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Dog Parks and Parasites: How to Protect Your Pet

Dog owners love to treat their dogs like valued members of the family, which means keeping them happy and healthy. Walks, treats and games can be fun and stimulating, but most dogs really enjoy some time in a dog park. Owners can enjoy this time as well–their dog is entertained, busy and happy while they get to relax and socialize with others. It’s commonly understood and accepted that dog owners are not to bring their dog to the dog park if they are not properly vaccinated, but sometimes things can still happen–like parasites.

Parasites in Dog Parks

Parasites can cause considerable harm to a dog’s health, making them feel uncomfortable and unhappy. Obviously, dog owners are wise to take all necessary actions in order to prevent parasitism from occurring in their canine companion, but it can still happen that dogs come into contact with parasites from other sources, like dog parks. Unfortunately, this may mean that many dog owners will choose to avoid dog parks, depriving their dog of the thrill of interacting with other canines. So how can one protect their dog while still keeping them healthy and happy? Firstly, by understanding the problem and how to protect against it.

Researchers from Colorado State University recently released a study that indicated that dog park attending dogs had higher rates of parasitism than non-dog park attending dogs in the same area. In order to perform their student, research scientists collected the feces from one hundred twenty-nine dogs that belonged to university staff or students. Sixty-six of these samples were from dog park attendees, and sixty-three samples were from non-dog park attendees, and they indicated that those dogs who visited dog parks were far more likely to be infected with Giardia and Cryptosporidium than dogs who did not visit dog parks. As these intestinal parasites are transmitted through poop and dogs routinely poop in dog parks, it’s easy to understand why these statistics are what they are.

Despite the fact that parasitism was far more common among the dog park attendees, there were few dogs suffering from diarrhea, vomiting or inappetence, which are the common signs of intestinal parasitism. While most healthy dogs possess the immune system capabilities to successfully control these infections, the fact remains that many dog owners may be entirely unaware of the fact that their dog is being exposed to or fighting against parasitism. This means that dog owners are unable to take actions that will resolve the problem or prevent it from reoccurring.

Protecting Your Pet

Since there is no way to know for certain whether your dog may be exposed to parasites at a dog park, there are some actions you can take in order to protect him. First of all, you should consult your veterinarian to learn about heartworm preventatives and broad spectrum dewormers. These products are normally quite effective in preventing certain worm infestations, but they can be entirely ineffective against certain parasites, so your dog should have regular fecal testing as well. If you notice other dogs at the dog park who seem to be demonstrating symptoms of illness or parasitism, of course it is better to be safe than sorry and remove your dog from the park. If your dog tends to be curious about or interested in fecal matter, you should consider enrolling your dog in training classes where they can learn to follow commands that force them to leave fecal matter alone. You should also continue to take your dog in for regular veterinary checkups in order to ensure that they are healthy.

The mere fact that parasites can be transmitted more readily through dog park attendance should not automatically bar you from taking your dog there. However, you should be aware that parasitism is a problem and take the necessary actions to protect your dog against it.

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