3 Factors That Affect Dog and Cat Lifespan

Based on Pet Health Data

Learn More About Our Annual Pet Health Analysis

3 Factors That Affect Dog and Cat Lifespan
Based on information from The State of Pet Health by Banfield’s Applied Research and Knowledge Team

How are Dog and Cat Lifespan Expectations Determined?
Dogs and cats age much faster than humans which means their lifespans are also much shorter. Even within the pet population, some dogs and cats live longer than others. When examined on a national basis, certain differences among pets become noticeable, confirming that the lifespan of a dog or cat may be impacted by various reasons including genetics, whether or not a dog or cat is spayed or neutered, the amount of preventive veterinary care received as well as breed type and size.
 
Breed Size in Dogs
In fact, size does matter! Dogs and cats can be prone to certain diseases based on their breed. For dogs, which vary in size more than cats do, breed size has an impact on life expectancy.
 
Toy/small breed dogs, such as a Chihuahuas and Shih Tzus, live 39 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 earlier than small breeds as well.
 
Geographic Location
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—New Mexico, Tennessee and Mississippi—had the shortest lifespan for dogs in 2014. Alabama and Mississippi and Oklahoma were the bottom three states for lifespan in cats.
 
Spaying or Neutering
Some of the most startling statistics in this year’s report include the impact of spaying and neutering on a pet’s lifespan. Neutered male cats live 62% longer than un-neutered males and spayed females live 37% longer than un-spayed female cats. The news is compelling for dogs too—neutered males live 10% longer than un-neutered males and spayed female dogs live 17% longer than un-spayed females.
 
Spaying or neutering provides several advantages that likely contribute to the longer lifespan.
 
  • Neutering male pets decreases their chances of developing prostatic enlargement and disease and eliminates the risk of testicular cancer.
  • Spaying female pets eliminates the risk of pyometra, a life-threatening infection of the uterus. If a female is spayed before her first heat cycle, chances of developing breast cancer drop dramatically as well.
Neutered and Spayed Makes Pets Better Behaved
Behavior problems are the primary reason pet owners take their pets to shelters, and pets that haven’t been spayed or neutered are more likely to exhibit undesirable behaviors such as roaming, urine marking, or fighting.
 
Banfield patient data also show that unneutered dogs are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car or bitten by another animal as neutered dogs. The situation is even worse for cats—unneutered cats have five times the risk of being hit by a car as neutered cats! Unneutered cats are also 50% more likely than neutered cats to be brought to the veterinarian for treatment of an animal bite.
 
Have Questions?
If you have further questions about pet lifespan and how you can keep your pet healthy, please contact your neighborhood veterinarian.
 
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