What’s going down at the dog park? Possibly parasites!
Although puppies are most at risk for gastrointestinal parasites, any dog can be susceptible and suffer clinical signs due to parasites. Recent research looked at whether off-leash dog parks were a risky environment for dogs due to the potential spread of parasites. In order to assess this, researchers collected fecal samples from dog parks in 30 urban areas of the United States. The goal was to collect 100 samples from up to 10 different dog parks in each area. Over 3000 samples were collected, and all dogs contributing data were owned and from unique households. The age and breed of each dog was also recorded.
Almost 69% of owners had their dog on heartworm/intestinal parasite control medication, but the percent varied by geographic location. Intestinal parasites were found in over 20% of the tested feces, with 85% of sampled dog parks having at least one positive sample. The most common parasite was Giardia, and the most common nematode was hookworms. The take home message is that the majority of dog parks will have some parasite presence. Maintaining dogs on broad-spectrum parasite control and regular fecal testing are two ways to help ensure that your dog stays healthy while enjoying some social time at the dog park!
The full study can be read here. Detection of gastrointestinal parasitism at recreational canine sites in the USA: the DOGPARCS study