City Versus Country Dogs: Who's Healthier?

The Cons of City Life

It’s a good thing that urban-dwelling dogs live so close to their veterinarians — seeing as they’re more likely to need them.

Compared with country pups, city dogs have a higher proportion of allergies, and eye and ear infections. And a 2008 study conducted in Mexico City found that when pets are consistently exposed to urban smog, they’re more likely to suffer from nose and throat ailments, as well as asthma and bronchitis.

The bad news doesn’t stop there, either.

Due to close proximity to other canines, city pups are 30.9 percent more likely to be bitten by other canines than country dogs — and they have a much higher incidence of parvovirus, a disease that’s highly transmittable between dogs.

But the biggest health threat facing urban dogs is obesity, which can be the main underlying cause for many canine health problems.

“About 90 percent of the city patients I see are battling obesity, but you’ll rarely see overweight country dogs because their lifestyles are more similar to what you’d see in the wild,” says Dr. Jones. "If you can get a dog’s weight under control, their anxiety goes down, their behavior problems go down, as well as their risk for cardiovascular issues. It takes a real commitment for city dog owners to carve out time to get pets out running and moving, so they can be healthy and happy.”

How to Keep Your Dog Healthy — No Matter Where You Live

The best thing you can do — regardless of whether you're based in the city or the country — is to pick the right breed for where you live.

“Do your research,” says Dr. Jones. “Having a Border Collie in the city would be a challenge. That dog needs to work herding animals, and living in a high-rise could eventually cause problems. Conversely, a Maltese probably wouldn’t survive farm life.”

The next step is to properly train your animal in order to keep it safe. “Country dog owners should teach their pets where they can and can’t go — and train them not to chase cars,” says Dr. Jones. “City dogs need to be leash trained. If you’re off leash, chances are something bad is going to happen.”

Finally, make sure that if you have a high-energy pup, he's getting plenty of exercise. In the country, designate safe areas where your pet can run free. In the city, hire a dog walker if your schedule doesn’t allow for long walks or runs each day.

And, of course, “see your vet on a regular basis for preventive care,” says Dr. Jones. “And you’ll have a good, happy dog.”

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