State of Pet Health: Does Location Matter?

Does geographic location affect the overall lifespan of cats and dogs? Perhaps, but it’s only one part of the equation, according to a recently released study.


Banfield Pet Hospital’s State of Pet Health 2013—which analyzed the medical data of 2.2 million dogs and 460,000 cats around the U.S.—notes, among other factors, like breed size, sex or spay/neuter status, preventable diseases plaguing certain parts of the country can impact a pet’s lifespan.


States with the highest prevalence of heartworm infection and a higher proportion of unspayed or unneutered cats and dogs were among those with the shortest lifespans, says Dr. Sandi Lefebvre, DVM, Ph.D and veterinary research associate at Banfield Pet Hospital.


Among the top five states with the shortest lifespan for cats: Ohio and Kentucky. For dogs, Alabama and Massachusetts ranked in the top five states with the shortest lifespan. Three states were had the shortest life expectancy for both cats and dogs: Mississippi, Louisiana and Delaware.


“According to America’s Health Rankings, Mississippi and Louisiana tied for 49th worst states for health in humans,” says Lefebvre. “There were a lot of factors that went into this, but we think it’s interesting that these states rank the at the bottom for both humans and their pets.”


So, where are pets enjoying long, happy lives in the U.S.? Cats live longest in Montana, Colorado, Rhode Island, Illinois and Nebraska, and dogs enjoy longer lives in South Dakota, Montana, Oregon, New Mexico and Colorado.


(Photos courtesy of Banfield Pet Hospital.)


“Moving from Mississippi or Louisiana to a state with a longer pet lifespan, for example South Dakota for dogs or Montana for cats, won’t necessarily translate into a longer lifespan for a pet,” says Lefebvre. “But it might influence the pet’s risk of certain infectious diseases.”


The key to ensuring pets live long, healthy lives, according to Lefebvre, is routine preventive care. That’s where pet specialty retailers—often at the forefront of educating and guiding pet owner buying decisions, notably with nutrition or healthcare supplements—can help.


“Pet specialty retailers need to emphasize that all pets deserve full preventative care—it’s the best way of leveling the playing field to allow all pets the best opportunity for a long healthy life,” Lefebvre says. “And each one of the services they provide—be it pet food and nutritional supplements, boarding or behavior training or counseling—is critical to that process.”


For detailed, interactive information about where your state ranks in pet health, including the common and chronic conditions affecting pets in the U.S., visit