Playing ruff: How to prevent common dog park maladies


dogs running in park

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Who doesn’t love a good romp in the park with an energetic four-legged friend? Fall foliage beckons us to enjoy the great outdoors with our best furry friends and we’re sure to stumble upon some crowded dog parks in our near future.

The downside to dog parks? Your pup can potentially go home with more than a few new friends — think sprains, parasites and kennel cough.

According to Veterinary Pet Insurance, policyholders spent more than $8.6 million on medical conditions that are commonly associated with dog parks in 2011. And VPI recently sorted its database of more than 420,000 dogs to determine which dog-park-related medical conditions were most common in 2011. The top-ranking conditions were:

• Sprains and soft tissue injuries;
• Lacerations and bite wounds;
• Kennel cough/upper respiratory infection;
• Insect bites;
• Head trauma;
• Hyperthermia or heat stroke;
• Parasites; and
• Parvovirus.

If your canine finds himself suffering from any of these conditions, you’ll be reaching deep in your pockets to care for him. The most expensive medical condition listed above, hyperthermia or heat stroke, costs an average of $584 per pet. Insect bites, the least expensive condition on the list, cost an average of $141 per pet. The most common condition on the list, sprains and soft tissue injuries, costs an average of $213 per pet.

“Pets are treated by veterinarians more frequently during the summer months due to their increased exposure to the outdoors,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, VP and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. “The majority of medical conditions that occur at a dog park can be avoided by taking necessary precautions, most notably by keeping a close eye on your dog at all times.”

So before and your furry friend run yourselves over to a dog park, keep these tips in mind to keep your pooch healthy and safe:

• Obey posted rules and regulations;
• Pay attention to your dog at all times;
• Don’t bring a puppy younger than 4 months old;
• Keep your dog up to date on vaccinations, and make sure he has a valid license;
• Keep a collar on your dog;
• On very warm days, avoid the dog park during peak temperature hours, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.; and
• Look for signs of overheating, which include profuse and rapid panting, a bright red tongue, thick drooling saliva and lack of coordination. If this happens, run to the vet right away.