fetch! blog

10 states with the healthiest pets

Photo
Dr. Ernie Ward
Posted by Dr. Ernie Ward on Jul 06 2016
Dog and cat in living room | 10 states with the healthiest pets

I’ve lived my life believing, “It’s not where you are, it’s who you are.”

While I still abide by that simple credo, the folks at Care.com have ranked the states with the healthiest pets. While their study may not be strictly scientific, it does raise some interesting questions and suggestions for improving your pet’s health—wherever you live.

Is your state a healthy place for pets?

The first thing I’d like to point out about ranking the health of pets is that reliable and accurate data is scarce. There aren’t any government agencies, mandatory reporting guidelines, or even centralized data collection agencies in the veterinary world. How many pets, how long they live, even why and when they die are basically an information black hole.

(For over two years, I’ve been promoting a national pet mortality registry to help gather data on how long pets live. If you’re a big data expert or amateur hacker who loves pets, send me a message over at Project25.vet! )

The result of all this lack of information is that pet-themed health leaderboards have a degree of guesswork and assumptions to support any conclusions. With that in mind, let’s find out where your state ranked!

To determine the “healthiest pets,” the study analyzed available pet care data from each state.

Care.com created four categories to score health:

1) an illness rank

2) access to vet care

3) healthy environment

4) total pet spend

The authors distilled these metrics into a pet health ranking system. According to the authors, the top states had a low prevalence of pet illnesses, higher access to veterinary care, healthier environments for pets, and spent more money on their pets (excluding veterinary expenditures).

Care.com’s Top 10 States with the Healthiest Pets

1. Montana

2. Nebraska

3. Colorado

4. New Mexico

5. Idaho

6. New Hampshire

7. South Dakota

8. Wyoming

9. Kansas

10. North Dakota

 

My home state of North Carolina ranked 46th. Canine-crazy California collapsed at 33rd and feline-fancy New York only managed 35th. Progressive Pennsylvania peaked at 37th, and the titan Texas barely squeaked past my state at 45th.

The complete listing is here.

 

With the lowest prevalence of reported illness and second-highest access to vet care, Montana's Big Sky Country ranked #1 on Care's list of healthiest states for pets.

What can you do to help your pet live healthier if you don’t dwell in Montana or Nebraska? Should you move to North Dakota to give your pet the best shot at a wholesome life? The short answer is no, don’t book a one-way ticket to the Dakotas.

How to be a first-rate pet parent - no matter WHERE you live

No matter what your state’s alleged pet health ranking is, you can be a first-rate pet parent by following a few simple rules, which I’ve covered in 5 Things You Need To Do Today for Your Pet. By paying attention to diet and exercise, detecting disease early, and providing an interactive and enriched environment, your pet can enjoy the healthiest life—no maps needed.

Ultimately, rankings such as this are more for fun and bragging rights than to hold up under scientific scrutiny. I don’t believe a dog or cat living in dead-last Louisiana, Alabama or Mississippi is destined to be any less healthy than one living in a Top 10 state.

Health is a complex interaction of genetics, environment, diet, and lifestyle. What we can learn is that access to veterinary care, a healthy environment, healthy foods and clean drinking water, and preventing diseases such as heartworms, intestinal parasites, parvo, and infectious diseases play a huge role in maintaining health and avoiding disease in our pet loved ones.

My goal is every state is the healthiest it can be for our beloved pets. Let’s get to work boosting every state’s rank for 2018!