Ever witness a dogfight at the OK-9 Corral?  Maybe your local dog park doesn't have that reputation, but there are hidden dangers that dog owners should watch out for, the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) cautions.

"Dog parks are fun places to exercise and socialize your dog," says CVMA president Dean Henricks, DVM.  "However, they can also harbor health risks.  It's important for dog owners to take a few precautions."

The CVMA has these tips for keeping your pet safe when visiting dog parks:

  • Keep your dog's vaccinations current.  Other dogs may not be up-to-date on vaccinations, and your dog could be exposed to diseases.
  • Socialize your dog − to other dogs and people − before going to dog parks.
  • Keep an eye on your dog to prevent it from getting into fights.
  • Small dogs should go to dog parks that have separate areas for smaller breeds.  Untrained larger dogs may perceive them as prey or engage in rough play.
  • Bring water for your dog to drink.  Water stations at the park have been used by other dogs and wildlife and may be a source of disease.
  • Clean your dog's paws when you leave the park to minimize the risk of parasites or diseases from the soil.
  • Have your veterinarian check your dog regularly for parasites.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about any precautions you should take with your dog.
  • Follow the dog park rules.  They generally include licensing requirements, leash laws and a minimum-age requirement for children.
  • Remember, you are personally and legally responsible for your dog.

"The dog park experience isn't right for every dog," cautions Dr. Henricks.  "But if your pet loves them so doggone much, by following the CVMA's tips, you should have a fun and safe visit."

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