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Spring and Your Pets – Dog Park Diseases

By Colleen Williams
published: April 3, 2012 - updated: May 7, 2024 • 2 min. read
dog park diseases

Key Takeaways

  • Dog parks are common places where dogs get sick with contagious diseases.
  • Parasites live in feces left behind in dog parks.
  • Contaminated drinking water can make dogs sick while using communal bowls.
  • Vaccinate your dog, bring your own bowls, and watch your dog closely at dog parks.
  • Being safe at dog parks can save your dog from feeling unwell and you from high medical bills.

With the warming weather, you and your pooch are eager to break out of the house and head to the dog park for a little exercise. But spring isn’t all butterflies and sunshine – dog parks are can be places where your canine can get sick. Diseases at the dog park are often extremely contagious, and it’s important to properly vaccinate your pet against them. Don’t go to the dog park with an unvaccinated puppy.

Parasites found in feces are the cause of a large number of dog park diseases. Puppies are especially prone to contracting a parasitic infection, because – like human babies – they are curious and often put things they shouldn’t in their mouths. Symptoms of parasitic infections always include diarrhea and vomiting, and sometimes weight and appetite loss. Treatment can include antibiotics and a drug that inhibits the parasite’s reproductive cycle, which can range from $15 to $100. Often animals are dehydrated, which requires IV fluids to replace those lost – this runs about $40.

  • Coccidia occurs in puppies, and is caused by a parasite in the mother’s feces, which puppies are often in close contact with.
  • Parvovirus is the adult dog version of coccidia, and is also caused by eating parasite-infected feces.

Contaminated drinking water is also a source of infection; communal bowls or troughs allow diseases to be easily shared and provide an easy host for parasites and bacteria.

  • Giardia is a parasite that lives in water sources; symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss, and it can be treated with anti-parasitic drugs.
  • Leptospirosis can be contracted from urine-contaminated water or infected wild animals. Since the parasite thrives in the dog’s kidneys, it affects urine color, which may often be bright orange. It also can cause an increase in thirst, dehydration, and frequent urination. If your animal is infected, it will be quarantined and treated with antibiotic drugs.

However, don’t keep your dog home just because you’re afraid of disease! Here are some tips to make your visit to the dog park safe and fun.

  1. Make sure your pet is completely vaccinated. Make an appointment with your vet to determine they have been fully immunized; many communicable diseases are easily preventable.
  2. Bring your own water and bowl. Communal water can provide a host to numerous parasites, bacteria, and viruses. Better safe than sorry!
  3. Keep an eye on your dog. Don’t let your pooch wander off; they can get into all sorts of mischief – dogfights, roadkill, and feces all pose threats to your dog’s health.

Playing safe at the dog park can save your pet from medical costs and disease. Any animal exhibiting diarrhea or vomiting for more that 24 hours should see a veterinarian immediately. Always make sure your animal is up to date on vaccinations, and schedule regular appointments with your vet.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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