Be paw-pared before visiting a dog park

Marci Gore • Jun 5, 2013 at 1:44 PM

A dog park can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors with your canine companions. But before snapping on your dog’s leash and heading out the door, you may want to consider some tips from two local veterinarians to ensure both the safety and the health of your four-legged friend.

Dr. Andy Cherry, a veterinarian with Cherry Point Animal Hospital in Kingsport, says to make sure your dogs are well-vaccinated against all transmissible diseases before stepping foot — or paw — into a dog park.

Kingsport’s Dog Park, Dogwood Park, requires a copy of vaccination records for all dogs registered to come to the park. Proof of vaccination is required for rabies, parvovirus, distemper and bordetella, better known as kennel cough. Records must include the dog’s name, vaccination and date of vaccination.

“Kennel cough is very transmissible among dogs. Dogs could be asymptomatic at the time they’re at the park, but they could still be harboring the disease,” said Cherry.

Dr. Gary Andes a veterinarian at Andes-Straley Veterinarian Hospital also recommends vaccinating dogs against leptospirosis.

“Raccoons and other wildlife can carry that around. They pass it through the urine. A dog with its nose to the ground can pick that up quite easily. It’s a problem anywhere. We try to get everyone to vaccinate their dogs for this as they can, especially if they’re going to places where there’s going to be a lot of other dogs. It’s much more important then,” Andes said.

Andes also recommends making sure your dog is protected against fleas and ticks before heading to the park.

“Fleas are something we need to stay aggressively ahead of. The longer we go through the warmer months, the worse it gets,” he said. “There are lots of great combination products that not only protect against fleas and ticks, but also heartworms and intestinal parasites.”

Cherry also recommends dog owners be very cautious of other dogs while at the park.

“Don’t reach out to pet a dog without permission from the owner. Just because a dog is at the dog park, does not necessarily mean it’s a friendly dog. Always let the dog approach you first. You can read their attitude by that. Sometimes a dog who’s not aggressive will feel threatened when you reach to pet them. They sometimes see that as an act of aggression towards them,” he said.

If your dog is primarily a housedog and you’re taking him or her to the dog park for the first time, ease them into the situation.

“Dogs that are not used to an excessive amount of exercise can start running around like crazy because they’re excited. There are other dogs there. They’re glad to be free. But these dogs are also more likely to have heat-related problems. They would be more likely to over exercise and maybe have some overheating situations or even possibly back injuries. Be particularly careful of overheating. It might not seem as hot to us because we’re not out running around in a fur coat in 87-degree weather,” Cherry said.

Cherry also recommends to bring your dog’s own water and water bowl to prevent the spread of germs and to keep a pet first aid kit in your car — just in case.

“Supply it with things you’d supply for yourself — some roll bandaging, some gauze, some things like that,” he said. “This might even be something you’d want to permanently keep in your car.”

And both vets also advise keeping small dogs separated from big dogs.

Lori Jones is the chairperson for the Friends of the Kingsport Dog Park and says Dogwood Park has a small dog area and a large dog area.

“The small dog area is about half of an acre and the large dog area is about an acre and a half to two acres,” Jones said. “We consider a small dog to be typically 25 pounds and under. We do have small dogs that come to the big dog side and do just fine. But owners should use their own judgment with this. The dog park is a great way to let your dogs get some exercise and socialize in a safe environment, but use common sense, too.”

And, Andes adds, don’t let your guard down.

“It’s like defensive driving. You really have to be careful and make sure that you don’t allow your dog to get into trouble. It should be a fun place to go. It should be a safe place for your pet, but you’ve got to be proactive and be prepared in case they do get into trouble,” he said.

Registration is now open for Kingsport’s Dogwood Park. The cost to register the first dog for a Kingsport City resident is $20 per year. Each additional dog is $10 per year. For those outside the city limits, the cost is $25 per year for the first dog and $15 for each additional dog.

Dogs must be at least 4 months old before they can come to the park.

For their own safety, no children younger than 12 are allowed in the park.

Owners must clean up after their own pets. Jones says trash cans and bags for waste are located throughout the park.

A membership application can be downloaded at www.kingsportdogpark.com .

Dogwood Park is located adjacent to Hunter-Wright Stadium and is open dawn to dusk, daily. For more information, visit the park’s Facebook page or call (423) 229-9457.

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