PhotoAll dogs need adequate amounts of physical exercise and mental stimulation, and dog parks can be a great place to accomplish both. City dogs, especially, might benefit from a little off-leash time to socialize with other dogs.

However, dog parks can also be a dangerous place. It’s not uncommon to witness fights between dogs. Additionally, there is the possibility that your dog may come into contact with an ill (and potentially contagious) dog.

According to Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co, soft tissue injuries or sprains affected over 24,000 dogs last year, making it the most common medical condition to come out of dog parks. Head trauma takes the top spot for most expensive dog park injury, setting pet parents back roughly $591.

Other dog park related medical conditions include lacerations or bite wounds, kennel cough or upper respiratory infection, insect bites, and heat stroke.

So how can you keep your pup safe while he’s socializing?

Research the rules

Keeping your dog safe from dog park injuries doesn’t have to mean foregoing the fun altogether. Experts say many of the medical conditions that crop up as a result of dog parks can be avoided, simply by taking a few precautions.

"The dog park is a great place for dogs to socialize and exercise, but there are safety measures dog owners need to be aware of," said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for Nationwide, in a statement.

Those measures are as follows:

  • Obey all posted rules and regulations.

  • Pay attention to your dog at all times. By keeping a close eye on your dog, you’ll be able to notice right away if playtime becomes too rough.

  • If a dog park has designated areas for large dogs and small dogs, keep your dog in the appropriate area.

  • Don't bring a puppy younger than four months old. 

  • Make sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations.

  • Keep a collar on your dog with proper identification tags that include contact information. Microchipping your dog can also be beneficial.

  • On warm days, avoid the dog park during peak temperature hours. Treating heat stroke in dogs can cost pet owners up to $579.

  • Bring water and a bowl for your dog to drink out of.

  • Look for any signs of overheating. Signs might include profuse and rapid panting, a bright red tongue, thick drooling saliva, glassy eyes, and lack of coordination. If this occurs, take your dog to a veterinarian immediately.

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