pragAlthough many of us live in metropolitan areas, the reality is cities present unique challenges to raising and owning a pet. There are more people living in close proximity and therefore more trash, traffic, and training requirements. In the Chicago metro region, we may enjoy the lakefront or the many parks within our communities, but it is hard to escape the impact of living with our city pet in a congested, busy, and traffic-rife area.

Of course, there are also a myriad of benefits to being a city-dwelling pet lover. There are dog, cat, and exotic pet clubs. There are dog parks of all varieties. And, generally speaking, there is access to better quality veterinary care and pet health specialists.

The key to keeping your pet happy and safe in an urban environment resides in your level of awareness and some city-savvy pet skills that only a true cosmopolitan pet owner can exemplify.

Mastering the Art of Dog Walking

As a responsible dog walker, your dog will benefit from leash training, a length-appropriate (non-retractable) leash, cues about staying on the sidewalk or heeling at curbs, and proper socialization. Be especially aware of other potentially aggressive animals, and ask before approaching another’s pet.

Summertime can be a scorcher, and asphalt and concrete absorb those sun rays. Walk your dog when the pavement is cool to the touch, or stay on grassy areas. In the winter, many icy roadways get treated with salt and chemical de-icer, which can cause severe illness if your pet licks it off of his or her paws and fur. Consider investing in some properly fitted boots for your pup, or make sure you gently clean his or her paws after traversing snow or slush.

Hmm… What’s This? Can I Eat It?

Cities are a cornucopia of smells, and pets have a knack for finding their way to those smells. With a larger population comes greater risk of your pet coming across poisonous substances left out by a negligent neighbor, or food items simply tossed carelessly on the sidewalk.

To protect your pets from ingesting something potentially toxic, keep them indoors unless supervised. When out on a walk, allow your dog to remain ahead of you, where you can see what he or she takes an interest in.

High Rise Dangers

Incidences with pets falling out of windows or off of balconies are all too common. In fact, it is common enough to require its own name. In 1987, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association published a study on falling cats, an urban phenomenon which researchers named High Rise Syndrome. These falls not only can result in death, but also can cause a number of serious injuries from forelimb fractures to thoracic trauma.

The good news is that falls are 100% preventable with safety measures, such as installing child proof locks on windows and screening in balconies (or keeping your pet off of the balcony entirely). Never underestimate the strength your pet has in pushing open a cracked window or door, or the security of window screens, which can often pop off quite easily.

Animal Threats and the City Pet

Most metropolitan areas struggle with a large number of strays. While we as animal lovers might feel compelled to rescue a stray, keep in mind that the animal’s state of health is unknown. When in doubt, there are several rescue groups that specialize in humanely transporting and providing veterinary care to a stray animal without putting other animals (and your pet) in jeopardy.

Cities are also home to numerous wild animals that have cleverly and successfully adapted to our urban habitats. Because wild animals carry many serious zoonotic or transmissible diseases, such as rabies and leptospirosis, it is advised to keep your pet inside at night.

Never approach a wild animal in your yard or in a park, and keep an eye on your pet in areas where there is a greater chance of encountering wildlife. Here are some other useful “living with wildlife” tips from the City of Elmhurst.

Finally, the best way to protect your pet in the city is to make sure your pet has accurate identification tags or is microchipped, and that his or her vaccinations and parasite preventatives are up-to-date. Knowing the region’s municipal bylaws regarding pet ownership is also advised. Don’t assume every township or community has the same rules, since they are determined by municipality. Feel free to give us a call if you have any questions.