Off-Leash Dog Park Safety Tips

Spring has arrived, along with the appearance of hungry nymph and adult ticks. Learn the facts to protect your pet.

This weekend may finally signal the end of winter and we’re all ready to come out of hibernation with our pets and enjoy long spring walks and play time at our local dog park.

Off-leash dog parks in Pittsburgh and surrounding communities have become increasingly popular spots to let your dog run free and get the flatout running exercise that is so necessary to relieve pent up energy. These trips can be the highlight of your dog’s week and are a great social and exercise outlet for the pet owner as well — providing you follow some common sense rules and precautions. Always remember that “dogs will be dogs” and that some degree of vigilance on your part will make this a happy time for both of you.

I recommend that when you arrive at the park for the first time you locate the Rules and Regulations Board that is posted at all dog parks. Much of this information can be about etiquette to fellow pet owners, like cleaning up all feces and trash, but there may specific ordnances peculiar to that municipality that must be followed. Next, I would carefully observe the other dogs playing there already. If all are having a great time interacting with each other, then proceed. Occassionally there may be a dominant “bully” that is not being controlled by it’s owner and you may want to try another day.

Current vaccinations and flea / tick prevention products like Advantix, a Seresto collar, or oral Simparica are strongly recommended, as are modern Heartworm preventatives that incorporate effective intestinal parasite deworming medications, such as Interceptor, Heartgard Plus, or Iverhart Plus. As a precaution, you should wipe your dog’s feet after dog park play to remove fecal matter that is a source of bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Hard play can lead to overheating and dehydration as the days are warming, so take plenty of water and a collapsible bowl. Early morning and late afternoon / evening are the safest times to avoid heatstroke. Remember, if humidity is very high, it doesn’t take roasting hot temperatures to overheat your dog. Take frequent water breaks while playing and if your dog is panting excessively, vomiting, is becoming mentally depressed, or has dark red or blue mucous membranes, stop playing and cool off your dog with splashes of water all over the body in the shade. If not responding within minutes consider a trip to our veterinarians for further care.

Take some basic first aid supplies like gauze pads, adhesive tape, a clean towel, and some type of non-alcoholic first aid cleaning solution. Cuts on rocks, broken glass, or fencing materials can occur, and while usually not serious, can bleed a good bit. Direct pressure over a wound and a temporary snug bandage can be very effective to control bleeding. Applying make-shift bandages until you get home or to the veterinarian can save you hours of car clean up.

Many dog parks post signs for monthly maintenance days. There is usually a big work day in the early spring to prepare for a summer and fall of fun, so lend a hand. Funding for dog parks is limited, so these volunteer days are essential to maintaining your park and are a fun way to get to know your dog-oriented neighbors.

To better assess the health of your pets’ teeth, we now have DIGITAL DENTAL X-RAY EQUIPMENT. This allows us to see hidden periodontal disease surrounding the tooth roots so that action can be taken to judiciously suggest treatment or extraction since our pets can’t tell us where it hurts them.


Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.

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