New Dog Owner? Here’s what you need to know before visiting the Dog Park

As Spring approaches, more Houstonians are being drawn outside. If you are itching to take Fido to a dog park to play, keep these foundational safety tips in mind. Here are four ground rules for any four-legged friend visiting a dog park in Houston:

Add Rabies & Registration Tags To Their Collar

If you just adopted, it is likely your dog is already current on all vaccinations required by the City of Houston’s public dog parks. Organizations like the Animal Humane Society build the cost of vaccines for diseases like Bordetella, Distemper, and Rabies into their adoption fee. Make sure to update the Rabies tag on your dog’s collar whenever you do routine check ups at your vet. Additionally, Houston authorities require that you register your dog; this license is also displayed on a collar tag that you receive in the mail. Attach both tags to a leather or nylon collar before spending time at a dog park.

Both the Rabies & Registration tags can be extremely helpful if your dog is ever involved in an incident at the dog park. And if your dog is ever bit or the recipient of aggressive behavior, don’t hesitate to ask the other dog’s owner about the status of their animal’s vaccine history.

Ensure Flea & Tick Prevention Is In Full Effect

It’s no secret that Houston has mosquitos… and unfortunately, ticks have become an increasing worry to US officials because of the variety of diseases they can transmit. The good news is that it’s easy to protect yourself and your pets from having to deal with these pesky parasites.

Our Veterinarians can help you choose the best preventive option for your family; choices range from shampoos, to prescription treatments, to Insect Growth Regulators that you spray on your yard. Check out our FAQ page to read more about the best way to prevent fleas/ticks at home. Be sure to mention to your vet that you’d like to let your dog socialize at a public park! They can discuss options to ensure flea & tick prevention for when the environment is outside of your control.

And don’t forget about protecting yourself. If you’re hanging out while your pet is playing, chances are high that you could be bit. Use insect repellent diligently!

Bring Your Own Water

This might seem obvious, but having drinking water is a necessary component to making sure your dog stays healthy and happy on their trip to the bark park. There are seemingly endless options for collapsible water bowls; some even hook onto your dog’s leash for easy carrying. Don’t count on a water fountain being at the park… bring your own bottle of water (a big one!) and share it between yourself and your dog’s bowl. And whatever you do, don’t let your dog drink standing water at the park. If your park has a place for dogs to swim or splash, make sure to ask your Veterinarian about a vaccination for Leptospirosis, a dangerous bacteria that can affect the liver and kidneys.

Also, bring bags with you to pick up any poop!

Socialize Your Dog Before Going To The Park

Before coming to the dog park for the first time, see how your dog acts with one other dog around. Try to introduce them to a friend or family member’s pet that you already know is sociable.

Does your dog respond to your commands when they’re off leash? You can go to the park at non-peak hours to practice voice commands. Once you feel confident in your dog’s off leash behavior, try the park with others around! You can keep your dog on the leash in the park, as long as you’re holding on to it. When you feel ready, let them off leash! If your dog is running around the park, make sure you’re cognizant of their activities. You don’t have to hover, but be aware.

Ultimately, dog parks are an excellent way for your dog to exercise and engage socially. Houston has many parks across the city, and they are all free for your pet to run and play.  Call us today if you would like to know more about any of the above vaccinations! You can also review the City’s full list of rules for visiting any of the dog parks.

Microchipping: The Invisible Leash

It doesn’t matter if your dog or cat wanders out a forgotten gate, chases an unwitting squirrel or digs under the fence… if your pet is loose, your number one priority is bringing them home. Why isn’t your pet’s collar enough to guarantee a safe return? Simply put, tags can wear out and collars can fall off. Microchips are becoming the universal standard to extend the tether between pets and their homes.

Increased Chances of Returning Home

The American Humane Association estimates over 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the United States every year. But for animals that are microchipped, their chances of being reunited with family are significantly improved. A recent study found that microchipped dogs were returned to their owners at a rate of 52%. 38% of chipped cats were reunited with their owners, as opposed to the 2% return rate for cats without microchips. In January 2019, 88 cats and dogs were returned to their owners through Houston’s BARC shetlers alone.

Microchip Basics

But what are microchips and how do they work? Pet Health Network describes “microchips [as] implantable computer chips that encode a unique identification number to help reunite you with your lost pet. They work by receiving a radio signal from a scanner and transmitting the encoded chip identification number back to the scanner.” That number is stored in a database and is associated with your contact information. Furthermore, microchips are very easy for Veterinarian’s to insert; each microchip is as small as a single grain of rice and doesn’t require anesthesia when implanted. They sit just below the skin in between your dog or cat’s shoulder blades.

Every animal that is brought to an animal shelter or pet clinic is routinely scanned for a microchip. The unique code associated with a pet’s chip will provide the organization with their owner’s contact information. Some chips can even be customized to include additional emergency contacts, the pet’s  breed, or the Veterinarian’s contact information. Microchips do NOT offer GPS capabilities.

Global Safety

Because they are highly effective, microchips have become a common practice for petcare worldwide. The scanners found in pet clinics utilize varying frequencies to activate microchips that were implanted in different countries; European scanners work with chips at slightly higher levels of kilovolts than American scanners. If you ever plan on taking your pet with you abroad, check the country’s regulations for pet microchips. Some clinics have started to use scanners that register all varieties of chip to increase the chances of reuniting lost pets.

A Win-Win Decision

Microchips offer pet owners increased security, and fortunately, there is very low likelihood that your pet will have an adverse reaction to the implanting of a microchip. According to the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, an organization that maintains the database of negative effects caused microchips, “over 4 million animals have been microchipped and only 391 adverse reactions have been reported.”

Lastly, a microchip is not a replacement for a contact tag attached to a leather or nylon collar. Keeping a current tag on your pet’s collar can greatly expedite their return home if they ever do get out; neighbors can get in touch with you without having to take your animal to a clinic!

If your dog or cat is already microchipped, update your contact information as needed.  If you don’t know how to log into the database for your pet’s specific microchip, ask your Veterinarian about it at your next appointment!