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Dogs have a shorter lifespan in Massachusetts than almost any other state, according to new research (PDF) from the country's largest veterinary hospital chain.
The Banfield Pet Hospital report found Bay State dogs live an average of 10.6 years. The lifespans are shorter in only four other states: Delaware (10.5), Louisiana (10.4), Alabama (10.2) and Mississippi (10.1).
Dr. Sandi Lefebvre, a veterinary research associate at Banfield, says the finding is a bit of a mystery, particularly since the lifespan for Massachusetts cats — 12.7 years — is on the high end.
Spaying and neutering provides some protection against disease and may serve as a marker for how well pet owners are taking care of their pets. But with 77 percent of dogs spayed or neutered, Massachusetts is above the nationwide average of 73 percent.
A high prevalence of heartworm infection helps to explain shorter lifespans in much of the South. But that's not a serious problem in the Bay State.
"I had a look at all the other diseases that we evaluated, for arthritis and diabetes and heart disease, and Massachusetts was actually pretty decent," Lefebvre says.
The short lifespan for dogs, she concludes, "can't really be explained easily."
One place where the state stood out: Canine obesity is a bigger problem here than nationwide.
Too many bacon strips under the breakfast table, perhaps.
Lefebvre says large sample sizes nationally — and in Massachusetts in particular — mean statistical error is probably not behind the surprisingly poor lifespan figure for Bay State dogs.
The Banfield study is based on euthanasia records.
This article was originally published on May 28, 2013.
This program aired on May 28, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.
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