The warmer summer weather correlates to an uptick in ER visits, many of which are related to dog park dilemmas. Interestingly, there has been a 34 percent increase in dog park utilization over the past five years, and these designated areas are the fastest growing segment of all city parks in the U.S.
With this increase in use comes the proportional increase in dog injuries. Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) recently sorted its database of more than 420,000 dogs to determine common dog park-related medical conditions in 2011. Topping off the list are sprains and soft tissue injuries, with lacerations and bite wounds following in second place. My own ER experience supports these statistics, and it wouldn’t be summer in the ER without treating at least a couple of these over the course of a weekend. The remainder of the top list 10 is rounded out as follows: kennel cough, insect bites, head trauma, heat stroke, parasites, and parvovirus.
Each of these conditions can make a fun day at the park a costly one. The most common conditions on the list, sprains and soft tissue injury, carry the price tag of an average of $213 per pet. Insect bites, turn out to be the least expensive, and run an average of $141 per pet. The most expensive medical condition to care for is heat exhaustion or heat stroke, and the reported average cost is $584 per pet. However, if the heat stoke is severe, cost of treatment can easily exceed thousands of dollars.
The majority of medical conditions that occur at the dog park can be avoided by taking necessary precautions, particularly by simply keeping a close eye on your dog at all times. Dog parks have rules just like any other community, and if you follow these tips, it may help prevent an unnecessary trip to your veterinarian or local ER.
- Obey all posted rules and regulations at the park; I cannot tell you how many times I’ve treated scuffles between dogs at a “leashed park,” where one owner obeyed the rules, and the other had their dog free roaming, leading to trouble.
- Pay attention to your pet at all times, and just as importantly, pay attention to other pets, too. Be in tune to the body language given off of your dog as well as all interactions between your pet and its playmate of the moment.
- Do not bring a puppy younger than 4 months of age to the park.
- Make sure your dog is up to date on all of its vaccines and has a valid pet license; if your dog does happen to get into a fight, and your pet is not properly licensed, another level of predicaments can follow with animal control.
- Keep an identification collar on your dog and make sure your pet’s microchip information is up to date.
- On very warm days, avoid the park during peak temperature hours, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Look for signs of overheating that include profuse and rapid panting, a bright red tongue, thick drooling and saliva, lack of coordination, collapse or disorientation. If this occurs, bring your pet into a veterinarian IMMEDIATELY while instituting cooling measures.
Hopefully these tips will make your next visit a walk in the park!