These 10 States Have the Highest Risk of Pet Illness, New Research Finds · The Wildest

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These 10 States Have the Highest Risk of Pet Illness, New Research Finds

From ticks-borne disease to nasty parasites, these areas have seen the most dog and cat illnesses. 

by Sio Hornbuckle
May 22, 2024
Friends play with dog in the park.
Raul Navarro / Stocksy

From water-borne parasites to disease-carrying ticks to contagious viruses, there are lots of things that can cause cats and dogs to get sick. And while it’s not pleasant to think about, it’s important to be aware of the risks out there — some of which are more relevant to some regions than others.

Forbes recently analyzed reports of the 11 most common cat and dog illnesses in all 50 states and gave each state a risk score out of 100. In the end, they compiled a list of the 10 highest-risk states and the five lowest-risk states for dog and cat illnesses. 

Find out if your area made either list — and what to be on the lookout for if you live somewhere extra risky. And wherever you live (or travel), keep in mind that it’s important to keep your pet up to date on preventative care and make sure they’re seeing their veterinarian regularly. 

10 states with the highest risk of pet illness

Pets get sick all over the country, but some states had significantly higher rates of specific dog and cat illnesses. 

10. Pennsylvania

With a score of  64.75 out of 100, Pennsylvania is the 10th highest risk state. It’s the ninth-highest ranked state for the tick-borne illness anaplasmosis, and the seventh-highest ranked for Lyme cases. Pennsylvania ranks fifth for rabies cases in dogs but first for rabies cases in cats, with 237 feline rabies cases from 2017 to 2021. You’ll definitely want to make sure your Pennsylvania kitty is up to date on their shots

9. Indiana

Indiana has quite a few cases of intestinal parasites in dogs and cats. The state ranks sixth highest in the nation for roundworm and whipworm in dogs and ninth highest for roundworm infections in cats. Indiana also has the seventh-highest percentage for cases of flea tapeworm in dogs. 

8. Mississippi

Mississippi has the highest percentage of positive cases for heartworm and hookworm in dogs — so, Mississippi pet parents, get your pets started on those heartworm preventatives, stat. They also had the second-highest rate of canine respiratory illnesses, including dog flu, and the second-highest percentage of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) in cats. 

7. New York 

While the study average of cases of rabies in cats nationwide was 25, New York had nearly five times as many cases, with 122 rabies-infected cats in 2023. New York also ranked in the top ten for cases of the tick-borne Lyme disease and anaplasmosis. The state has the 11th-highest rate of heartworm in cats and 15th-highest rates of giardia in dogs. 

6. Oklahoma

Oklahoma is the top state for flea tapeworms, an intestinal parasite caused when pets (warning: ew) ingest a flea. Oklahoma has the third-highest rate of canine respiratory infections, hookworm, and the tick-borne disease ehrlichiosis. Oklahoma’s the first state on the list to break into the 70s, with a risk ranking of 70.15 out of 100. 

5. Maine

Tick-borne illnesses are common in Maine; it’s the top state for anaplasmosis in dogs and the third-highest ranking for Lyme. Maine also ranked fourth highest for flea tapeworm infections and fifth highest for roundworms, an intestinal parasite. 

4. Kentucky

Kentucky has the second-highest rate of whipworm, the fourth-highest rate for FIV, and the third-highest rate for feline leukemia viruses (FeLV). Kentucky’s also has the top fifth highest rate of ehrlichiosis, a disease caused by the brown dog tick.

3. New Jersey

New Jersey has the sixth-highest rate of rabies in cats. The state also has the sixth-highest rate of roundworms in cats and the ninth-highest rate of hookworms in cats. New Jersey dogs should beware of the deer tick; New Jersey has the 11th-highest rates of both Lyme disease and anaplasmosis.

2. Rhode Island

With a score of 80.71 out of 100, Rhode Island has the second-highest rates of common dog and cat illnesses. The state had the very most cases of heartworm in cats in 2023 and the second-highest rate of flea tapeworms. Rhode Island also has the fourth-highest rate of giardia in dogs and is in the top ten for anaplasmosis (six) and Lyme disease (eight — tied with New York). 

1. West Virginia

West Virginia officially ranks as the riskiest spot for dogs and cats when it comes to contracting common illnesses, with a score of 100 out of 100. It’s the state with the highest rate of Lyme disease in dogs and cats and the highest rate of whipworms in dogs. West Virginia ranked second highest for hookworm and roundworm cases in dogs and third highest for giardia in cats.

Though the outdoorsy terrain is great for active dogs and cats, a whole lot of risks go along with those nature walks. Be sure you’re using flea and tick preventatives, heartworm preventatives, and keeping a close eye on any changes in your pet’s health. 

5 states with the lowest risk of pet illness

On the flip side, some states had remarkably low rates of dog and cat illness. 

5. Idaho

In Idaho, zero feline heartworm cases were detected in 2023. The state has the second-lowest rate of ehrlichiosis and the fifth-lowest rate of hookworm.

4. Hawaii 

From 2017 to 2021, Hawaii reported no rabies cases in cats whatsoever. Hawaii also had the second-lowest rate of heartworms in dogs and the third-lowest rate of roundworms in dogs. 

3. North Dakota

North Dakota had the lowest rate of ehrlichiosis in dogs, the second-lowest rate of whipworm in dogs, and the second-lowest rate of giardia in cats. 

2. Utah

Utah has one of the lowest rates of FeLV, and the very lowest rates of hookworms and heartworms in dogs. Cats are pretty safe from hookworm in Utah, too; the state has the fourth-lowest reported rate. 

1. Nevada

With a perfect score of 0 out of 100, Nevada’s the spot where your pet is just about safest from illness. Nevada’s third-lowest for rates of roundworm in cats and hookworms in dogs, plus seventh-lowest for rates of heartworm. 

Sio Hornbuckle

Sio Hornbuckle is a writer living in New York City with their cat, Toni Collette.

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