What to know when visiting the dog park
The dog park is an opportune place to socialize and exercise your pawed pal. However, it's also a risky spot for your dog to contract a variety of viruses, bacteria and parasites.
We spoke with Dr. Thomas Edling, vice president of veterinary medicine for Petco, to learn about the canine diseases running rampant in dog parks. According to Dr. Edling, the dog park is an area that will certainly have multiple common diseases and conditions which dogs are susceptible. Here's what you need to know before you unleash your pup.
"Kennel cough is caused by a combination of highly contagious viruses and bacteria," says Dr. Edling. It's a form of bronchitis and results in inflammation of a dog's voice box and windpipe.
Canine distemper is a viral disease that can be easily spread at dog parks. "Puppies and dogs usually become infected through virus particles in the air or in the respiratory secretions of infected dogs," explains the animal health expert.
According to Dr. Edling, parvovirus — caused by the canine parvovirus type 2 — is spread by direct contact between dogs. It can also spread via contaminated stool, surfaces, bowls and even soil.
Dogs can get the flu, too. "Canine influenza is a relatively new disease in dogs [that] is spread through respiratory secretions," adds Dr. Edling.
External parasites (ticks, fleas and mites)
Ticks, fleas and mites... Oh my! Dr. Edling warns that external parasites, such as ticks, fleas and mites, pose risks to dogs in social settings.
Fungal organisms (blastomycosis, histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, coccidioidomycosis, etc.) in the soil can infect dogs when they eat or sniff contaminated soil.
"Intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms lay eggs that are passed through the dog's stool — and infect other dogs when they eat contaminated soil, lick contaminated fur or paws or drink water contaminated with the stool from infected dogs," explains Dr. Edling. "Tapeworms are spread when dogs eat fleas, lice or rodents infected with tapeworms."
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by Leptospira bacteria. "The bacteria are shed in the urine of infected animals. Animals (and people) usually become infected by drinking contaminated water or coming into contact with contaminated soil or food," warns Dr. Edling.
According to Dr. Edling, ringworm isn't a worm at all. "It is actually due to a fungal infection of the skin and can be spread by contact with an infected dog, bedding or something that has come in contact with the infected dog. The fungus can also survive in the soil," he adds.
Fertilizers and pesticides
A dog park's environment may also put your dog's health at risk. "Avoid letting your pet walk, run, play or roam in areas that have recently been treated with fertilizers or pesticides," says Dr. Edling.
Toxic plants can cause a variety of illnesses. Some ornamental plants can be very toxic to animals. Cocoa mulch, for example, is toxic to dogs. For more information about toxic plants, visit the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control website.
Talk to your veterinarian to get more information on the dog park diseases in your area. And be sure to contact your vet immediately if you notice any changes in your pup's health.