There are plenty of lists that identify the best and worst states for human health, but what about for your dog? Dog lovers are now in luck, because Care.com has issued a ranking of the best and worst states for your dog's health.
To determine how each state stacked up, researchers looked at data in four categories:
- Prevalence of illness (diabetes, heartworm, fleas, ticks, etc.)
- Access to vet care
- Environment (percentage of protected land, air quality, number of parks, walkability)
- Total pet spending (non-vet spending, number of pet businesses, and average monthly pet insurance cost)
So what state topped the list? Montana, followed by Nebraska, Colorado, and New Mexico. Apparently, all of that Midwest mountain air is great for pets, as well as people!
And at the bottom of the list? Mississippi, followed by a slew of Southern states, including Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Arkansas.
Why Pets Thrive in Certain Places and Not Others
Interestingly, there's a high correlation between the worst states for humans and the worst states for pets.
"If you look at rankings of the healthiest states for people, you will find that the Southern states rank lower, even for human health," says Jessica Lockhart, an animal behaviorist from Dallas. "Part of this is due to the overall air quality in states with refineries — offshore drilling is very close to Texas and Louisiana — and the lack of pedestrian-friendly areas."
Meanwhile, Montana is known for its vast acreage of preserved wilderness.
"Colorado and Idaho boast outdoor living, skiing, and other nature-based activities," says Lockhart. All the more room to play fetch with your pooch — and all that activity helps keep them trim and in top shape.
Economics plays a role, too, of course.
"Often people don't have enough money to feed themselves well, or have access to whole, fresh foods that are affordable, and so their pets will suffer the same fate," says Sally Morgan, a holistic physical therapist for pets and people.
In addition, veterinarians tend to open practices in areas where people can afford veterinary care.
"You will find high concentrations of veterinary practices near more affluent areas and thinner densities in areas with moderate-to-low socioeconomic status," says Lockhart. Unfortunately, she notes, the people who are the most likely to need vet care are less likely to get it because they can't afford it.
But geography and the local climate can also make or break an animal's health.
"The Southeastern states rank lower because of the high prevalence of parasitic diseases that are related to the hot, humid weather," says Dr. Judy Morgan, a veterinarian in New Jersey. "Heartworm disease is much more prevalent in humid climates. Intestinal parasites and fleas are also worse, as there is no freezing weather to break the life cycle of the parasites."
But regardless of where you live, the take-home lesson is that you can overcome your surroundings by being vigilant about your pet's health. For instance, "animals in the South should be maintained on year-round preventative medicine," Lockhart says.
The only catch, again, is that it can be costly. "My dog weighs about 60 pounds, and his yearly heartworm, flea, and tick treatment is upwards of $200," she adds.
Still, our furry family members are worth it.
Best States for Your Pet's Health
- New Mexico
- New Hampshire
- South Dakota
- North Dakota
Worst States for Your Pet's Health
- South Carolina
- North Carolina
By: Natalie Way
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