Being a Good Neighbor - Dog Park Etiquette

We are very fortunate to live in such a pet-friendly community, but it is nevertheless important to respect our neighbors and community members, especially when it comes to dog parks. Here in Clarendon, the dog park is especially closely surrounded by residential buildings, making it all the more important to consider the rules and regulations of the parks.

As a refresher, these are the Arlington County rules and regulations relating to dog parks:

  1. All dogs must be licensed and vaccinated before entering a dog park.
  2. Dogs less than four months old are not permitted in a dog park.
  3. Female dogs in heat are not allowed in a dog park at any time.
  4. No food is allowed within the boundaries of a dog park.
  5. A handler/guardian may bring in no more than three dogs at a time.
  6. Professional dog trainers may not use any dog parks to conduct business, unless sponsored by Arlington County.
  7. All dogs must be leashed when entering and exiting a dog park.
  8. Handlers/guardians must be in possession of their dog’s leash at all times.
  9. Handlers/guardians must remain with their dog and be in view of their dog at all times.
  10. Handlers/guardians are responsible for the removing of dog waste from a dog park and disposing of it in a proper receptacle.
    Important a side note:  a recent random sampling of stools left behind at the Clarendon Dog Park revealed Giardia cysts, hookworms, AND roundworms! We see a surprisingly high number of cases of Giardia and other intestinal parasites in this area — picking up your dog’s poop doesn’t just apply to dog parks, but should be rule-of-thumb whenever you are out walking. Even in the backyard, these parasites are all very hardy and can persist in the environment for quite a long time.
  11. Dogs must be removed at the first sign of aggression. Aggressive dogs shall not be permitted within any designated off-leash dog parks. An “aggressive dog” is defined as a dog that poses a threat to humans or other animals. Handlers/guardians are legally responsible for their dog and any injury caused by them.
  12. Handlers/guardians must not allow their dogs to bark on a continuous or frequent basis.
  13. It is unlawful for any person who owns, possesses or harbors a dog to permit that dog to create a frequent or continued noise disturbance across a real property boundary or within a nearby dwelling unit.
  14. Handlers/guardians, prior to leaving a dog park, must fill holes dug by their dog.
  15. Dog grooming is not allowed in any dog park, unless it is part of an Arlington County-sponsored program.
  16. Parents must be in control of their children at all times in a dog park.
  17. Violations of the leash law, pooper-scooper law and running-at-large law can result in a summons to appear in court and a fine of $100.
  18. Both Rabies vaccination tags and County Dog License tags are required to be secured on your dog’s collar at all times.

While most “etiquette” as it relates to dog parks actually pertains to us as the handlers/guardians and not our dogs, there are some dogs that are better suited for play at a dog park than others and some things we, as owners, can be doing to ensure our dog has a good experience at the park.

Join us for a lecture/Q&A on Dog Park Etiquette with local dog trainer Leila Sheikhy of K9 Harmony Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. at our office at 3000 10th Street N, Suite B.

Gastrointestinal Parasites

Most of you have likely brought a stool sample in to your pet’s annual veterinary visit, perhaps wondering in the back of your mind why it’s necessary to check a stool sample on an annual basis, especially if you have a cat or dog that spends minimal time outdoors.

Roundworms, hookworms, Giardia and coccidia are the most common intestinal parasites in our geographical region, and all but coccidia also have the potential to be zoonotic — transmissible to human beings — thus deserving special attention.

Roundworms, most specifically Toxocara canis (in dogs) and Toxocara gati (in cats), were found to be present in 1/79 (1.2%) of dogs and 1/26 (3.82%) of cats in Arlington County. Infection can occur via ingestion of infective eggs, in utero transmission (dogs only), or transmammary transmission, which is why it is seen so commonly in puppies and kittens. Infection can cause pot-bellied appearance, failure to thrive, and gastrointestinal signs; puppies infected in utero are most likely to be severely sick. Roundworm eggs are often found in soil, including houseplant potting soil (a source of infection for indoor-only cats). Children, with their propensity to put things in their mouths, are most at risk for zoonotic infection. Due to the complicated migration of roundworm throughout the body tissues upon ingestion in an inappropriate host, symptoms in humans can include visceral larva migrans and ocular larva migrans. Ocular larva migrans is a cause of retinal damage and partial blindness in children and can be mistaken for the more severe disease, retinoblastoma (cancer), resulting in an unnecessary removal of the eye.

Hookworms (Ancylostoma species.), found in 2.21% of dogs and 0.51% of cats in Arlington County, are transmitted via ingestion of infected eggs, as well as transmammary transmission; the larval stages of hookworm also have the ability to penetrate intact skin to infect their host. Hookworms suck blood from the wall of the intestinal tract and can lead to severe anemia and even death in young puppies; older dogs may show diarrhea as the primary sign. Hookworms are most often contracted by humans when they directly penetrate the skin, leading to cutaneous larva migrans.

Giardia, a protozoan parasite, is a common cause of intestinal symptoms in cats and dogs — primarily diarrhea, and less commonly vomiting, inappetence, or weight loss. According to the CAPC, 15.6% of dogs and 10.3% of cats with compatible symptoms tested positive for Giardia, though there are distinct regional differences, with infection being more common in some areas than others. Giardia is the most common intestinal parasite of humans in the U.S., causing similar gastrointestinal signs to those seen in our pets, such as diarrhea, bloating and cramping. Transmission in both humans and dogs results from ingestion of cysts shed in the feces of infected animals, typically from contaminated water. Fortunately, Giardia subspecies are quite species-specific so transmission between humans and pets is uncommon in healthy individuals. Children, elderly, or otherwise immune-deficient individuals are most at risk for transmission from an infected pet.

Coccidia (Isospora species), another protozoan parasite, though not thought to be zoonotic, is a common intestinal parasite, especially in puppies and kittens who do not have fully developed immune systems. It is also more common in pets from intense breeding, hoarding and shelter situations as it is very hardy in the environment. The most recent prevalence data from CAPC showed that Coccida was present in approximately 3% of dogs and cats in Pennsylvania (the closest state with prevalence data).

In general, pet-to-human transmission of roundworms, hookworms and Giardia can be minimized by removing feces from the environment on a daily basis and hand-washing after any potential contamination. Once in the environment, it is extremely difficult to decontaminate the environment; however, if stools are picked up immediately there is little chance of transmission to other pets and/or humans. It is also important to dispose of feces with the municipal waste, as it otherwise has the potential to contaminate water sources.

Other intestinal parasites found less commonly in our pets include whipworms (dogs), tapeworms, stomach worms, Toxoplasma (cats), and Strongyloides. In addition to your pet’s veterinarian, the Companion Animal Parasite Council is a fantastic resource for all things parasite-related.