Dogs that reside in the city are, by very location, more exposed to a variety of health concerns and conditions than dogs that are kept in more suburban and rural areas. This is largely due to the proximity factor with city dogs being in closer quarters with each other. In some cases this even includes being in apartment buildings where air is circulated between apartments, potentially leading to the spread of airborne viruses and bacteria within buildings and complexes that simply doesn't occur in single family dwellings or in areas where dogs are further apart.
In addition city dogs that are walked in parks, doggy off-leash areas or even on city streets are more likely to come into contact with fecal material, saliva and other types of body fluids from other dogs. This contamination of soil and water is often the most likely culprit of the spread of parasites and disease and is extremely difficult for the owner to control. Direct physical contact with other dogs can also be a problem and many of the most contagious viral diseases and parasites are easily spread by this type of contact in play or greetings between dogs.
Central watering areas in parks and even in ponds or lakes where large numbers of dogs congregate is perhaps the most worrisome health concern. In warmer summer weather the standing water in these ponds and lakes, as well as a dog drinking bowls and containers, becomes an ideal growth medium for bacteria and viruses. Single celled organisms can easily live in this water for days or weeks and be ingested by your dog when they drink from this type of water source.
One of the more serious conditions that can be carried by polluted or stagnant water is the bacterial condition known as Leptospirosis. This bacterium gets into the water from the urine of an infected animal. Wild animals as well as dogs, livestock and even humans can become infected with Leptospirosis and it is easily transmitted between species, including humans. Symptoms of Leptospirosis include a discoloration of the urine, typically a bright yellow or deep orange color, fever, vomiting and general pain and depression. As the condition worsens bloody vomit and feces, dehydration and muscle tremors will become evident. In extreme cases liver and kidney failure can occur that will be fatal. Generally these fatal conditions are relatively rare and typically occur only if the Leptospirosis is occurring with another health condition or disease. Dogs can get these types of bacteria multiple times and the vaccination may not protect against every strain of the bacteria, but it does protect against the most common.
Antibiotics are very effective in treating Leptospirosis, especially in the first 2-14 days of infection. Some dogs may not develop full symptoms, which makes diagnosis very difficult. Thankfully there is a vaccination for the bacteria that does need to be given each and every year. Unlike some vaccinations that may not warrant yearly boosters, bacterial conditions need annual vaccinations.
Kennel cough is another common health condition that is seen in dogs that are in close proximity to one another. Since it is easily spread from dog to dog through contact with body fluids, most boarding kennels, dog trainers and dog organizations and associations require that all dogs be treated for the condition before participating in any activities or events. Boarding kennels are particularly strict about this requirement as it can spread throughout an entire kennel in an extremely short period of time.
Basically kennel cough is like human bronchitis and results in the dog having a hacking, dry sounding cough. It is an upper respiratory infection that provokes a series of coughing fits or sessions when the dog is active or suddenly moves about. Generally with healthy dogs kennel cough will simply go away on its own in about 10 days, however if the dog has any other health condition it can become very serious very quickly. If the infection becomes severe it is possible for the dog to develop pneumonia, a potentially debilitating and even fatal condition.
The biggest cause of kennel cough in dogs is Bordetella bronchiseptica, however it is generally not seen just on its own. Conditions that promote kennel cough are humid and warm weather, dogs in close quarter to one another and dogs that kept indoors where there is relatively poor air circulation. As with Leptospirosis, kennel cough can be treated with antibiotics and treatment of any other health conditions, then followed by regular preventative vaccines.
The vaccinations for kennel cough come in two forms, injectable and nasal. Both are very effective and can be used however some researchers believe the nasal option is more effective in boosting the body's natural antibodies to the bacteria. Both types of vaccinations need to be given every 10-12 months.
Besides these two highly contagious conditions, city dogs are also exposed to a lot more airborne pollutants than dogs raised in suburban or rural areas. Air pollutants from vehicles, houses, industry and even construction sites can really irritate a dogs eyes, nose and respiratory system. Dogs that are highly sensitivity to airborne pollution may also have problems with skin allergies, resulting in poor coat condition, lesions on the skin and general poor overall health. Dogs that live indoors with people that smoke are also at risk for developing cancers related to smoke inhalation, which can be made even more significant if there are lots of smokers in the area.
While you can't protect your dog from all pollutants and irritants in the city, you certainly can protect them with routine, yearly vaccinations and overall supervision. Also be sure to take your dog to the vet or at least call your vet if you notice any changes in your dog's behavior or typical personality and energy level. These are often the first signs of any type of health condition. Early treatment is always the best option, especially for the diseases that can easily be passed from dog to dog.
Don't allow your dog to play in off-leash areas that aren’t maintained, keep them away from strange dogs and always bring your own water and dish to avoid contamination in parks and other public areas. You may also want to routinely bathe your dog once a month or as recommended, using a good dog quality shampoo and conditioner or herbal dog coat treatment. This will remove irritants from the coat and help keep your dog's skin and hair stay healthy.