‘Treat it like a daycare’: Dog parks might be source of infectious diseases | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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‘Treat it like a daycare’: Dog parks might be source of infectious diseases

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November 25, 2019 - 7:00 AM

Mel McLean believes if your dog isn’t vaccinated, you shouldn't take it to the dog park.

That’s McLean's message after the family retriever Billie contracted kennel cough following a visit to the Ord Road dog park in Kamloops Saturday, Nov. 16.

“In the middle of the night we heard her coughing and our little one ran outside and said she was throwing up… The sound was equivalent to a Canadian goose, like honking, coughing, hacking up. We thought maybe she had ingested something on a hiking trail, but it persisted,” McLean said.

McLean called the veterinarian Monday and was advised to wait for seven-to-10 days for Billie’s symptoms to cease. Billie’s symptoms have faded and her colour has returned to its normal yellow coat, but McLean is certain that Billie got kennel cough at the dog park.

“We actually hadn’t been in the dog park in a really long time, and within 24 hours of being there, we knew… Dogs share bowls there, they drink the same water out of the same dishes,” McLean said.

Laura Ashmore, manager of Vernon’s Central Animal Hospital in Vernon, said kennel cough and other illnesses such as canine parvovirus are all too common.

READ MORE: The six most common toxins Interior vets see in dogs

The hospital has seen two confirmed cases of parvovirus – a “highly contagious and potentially fatal disease if not caught and treated promptly” – in November.

According to the hospital, parvovirus is spread through direct or indirect contact with infected feces. Treatment is costly and often requires intensive care in hospital.

“Please be cautious when taking your dogs to the dog park or walking them in areas where other dogs have been,” the hospital said in a statement after the two cases were confirmed.

In addition to parvovirus and kennel cough, the American Veterinary Medical Association says there are multiple common diseases to which a dog may be exposed at the dog park.

The severity of these common diseases, the AVMA says, ranges from illnesses such as external parasites and canine influenza to the more severe and sometimes fatal canine distemper, heartworms and rabies.

When you bring your dog to a dog park, you’re exposing them to different things," McLean said, not unlike kids getting the flu or the cold at school.

“You’ve got to treat it like a daycare. If your dog is not vaccinated, you shouldn’t take it to the dog park.”

Ashmore said vaccination is critical to mitigating the risk of illness.

“Prevention starts with people vaccinating their dogs, especially as young puppies. Young dogs need to have access limited to anywhere a lot of dogs frequent,” Ashmore said. “Keeping your animals’ vaccines up-to-date is 90 per cent of prevention.”

-With files from Jenna Wheeler.

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