When it comes to longevity, Pennsylvania dogs and cats are below average.
A new report, produced by Banfield Pet Hospital, looked at the lifespans of 2.5 million of its dog and cat patients across the country and found where a pet lives may determine how long they live..
The biggest factor? Spaying and neutering.
The State of Pet Health 2013 report found neutered cats live 62% longer than unneutered males, while spayed dogs live 23% longer than unspayed female dogs.
In Pennsylvania dogs live an average of 10.7 yrs compared with 11 years nationally and cats live an average of 11.9 years, while the national average is 12 years.The study looked at 47,000 dogs and almost 16,000 cats in Pennsylvania.
Lower lifespans in southern states are attributed in part to the prevalence of heartworm, the preventable but often fatal parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes, the study found.
But it's difficult to pinpoint why other states like Pennsylvania fall below average.
Dr. George Melillo of Banfield Pets in Philadelphia, said genetics and breed plays a role. Large breeds have shorter lifespans and the most popular breed in Pennsylvania is the Labrador Retriever, along with the Yorkie.
Mellilo said Lyme Disease, the tick borne disease which can destroy a cat or dog's kidneys and which is common in the northeast, also may be a factor - particularly in New Jersey with the prevalence of mosquitoes by the shore - and there are cases where rescue dogs being transported to the northeast from the south have come infected with heartworm.
But he cautioned this is only the third such report of its kind and pet health experts are still learning from them.
The report recommends pets be put on a schedule of flea/tick and heartworm treatment and receive annual veterinary check ups to address pet health issues early.Mellilo said cat owners should be vigilant about check ups given that felines are "skilled hiders of disease."
(There are schools of pet health that suggest overuse of flea and tick and heartworm medicine can have side effects. By coincidence, I met a man at the dog park last weekend who is convinced that flea treatment he used brought on seizures in his husky.)
On the spay/neuter findings were not terribly surprising said Mellilo given the evidence about health problems and flight risks with unaltered animals. Unneutered male dogs and cats will roam and can get hit by cars or get into fights.
Melilo says breeders should spay and neuter their animals after their breeding careers are done to protect their health and reduce animal overpopulation.
"We're pretty vocal about spay/neuter," he said.
The report provides an interactive map where you can compare your state to other states, see the most common health problems and review the most popular names.
Additional key findings from the 2013 report include:
• The average lifespan of a cat in 2012 was 12 years (up 1 year since 2002—a 10 percent increase)
• The average lifespan of a dog in 2012 was 11 years (up about half a year since 2002—a 4 percent increase)
• Spayed female cats live 39 percent longer than unspayed female cats
• Neutered male dogs live 18 percent longer than unneutered male dogs
• Toy/small breed dogs live 41 percent longer than giant breed dogs