Dog Parks: The Hidden Dangers
Spring is upon us and the warmer weather motivates many people to get outside. Along with the normal hustle and bustle of city streets, the local dog parks become noticeably more populated. For many owners, off-leash dog parks are a blessing but for others, they are a burden. Off-leash dog parks have been the topic of some hot debates recently but, whether you love them or hate them, these parks are certainly gaining popularity as many people depend on them for the space to exercise and socialize their dogs.
Anyone that frequents the local off-leash dog parks have undoubtedly come across some troublesome issues, such as menacing dogs and people that do not respect dog park etiquette. What many people may not know is that dog parks have dangers that are not so easily seen and pose several risks to you and your pet. Now that ground water is unfrozen, some of it will stay on the surface and become stagnant puddles or mud laden areas. These areas can become rife with bacteria, especially in places where there is a lot of foot traffic. Dogs that come into contact with contaminated water, soil, mud or other dogs, are largely at risk for contracting any number of bacteria or parasites that cause infection.
One of the most common parasites that your dog can pick up at the park is Giardia. Giardia are microscopic protozoans that, despite their somewhat comical appearance, can cause big digestive problems in pets and people. This parasite is shed in the feces of infected animals and can live on the ground, preferring wet environments, for several weeks. Dogs can become infected by sniffing or consuming infected material, such as feces, mud or water.
There are several other parasitic and bacterial infections that both wildlife and other people’s pets could transmit, including Leptospirosis, Coccidiosis, Cryptosporidiosis, and Toxoplasmosis. Vaccinations for some of these infections are available but are not 100% effective. In fact, many of the vaccinations (more appropriately, bacterins) introduce the bacteria/parasite to the dog via injection, often in a modified state. This is done so that the dog’s immune system can develop antibodies to kill the culprits. However, they may make the dog a source of the contagion because they then shed the microorganisms in their stool or urine. In reality, dog parks have no way to enforce that the dogs using the space are up to date on vaccinations, healthy, well behaved and attentive to their owners’ commands. This is why, as responsible dog owners, we need to take a proactive approach to dog ownership and truly assess whether or not the dog park is an ideal space for our best friends.
As an alternative to dog parks, Keshet offers several large, fenced areas that are available to rent. No natural outdoor environment is ever 100% guaranteed free from bacteria and parasites but, at our facilities, we take several precautions to ensure your pet stays safe and gets the most out of their visit. Each of our off-leash areas offer something unique and are ideal for exercising your pet without the dangers and frustrations of dog parks. Check out our Facilities Rental page to learn more.