccinated — and even then, you might decide to hold off.
It may be way too overwhelming to be a little puppy and have big dogs coming up to them. Waiting until they’re 6 to 9 months old, when they’re fully vaccinated, is a good time to take them to let them burn off some of that puppy energy.