What is the State of our Pets' Health?
The pros and cons of corporate veterinary medicine are up for debate, but few other organizations have the ability to amass huge amounts of data that can then be analyzed for the benefits of animals and owners, and sometimes just for fun.
Banfield Pet Hospital has just published their 2013 State of Pet Health Report (it reports on data collected in 2012). The website associated with it is pretty slick. It includes a searchable database/map. You can designate which species, disease, and location you’re interested in, and it will spit out fascinating information. For example, the incidence of heartworm disease in dogs seen at Banfield hospitals in Colorado was 12 per 10,000 cases in contrast to the national average of 74 per 10,000 cases. On the other hand, cats in Maryland were just as likely to be overweight/obese as were cats throughout the country (23 per 100 cases).
Take a look at the maps that compare the average life spans for dogs and cats. I’ve decided that if I come back in my next life as either a cat or a dog, I want to live in Montana.
Among the reports most interesting findings are:
The average lifespan of a cat in 2012 was 12 years — up 1 year since 2002.
The average lifespan of a dog in 2012 was 11 years — up nearly half a year since 2002.
Dental disease is the most common disease in dogs and cats, affecting 91 percent of dogs and 85 percent of cats over the age of 3. Dental disease includes any health issue affecting the mouth, including inflammation, tartar, gingivitis and periodontal disease, among other issues.
Toy/small breed dogs, such as a Chihuahuas and Shih Tzus, live 41 percent longer than Giant breed dogs, such as a Great Danes or Saint Bernards. As a result of their shorter lifespan, Giant breed dogs can be expected to reach their senior years much earlier than small breed dogs do (i.e., at 6 years rather than 9 years of age), which means they are likely to develop aging-associated diseases such as arthritis or kidney disease earlier than small breeds as well.
The geographic location of where a pet lives may also impact his or her lifespan due to preventable diseases prevalent in certain areas of the United States. Although we cannot predict the lifespan of individual pets, we do have control over many preventable infectious diseases that can impact their overall life expectancy. For example, heartworm disease — a fatal disease if left untreated — is one of the top three health concerns for pets seen in Banfield hospitals in the Southern states. Perhaps not surprisingly, three Southern states — Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama — had the shortest lifespan for dogs in 2012. Louisiana and Mississippi were also the bottom two states for lifespan in cats.
Neutered male cats live 62% longer than un-neutered males and spayed females live 39% longer than un-spayed female cats. The news is compelling for dogs, too. Neutered males live 15% longer than un-neutered males and spayed female dogs live 20% longer than un-spayed females.
How’s your state doing when it comes to pet health and well-being?
Dr. Jennifer Coates