Banfield: Pets live longest in Montana, shortest in Mississippi

State of Pet Health Report indicates sterilization plays key role in pet longevity.
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May 16, 2013

Think Florida is the place to be for an active senior lifestyle? Maybe for Grandma.

For cats and dogs, apparently Montana’s the place to be. According to the Banfield State of Pet Health Report for 2013, Montana holds the top spot for average lifespan. Cats live an average of 14.3 years, dogs 12.4. But before you pack a bag for Bella or Max—names Banfield found to be the most common—geography isn’t the only factor that influences a pet’s longevity. The Banfield report looked at genetics, preventive care, breed type, size and whether or not an animal is spayed or neutered. Still, you can’t blame a pet for wanting to be a spayed Chihuahua named Bella who gets regular dental care in Helena.

The report, Banfield’s third annual examination of medical data gathered from its more than 800 hospitals, is sourced from nearly 2.2 million dogs and half a million cats in 43 states. Some data was encouraging: the average lifespan of a cat has increased 10 percent since 2002. A dog’s lifespan increased 4 percent. Banfield attributes the increase in large part to veterinary care, with statistics that might compel pet owners to go ahead with that spay or neuter or finally comply with recommendations for preventive care.

According to the report, neutered male cats live 62 percent longer than unneutered males. The trend holds true for spayed female cats (39 percent longer) and spayed and neutered dogs (23 percent and 18 percent, respectively). “Neutering male pets decreases their chances of developing prostatic enlargement and disease and eliminates the risk of testicular cancer,” the report states. “Spaying female pets eliminates the risk of pyometra, a life-threatening infection of the uterus. If a female is spayed before her first heat cycle, chances of developing breast cancer drop dramatically as well.” State-by-state comparison found that Louisiana and Mississippi—both among the states with the shortest lifespans for cats and dogs—also ranked among the highest numbers of unneutered and unspayed animals.

The report notes that neutering a pet may also reduce behavior problems, which are often a primary reason for pet relinquishment. The data indicates that unneutered pets are more susceptible to outdoor dangers. Banfield found that unneutered dogs are twice as likely to be hit be a car or bitten by another animal. Unneutered cats have four times the risk of being hit by a car and are three times more likely to be treated for an animal bite.

Preventable outdoor dangers also pose greater risk to animals living in certain areas of the country. Louisiana and Mississippi were among the highest prevalence of heartworm infection for Banfield hospitals in 2012. “Preventable diseases such as heartworm disease and Lyme disease are life-threatening and may play a role in a reduced lifespan in certain areas of the country such as the Northeast (Lyme disease) and the Southeast (heartworm disease),” the report states. “Heartworm infection is one of the top three conditions or diagnoses for pets seen in Banfield hospitals in the southern states, including Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, among others.”

The report also found that some of the same conditions that afflict people are are also affecting their pets. While cats are living longer, they’re also getting fatter. According to the study, the presence of excess body weight increased 90 percent over five years. Excess body weight in dogs has increased 37 percent and the prevalence of diabetes mellitus in dogs has doubled. Arthritis is also increasingly being diagnosed in cats—prevalence of this diagnosis has increased 67 percent in cats seen at Banfield hospitals in 2012; in dogs it has increased 38 percent. However, the patient data revealed that the most common disease for both dogs and cats was dental disease, affecting 91 percent of dogs and 85 percent of cats over the age of 3.

To explore all data and see the interactive State of Pet Health Report, go to stateofpethealth.com.