Contagious Viruses Spread at Dog Parks: Even in Cold Weather


Thanks for stopping by my new Natural News blog, “For Pets and Their People.”  Remember, the more people we can reach, the more animals–and their people–we can help! Note: Please visit my related post Rescue Ranch blog (see post that corresponds to the original date of publish of my Natural News blog (for this story February 19 2015), to see dogs that have been affected and to access the links for things that I use.

What used to be a happy, social time for dogs and their caretakers, has become a potential health hazard. Unfortunately, contagious viruses are easily spread at dog parks by the animals and by their people.

Dog parks can be a lot of fun but there are health risks lurking that you may not have thought about. Some are easy to treat naturally, others not so much.

Years ago, I moved to a special needs dog sanctuary, the Rescue Ranch and out of necessity, began working on Project Hope: The Canine Distemper Project with Ed Bond and Dr. Alson Sears, DVM. Too many dogs were getting Canine Distemper (or Parvo, or both) from being held at contaminated shelters. They would then be unknowing carriers or have a yet-to-be-known active infection of the what were once deadly disease/s. Once sprung from the shelters, the dogs are being taken to dog parks for a run by well-meaning adopters and caretakers, like foster parents and rescue group volunteers. But, they are taking rescues which haven’t been cleaned up yet and isolated for a few weeks (suggested by Dr. Sears) just in case a disease is about to “break.”  (They should avoid pet stores as well, but often times the rescues are taken there to shop for their new beds and toys–a good thing–but it can endanger all of the other animal visitors. This all forced my vote for online pet shopping, especially.)

And, holy cow, what about the vet’s office?  That’s a story for another day, but I can tell you that I ask the vets to wear new sterile gloves; I bring my own treatment table cover, usually an old towel (and throw it away there or tie it up in a bag and leave it in the garage for at least a week. Then, I’ll wash it with very hot water and bleach.) I never let my pet’s feet touch the floor. In fact, if I have to go to the vet at all, I usually call ahead and ask the vet to come out to my car to take a look at the animal/s needing help. Limiting exposure to all contagions is a big key to keeping our animals healthy…

Dog Parks

At the park, healthy dogs come into contact with sick dogs’ fomites (foe-mites)–teeny particles of stuff like saliva or mucus, shared by say, sharing water dishes and baby pools; slobbery toys; sneezing in close quarters/play groups or happily grooming each other by licking each other’s eyes or mouths–potentially leaving all of the dogs then exposed.  Those with weak immune systems, the elderly, or improperly vaccinated,* become symptomatic within a month or less. (*”Over-vaccinating is just as bad as not at all,” says Dr. Sears. Especially, if you plan on such public risks. Doggie play dates at home, with a fenced yard, can be just as fun and cut down on disease exposure.)

Vets usually treat the symptomatic dogs (post-six days of exposures usually) as kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection until one day, the dog/s fall into a seizure! This means that the systemic distemper now became an even deadlier form, neurologic distemper.  (Distemper eventually crosses the blood brain barrier and once in the brain, is a very difficult thing to treat–but not impossible, but very expensive.)

People Spread the Viruses, Too

Canine Distemper and Parvo can be spread by people as well.  Stepping in poo, petting an infected animal or throwing a slobbery toy for one and say, then throwing your own dog’s toy without disinfecting your hands, spreads the fomites through saliva or mucus. Getting a “sneeze on your clothes” by a dog running by and getting in your car or going home without changing your clothes are all ways that YOU help to spread these viruses. Some days, I change six or eight times, just to make sure I don’t transfer anything.  I also leave my shoes outside of the house–no matter where I’ve gone, dog park visit or not–and some days, I take a whole lot of showers!

While the Distemper virus usually dies off in 48 hours, give or take, the Parvo virus can live for months and months–and months. I would rather be careful rather than sorry. I also spread regular food grade diatomateous earth in the entry ways and garage to try to kill any fleas, ticks or eggs that may have been transmitted onto us but drop off when we get in or out of the car.  I also sprinkle it in the fur of my animals regularly and add it to their food. (I take it, too!)

The Latest Transmissible Threat

Until recently, I was unaware of the Papilloma virus being of any huge concern to dog park attendees. In the past couple of weeks however, I got an eye-opener (no pun intended). The Papilloma virus is alive and well in dogs (and other animals), is contagious, and possibly deadly–if not treated quickly.

Having rescued a beautiful lab, Girl the Texas Pearl, I noticed that she had stalk-like tiny mushroom growths around one eye.  “What in the world…??” I thought to myself.  After spending hours comparing photos of her condition with photos on veterinary websites and talking to my vet, I learned that she has little papilloma virus growths.  The vet offered to freeze them off and if that didn’t work, they can be surgically removed or frozen off. Some vets have found that by crushing just one of the growths, the dog’s immune system is stimulated enough to kill off the rest of the growths. Painful?

Ten days to several weeks of Azithromycin (allopathic “regular” medicine) has been shown (in practice and in studies) to help get rid of dog warts and papillomas, too, if you decide to follow that route.  I personally chose to put on a sterile latex glove and rub in organic, cold-pressed castor oil every other day.  Girl, the Texas Pearl, had about eight stalks around her right eye and now, about a month later, there are three left that are just about one third of their original size.  (If a little castor oil gets in the eye, it is OK and a story about healing other maladies for another day.)

We were lucky but some dogs that get this virus and if the vets or their advocates don’t know how to treat it, it can spread the papilloma growths down their throat, throughout their entire mouths and some animals, lose their lives because they choke or strangle to death if they were not euthanized first which is terribly sad.

(Since I can’t post photos in my stories, you’ll find some in the links below. I’ve also chosen to post a photo of the main two types of papillomas on my Rescue Ranch blog post dated February 19,2015.  They are so very different, that I think you should know what to look for–and what they could be if you see one (and don’t panic).  Brace yourselves when you open some of the links below–some are really tough to look at. Remember, these could be your dogs, so take precautions if you still want to go to the dog park–and do regular checks inside your dog’s mouth.

Remember, even though it is cold outside, only some viruses die-off, or die-off in 48 hours or so.  Some of them stick around for the better part of a year!  Sunny spots are better to walk and play on, for the sun actually helps speed up the virus die-off process but it is again renewed when an infected dog goes potty, picks up a toy to share, drinks out of the same bowl and on and on and on.

Take Precautions

Why not take some precautions/have these handy (I keep them in my car at all times, especially when heading to a public place):

*Diatomateous Earth

*Washable/Disposable Booties

*Portable Watering Devices/Bowls

*Easily Sanitizable Toys

*Also, feed your dog an hour ahead or so ahead of time so they don’t want to eat while at the park.  If need be, bring a treat waist pack and take your dog away from the pack to do training or to give treats.  The less drool from others that you get on your hands, the less foreign drool your dog will consume as well! (68 percent alcohol hand sanitizer is not strong enough to kill these viruses…Answer coming soon in another post!)


If you suspect exposure to any of the viruses, I give my dogs–as a rule of thumb–pine bark extract up to four times per day: 30 mg for smaller dogs, 50 mg for medium and 100 for larger dogs.  I open the capsules and mix into food (no objections registered).  I also add colloidal silver (at least 30 ppm) or nano silver to their water–just a squirt or two, depending on the volume of water in the dish–and give it orally as well.  I have found that the homeopathic remedy, Boiron’s Oscillo (off-label), is a great immune booster for the dogs as well as for people, and give any size dog a dose, two to three times per day.

That said, this is preventative–for for initial exposure to a cold, virus, etc. but if you have been told that your dog had Distemper contact or a diagnosis of or you see pink-ish, liquid poo that has a smell that you just can’t get out of our your mind, you may have a case of Parvo on hand and need to get these viruses diagnosed and addressed immediately–so immediately, that every second counts–and I cannot stress the word ‘second’ enough. (There IS a natural treatment that can kill both the Distemper and Parvo viruses in infected animals. Please contact me if the info links below don’t help you.)

For the Papilloma virus, castor oil rubbed on the growths three or four times a day has worked wonders for my dogs but may not for yours.  You may need to get a vet (or if you are brave…) to crush a growth to activate the immune system to fight the virus–or do both! Or you may need to turn to other natural remedies or allopathic solutions like the azithromycin for a couple of weeks per your vet’s advice.

Feel free to print out any of my articles and take them with you to your vet or rescue director.  Mostly, I write about what I have had direct experience with and am happy to answer any questions that I can to help you to help your animals–or to help you–so you can continue to care for your animals.  I would be ever so grateful, if in turn, you help me to help the Rescue Ranch special needs dogs if you feel inspired.  Sometimes it takes a community to get things done, sometimes it takes a whole lot more than that! I am also always willing to learn–if you find out something different, learn something new or want to me research/write about a topic that you are curious about or that you are dealing with, just let me know.

Thanks for stopping by, for listening and for caring.  Especially for caring.


P.S. Please be gentle with me in the comments section. I have a sensitive heart. especially after taking care of so many special needs animals and loving them until the ‘end.’ I am open to a critique here or there but please be constructive and kind. All I want to do is to help the animals–and their people.

About the Author,

J.D. Ward Living and working at the Rescue Ranch Special Needs Dog Sanctuary in the Houston area, I have tons of experience rescuing and nursing back to health (naturally) literally thousands of animals.  I am usually called by vets and rescues to save animals who can’t be saved by conventional methods.Many have only months to live.  I work to heal their bodies and their spirits before we say, “Goodbye…”

Just an FYI, I write a more personal blog on the Rescue Ranch site and welcome you to stop by, catch up and learn more about me, who some of the Rescue Ranch animals are that I’ll be writing about, using their stories to teach you what I’ve learned case by case. IF I mention that I will post any photos that correspond to a story on this site, I will have them posted on the blog page of the Rescue Ranch site, organized by date of this story, usually within twelve hours or less. (At some point, I may develop my own Natural News photo page!)

Remember, I am not a vet. Any information offered in my posts are for guidance and entertainment only.  Be your animal’s best advocate. Do your own research, talk to your treating professionals, suppliers, health experts, etc. about your animal/s’ specific situation before making any decisions.


Read More

Canine Parovirus on Wikipedia

Canine Distemper: Project Hope

Kind Hearts in Action: Canine Distemper Resource

Lil Syd’s Story: Oral Papillomas  (Brace yourself)

Ask a Vet: Azithromycin for Papillomas and Warts

Oral Papillomas in Dogs

Must View Pics: Oral Papillomas in Dogs Come in Many Shapes/Size

Earth Clinic: Removing Dog Warts and Papillomas Naturally

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J.D. Ward
Thanks for visiting "For Pets and Their People," my Natural News blog. About J.D.Ward: I've been rescuing and advocating for animals and natural health since forever! I became a vegetarian/vegan most years, because I would rather be friends with animals rather than (ugh!) the alternative. I began writing about animals and health to help them and their people about fifteen years ago. I hope that I can continue to make a difference in their lives. I love learning about new things as much as I love sharing what I learn. Hey--Follow Me! Sending Hugs from the Herd--the Rescue Ranch herd that is! (