Safe In The City: Avoiding Pet Hazards Of Urban Residences

Humans who choose to reside in metropolitan cities are enthralled with the bustling pace, the dazzling nightlife, the vibrant culture and the variety of the restaurant scene. For their pets, however, such cities can pose a host of risks to health and safety. Learn about some of these urban hazards and how you can protect your dog or cat.

High Rise Syndrome

High-rise syndrome collectively refers to the injuries sustained by cats who take accidental tumbles out of apartment windows or off of fire escapes or terraces. These accidents often happen when a cat is intently focused on bird watching and loses her balance. Such falls can result in broken limbs, fractured pelvises, shattered jaws and punctured lungs. Practice the following precautions to prevent your pet from falling:

  • Don't open windows that do not have secure screens.
  • Don't allow your cat onto the terrace or balcony.
  • Keep in mind that dogs can also plunge out of a window if they are distracted and excited by a visiting bird or by activity going on in the street below.

High-rise syndrome is only one of the dangers that the combination of apartment windows and city birds poses.

Feathered Friend Fungus

The city's feathered inhabitants, such as the pigeons that are so prevalent, can harbor a fungus called cryptococcus and shed it through their droppings. Exposure to this organism can result in a systemic infection that becomes life-threatening without dedicated treatment and monitoring. Microscopic cryptococcus spores can be inhaled by a cat who is in close proximity to the pigeon droppings which is another reason to keep your cat from stepping out onto the terrace or lounging on the windowsill when the window is open, even with a screen in place. Although dogs can contract the illness, cryptococcosis is much more likely to afflict cats. Before dog owners rejoice, be aware that other organisms can infect your canine companion.

Puddle Trouble

Standing puddles and stagnant bodies of water are optimal havens for two health problems, both of which are contagious between dogs and zoonotic. In cities, rats are the common carriers of leptospirosis, a life-threatening infection that can result in kidney and liver failure. Rats spread leptospirosis through their urine, which can end up in puddles from which a dog may be tempted to drink. Dogs also contract leptospirosis through skin contact with the urine.

Giardia is a protozoan parasite that takes up residence in your pet's gastrointestinal tract. Giardia is often found in puddles, rivers and ponds, and all your pet needs to do to become infected is to ingest the organism, either by drinking the contaminated water or by ingesting fecal material from an infected animal. To protect your dog, take the following precautions:

  • Don't allow your dog to lap water from anyplace other than his own water bowl.
  • Don't allow your dog access to feces from other animals.
  • If you bring your dog to the city's dog park for exercise and socialization, speak to your veterinarian about making a leptospirosis vaccine part of your dog's routine vaccination protocol.

In your dog's best interest, do not allow him to lick, drink or chew anything that he comes across along his traveled path.

Snacking Off Asphalt

City sidewalks are busy sidewalks, bustling with curbside food vendors, sidewalk cafes and folks hurriedly eating on the run as they rush from place to place on foot. In your pet's eyes, the result is a sidewalk buffet of tasty tidbits that are inadvertently dropped here, there and everywhere. Don't allow your pet to nibble. Ingestion of discarded scraps of food can lead to a host of problems, including the following:

  • Bowel perforation as a result of swallowing a bone that splinters in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Pancreatitis, which can result from consuming fatty foods
  • Bowel blockage that results from eating food wrappers or non-edible portions of foods, such as corncobs
  • Toxicity, which can result from eating chocolate, raisins, nuts and other foods that are toxic to pets

When navigating streets and sidewalks, keep your pet on the shortest leash possible to maintain control of his actions, and also be cognizant of other dangers on the asphalt.

Sidewalk Paw Perils

During those scorching summer days, the temperature of the pavement can climb in excess of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, which can burn the pads of your pet's paws. Stick to early morning and late evening walks, and consider outfitting your pet with booties to prevent burnt paws. You should also put booties on your pet for outings on the icy and snowy days of winter. Salt and ice melt products that are used to make the walkways safe and slip-free are irritating to your pet's paws and hazardous if ingested.

Moving Traffic

From sudden stopping and lurching of cars desperate to escape traffic snarls to taxis whizzing by, a moving vehicle could easily strike your pet if he isn't securely tethered to you by a leash. Keep your cat indoors at all times. When walking your dog, check his leash regularly for fraying and replace it as soon as it begins to show signs of wear. Use a short leash to keep him close to you. Confirm that his collar is snug and securely fastened or that his harness is properly fitted and attached to prevent him from slipping free and darting into the street.

Cats and many breeds of dogs can live happily in urban dwellings, and by following these tips, you can keep your furry friend safe. Visit a site like if your pet seems to have caught one of these illnesses or otherwise injured themselves.