Top 7 Dog Park Dangers

Two dogs with dog insurance fight in a park.

By Dr. Fiona, a veterinarian and guest blogger for pet insurance provider, Pets Best Insurance.

U.S. dog parks are the most quickly growing portion of city parks in the US. The dog park is a summertime fun staple for dog owners. It’s a place for friends to meet and allow your dog some off-leash time to explore and play.

Dog parks can be a great way to provide exercise and enrichment to your dog’s everyday life, but the dog park can come with a few possible dangers as well. Accidents and illnesses can occur at any time, it’s always a good idea to have a dog insurance in place. But here is what you need to know about the most common dog park injuries, when to treat at home and when to make an appointment with the vet:

1. Sprains, Strains and Soft Tissue Injuries
The quick, sometimes uncoordinated leaping and running the average dog at the dog park performs can translate into soft tissue injuries. It is important to discourage behavior that can cause obvious injury, but often these injuries happen despite good common sense. If your dog suddenly becomes non-weight bearing lame, holding up a leg completely, or seems in a lot of pain, call your veterinarian right away. If the limp is slight, cut the play session short and encourage the dog to rest up at home. Examine the paw for obvious splinters or injuries. If the lameness isn’t improved within a few days, or certainly if it worsens, call your veterinarian. Don’t ever give dogs over the counter human pain medication without a veterinarian’s approval. Many are toxic to pets.

2. Cuts and Bites
Unfortunately not everyone at the dog park plays nice. If your dog is bitten by another dog, wash the wound with warm soapy clean water, or a little hydrogen peroxide right away. Don’t use alcohol, ouch! Bite wounds have a high likelihood of becoming infected, even if the wound is small, so make an appointment with your veterinarian to get antibiotics. Obviously if the fight is severe or if the wounds are extensive, veterinary attention is warranted right away.

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3. Respiratory Infections
A lot of dogs come through the dog park, and just like a daycare center, it is possible for your dog to catch a ‘cold.’ If the cough is slight and non-productive (not moist or mucus-y) and Buster still feels well and is eating normally, you might wait to make an appointment. If the cough worsens, doesn’t improve within a few days, becomes moist and productive, or she starts to feel poorly, a vet visit is in order.

4. Insect Bites
Bee stings can be painful! Dogs can also be allergic to bee stings, just like people. If you are able to see the stinger, try to remove it. You can ice the area as well, if tolerated. If your pet starts to have facial swelling, or extreme pain at the sting site, call the vet. Some pet health insurance agencies, like Pets Best Insurance, offer coverage for bee stings.

5. Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is a potentially deadly illness that is not uncommon in the summertime. Dogs don’t sweat to cool themselves like people. Because they cool themselves by panting, dogs that have respiratory compromise, such as Bulldogs, Pugs and other ‘smug’ faced breeds are more prone to this. Dark colored dogs and overweight dogs are also at risk. Taking steps to prevent heat stroke is far better than trying to treat it. Be smart, don’t take your dog out at the hottest part of the day. Always have water available, either enough for the dog to get into, or at least enough to drink. Make sure shade is available. Signs of heat stroke include: collapse, extreme lethargy/ decreased responsiveness, bright brick red colored, or grey colored gums, and vomiting. If you think your dog might be suffering from heat stroke, this is a veterinary emergency and you need to take the pet to the hospital. NEVER douse your pet in cold water trying to cool them.

6. Parasites
Dogs aren’t the cleanest animals… The dog park unfortunately is home to lots of dog poop also. Even if your dog isn’t a poop eater, parasites can live in the environment and be easily transmitted causing an infestation. If you are a frequent user of the dog park, always deworm your pet regularly.

7. Parvovirus
Parvovirus is a very hardy virus. It can live in the soil for up to 4 years and is extremely difficult to kill and disinfect. A Parvovirus infection can be deadly if not treated and can be costly to treat for people without pet insurance. There is good news though, the Parvovirus vaccination is extremely effective at preventing this deadly disease. Never take unvaccinated dogs, or partially vaccinated puppies to the dog park. Puppies shouldn’t be taken to highly dog-trafficked areas until the puppy series of vaccinations is complete, usually around 4 months of age.

Always obey all the posted rules and have your pet wear a collar at the dog park. The dog park is supposed to be fun and with a little foresight can be a blast every time! For more information about pet health and behavior or to learn more about dog and cat insurance, visit


  • Nathan Counts

    For item 5. when you say “NEVER douse your pet in cold water trying to cool them” is this because of a preference not to take “medical” measures in your own hands or because dousing may be harmful to the dog.

    • Carina

      Hi – I don’t know the answer to your question, but for kids (admittedly not identical to caring for dogs), you don’t put them in ice baths if they have a fever because the body may feel cold and could make the fever spike even higher… which is what you’re trying to bring down. Good question!

    • Diane

      My question as well.

    • Betty

      I belive it is like a child. A child with a fever we dont put in cold water because it may cause chills which will make the fever worse. If you were to use water I would suggest room tem.

    • Kate

      I just read about this in a newsletter from my vet. It’s because the shock of cold water will cause the surface blood vessels to constrict, making it even harder for the dog to cool off. You can swab the dog’s armpits (where the blood vessels are close) with a cool damp washcloth while you’re on the way to the vet.

    • Kynleigh

      You do not want to put a “hot” pet in “cold” water to cool them because it can put their body into shock. A much better way is to spray gauze pads with isopropyl alcohol and place them on the pads of the feet, rectum, and armpits.

    • Hi Nathan, it is not recommended that your douse your dog in cold water if you believe heat stroke is a possibility because this can cause peripheral vasoconstriction, which can inhibit heat loss. This can also cause shivering, which generates more heat and makes the hyperthermia worse. Another important reason is that you can over-cool the dog and create hypothermia easily without monitoring body temperature very closely while cooling.

    • David

      The way I understand it is to just have your dog stand in shallow cool water to cool down. They dissipate heat through their paw pads. Cool the paws you cool the dog.

  • jess

    You use lukewarm water to cool dogs. Cold water causes their blood supply to constrict and cause a variety of issues, including not cooling them down! Alcohol on the paw pads work too, just don’t let them lick it!

  • Christine V

    It can be harmful to your dog if you cool them too quickly and for too long. You can cause hypothermia and shock the system.

    Christine v vet nurse


    I, too, would like a definitive answer to the “no cold water” statement.


    Okay, I just called my vet and was told that dousing or throwing the dog into cold water may bring their temp down too rapidly and bring on hypo-thermia. It’s best to give them a little cool water to drink and put “cool” water on their heads and feet (since that’s where they sweat”.

  • Lynn

    I use this method: Cover the dog with a damp towel, from behind the head to the tail. Place the towel so that it is covering the sides of the body, but never wrapped tightly around the dog… just laid gently over the dog. Don’t use a cold, soaked towel, but a towel dampened with tepid water and then squeezed out to be just damp. A chamois type towel works well, or one of the microfiber towels made to dry pets off after a bath works. My dogs (a Dachshund and a Maltese – Lhasa Apso mix) both LOVE this treatment when it is a hot day!


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