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Many of us who have dogs or cats tend to think of them almost as family members, which is one reason that Americans happily spent $53 billion last year on food, veterinary care,  chew toys and myriad accessories (such as sporty camouflage-colored harnesses for Chihauhuas). And at one time or another, we’ve all probably wondered what Princess or Fido is thinking when they stare at us with those big soulful eyes.  But now, thanks to a new survey on the state of the U.S. pet population , we now have the answer. They’re trying to say, “Can we move to Montana, please?”

dogThe Big Sky Country state turns out to be the place in the United States where both dogs and cats have the longest life spans — 12.4 years for canines, 14.3 years for felines — according to the report compiled by Banfield, a nationwide chain of veterinary hospitals with 800 facilities in 43 states. That’s significantly above the average life span of 11.0 years for the 2.2 million dogs treated by Banfield’s vets and 12.1 years for the roughly 457,000 cats on its patient roster. Conversely, your pets may be threatening to run away if you live in Mississippi, where dogs treated by Banfield have an average life span of 10.1 years, and cats approximately 11.1 years.

The geographic discrepancy in the life spans of pets isn’t necessarily the fault of their owners. Instead, it’s probably a reflection of the high incidence of heartworm infections, which are transmitted by mosquitoes — an insect that thrives in places with long, hot, humid summers. Montana has an extremely low incidence of heartworm infections, according to the University of Montana, because the relatively short, cool summers don’t give mosquito larvae enough time to develop so that they can spread the disease when planted on pets. (Additionally, in Mississippi, roughly 20 percent of cats and 40 perecent of dogs haven’t been spayed or neutered, making them more vulnerable to cancer and other diseases, while Montanans are a bit more diligent in that regard.)

Related: What’s the Best Pet for You?

Interestingly, while Montana has the longest canine life span, it’s Oregon that has the largest proportion of geriatric dogs — that is, small breeds older than 11 years, medium-sized dogs 10 years or older, and large breeds older than 7 0r 8 years. About 13 percent of Oregon’s dogs are in that venerable category.

The Banfield report contains a wealth of other fascinating facts about our pets. Aside from parasites, they suffer from a lot of the same health problems as their owners do, such as heart disease and arthritis. About 20 percent of them have weight problems — which actually is better than the roughly 36 percent of U.S. adults who are obese and the 33 percent who are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So maybe our dogs should be taking us for more walks, and our cats should be coaxing us to chase feathers.

 

Photo: Joakim Berndes via Flickr

 

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