Preparing for the Dog Park
Dog parks have popped up all over the United States. These parks provide a chance for your dog 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 your dog and head on over.
Assess Your Dog’s Personality
Many people think if they put their Maltese in with a group of Boxers, all will be fine and they will naturally form a play pack. This is not necessarily the case. It’s important to assess your dog’s personality. Even though you may think this would be a great experience for your dog to 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). If you know your dog may not be the best fit to run with the pack, then it’s best to respect your dog’s personal boundaries.
Get Your Dog Vaccinated
Dog parks are a bit like preschool. Sharing is caring, but do you want that adorable Lab puppy to share his Parvo with your dog? Many viruses can be shed through feces without the animal showing any outward symptoms themselves.
This particular virus is pretty hard 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.
A common infection dogs love to share is Bordetella, or more commonly known as Kennel Cough. It’s a mix of viruses and bacteria, and it’s 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 distemper vaccine.
The DHLP-P stands for Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parvo and Para Influenza. Some veterinarians do not incorporate the “L,” or Leptospirosis, into the vaccinations at their office. Bordetella is an optional vaccine so be sure to discuss your dog’s lifestyle with your veterinary assistant so you can be sure his needs are met.
Seek Veterinary Assistance
Parasites, both external (like fleas and ticks) and internal (like roundworms) are another thing that dogs don’t mind sharing. Intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and giardia, can all be found in a dog park environment. Again, a dog may harbor these parasites, but seem perfectly healthy.
Dogs can pass microscopic eggs onto other dogs through their feces. All it takes is for your dog to walk by and have a casual sniff and get a bit of microscopic eggs on his nose. A quick lick of the nose introduces those eggs to your dog’s intestinal track.
Fortunately, 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 dog’s lifestyle with your vet assistant so she can help you choose the best heartworm and parasite treatment for your dog.
You may think you have to cross the dog park off your weekend to-do list, but this doesn’t need to be the case. The socialization with both humans and other canines is important for your dog as well as the benefits from exercise. Using common sense and communicating your dog’s lifestyle needs with your veterinary assistant are all that’s needed to ensure your dog is protected and ready to romp!
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