Dog parks have popped up all over the United States. These parks provide a chance for that couch potato pooch to get up, get moving and meet new friends! Dogs, just like humans, need both physical and mental stimulation to achieve a sense of well being. (They say a tired dog is a good dog!) Dog parks provide this outlet. However, there are a few things to consider before you pack up Fluffy and head on over!
Many people think that if they put their Maltese in with that group of Boxers, all will be fine and they will naturally form a play pack. This is not necessarily the case. Itís important to assess your own dogís personality. Even though you may feel that this would be a great experience to get out and meet new friends, your dog may not be the social butterfly type and he may prefer long walks with you or maybe some playtime in a familiar environment with familiar dogs. Dog fights are no joke (for both the dogs as well as the owners involved) and if you know that your dog may not be the best fit to run with the pack, then itís best to respect your dogís personal boundaries.
Are You Current On Your Vaccines?
Dog parks are a bit like preschool! Sharing is caring, but do you want that adorable Lab puppy to share his Parvo with your pooch? Many viruses can be shed through feces without the animal showing any outward symptoms themselves. This particular virus is pretty hardy and can remain in the soil for over a year! Not only is picking up after your dog good etiquette, it also keeps communicable diseases (and parasites) from being spread via dirt and soil in a dog park.
Bordetella (Kennel Cough) Vaccine Option
A common infection that dogs love to share is Bordetella, more commonly known as Kennel Cough. Itís a complex of viruses and bacteria, but itís quite contagious and airborne. As with Parvo, the animal can look perfectly healthy but still be contagious. While there are a few other very contagious viruses that can be shared, the core vaccinations for dogs usually have incorporated these components in what is frequently called the ďdistemperĒ vaccine. The DHLP-P stands for Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parvo and Para Influenza. Some veterinarians do not incorporate the ďLĒ, or Leptospirosis, into the vaccinations at their office. Bordetella is a vaccine that is optional, so be sure to discuss your dogís lifestyle with your veterinary assistant so you can be sure that his needs will be met.
Parasites- Inside and Out!
Parasites, both external (like fleas and ticks) and internal (like roundworms) are another thing that dogs do not mind sharing! Intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and giardia all may be found in a dog park environment. Again, a dog may harbor these parasites but seem perfectly healthy. However, dogs can still pass microscopic eggs on to other dogs through their feces. All it takes is your dog to walk by and have a casual sniff and get a bit of microscopic eggs on their nose. A quick lick of the nose has now introduced those eggs to your dogís intestinal track! Luckily, most heartworm preventions and some topical preparations (by prescription only) can help prevent not only heartworms, but many of these parasites as well. Again, discuss your dogs lifestyle with your veterinary assistant and she can help you choose what heartworm and/or flea and tick treatment with the extra benefit of intestinal parasite protection will be the best fit for you and your dog.
You may think that you have to cross the dog park off of your weekend to-do list, but this does not need to be the case! The socialization with both humans and other canines is important for your dog and, of course, the exercise benefits a fit body and psyche for your canine companion. Common sense and communicating your dogís lifestyle needs with your veterinary assistant is all thatís needed to ensure that your dog is protected and ready to romp!