10 States with the Best Pet Healthcare – Insurify

Fifty-five percent of U.S. households own a pet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which means 68.5 million homes enjoy the companionship of Rex, Mittens, Polly, or Goldy. But your furry, feathered, or finned friends can be costly, especially when it comes to their healthcare. 

Pet owners spend a combined $34.3 billion annually on veterinary care — an average of approximately $500 per household, according to the American Pet Products Association. And the cost of veterinary care can be much higher. 

“There can frequently be unanticipated healthcare expenses for pets,” says Dr. Casey Havemann, a veterinarian with Hunt Valley Animal Hospital in Cockeysville, Maryland.

For example, Havemann points out, some pets eat things they shouldn’t. “Emergency foreign body surgery can be $4,000 to $5,000 — plus the cost of initial work-up,” she says.

Pet insurance may mitigate these costs, but most pet owners don’t have it. Only 2.48% of U.S. cats and dogs are covered by pet insurance, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association.

We all want to make sure our animal family members get the best care. To identify the states with the best pet healthcare in 2023, the data science team at Insurify created a composite score that takes into account the availability of veterinary care, the average salary paid to veterinary doctors compared to the median wage, and the monthly cost of pet insurance in each state. 

Insights

  • Nationally, 55.3% of households have a pet. The average pet healthcare quality score is 54.1, with 1.10 vets per 1,000 pet-owning households, and the average cost of pet insurance across the country is $37. 

  • Vets typically make about 120% of the median wage, which is just slightly north of $100,000 annually.  

  • Insurify’s study identified Florida as the best state for pet healthcare. Fifty-six percent of Floridian homes keep a pet, and residents in this state enjoy low pet insurance rates at an average of just $26 a month. 

  • South Dakota ranks second  on our list. Pet owners in this state enjoy access to the third-most vets in the country, with 2.05 vets per 1,000 pet households.

  • Pet owners in Oregon pay the least for pet insurance, with an average monthly premium of just $25. Pet insurance premiums are highest in New York and Minnesota, at $50 per month.

  • Massachusetts and Minnesota rank 49th and 50th, respectively, making them the two worst states for pet healthcare. Massachusetts veterinarians make only 77% of the median wage for the state, which makes them the lowest-paid vets in the country compared to other states. Minnesota ranks last because the average monthly pet insurance premium is the highest in the nation, at an average of $50, and because veterinarian salaries are relatively low, at only 113% of the median wage.

  • Wyoming, West Virginia, and Vermont have the highest pet ownership rates, with 71.8% of Wyoming households, 70.7% of West Virginia households, and 70% of Vermont households having pets. Though these states share a high rate of pet ownership, healthcare quality diverges greatly between them. Vermont is ranked No. 8, West Virginia is No. 13, and Wyoming is No. 43 on our list.

See Also: Best Pet Insurance Companies and Plans

Top 10 states for pet healthcare in 2023 

Here are the 10 best states for pet healthcare:   

10. South Carolina

  • Pet healthcare quality score: 80.2

  • Vets per 1,000 pet households: 1.04

  • Average monthly pet insurance rate: $32

South Carolinians’ love for their pets is clear in the rate of pet ownership — 62% of households have a pet. Veterinarians are also plentiful in the Palmetto State, with 1.04 of vets per 1,000 pet-owning households. South Carolina vets are also well compensated, making 162% of the median state wage. 

The love for animals extends to South Carolina history. Charleston is home to the Charleston Animal Society, which was founded in 1874 and was one of the first animal protection organizations in the United States. 

A fun fact: South Carolina lawmakers have also shown a soft spot for animals, as there is still a law on the books stating that railroad companies may be liable for frightening horses.

9. North Carolina

  • Pet healthcare quality score: 80.7

  • Vets per 1,000 pet households: 1.13

  • Average monthly pet insurance rate: $33

North Carolina is home to the No. 4 ranked school of veterinary medicine, NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine, so it’s no wonder the Tar Heel State ranks ninth on our list for best pet healthcare. Just over 58% of households in the state have pets, and there are 1.13 vets per 1,000 pet-owning households. Veterinarians are also well-compensated, earning 163% of the state’s median wage.

A number of animal laws in North Carolina help protect pets, including:

  • A law that makes it a Class H felony to commit animal cruelty

  • A law that allows retired public service animals (such as K-9 officers) to live out their retirement with the officer or the family of the officer who had custody of the animal during their work tenure

  • A law saying that trusts left by deceased owners for the care of their pets are considered valid, and the money must be used for the animals’ benefit

8. Vermont

  • Pet healthcare quality score: 81.6

  • Vets per 1,000 pet households: 2.12

  • Average monthly pet insurance rate: $35

Vermont has the third-highest rate of pet ownership in the nation, with 70% of households owning a pet. Residents of the Green Mountain State specifically have the highest rate of cat ownership in the nation, with 44.6% of households boasting a feline family member. With 2.12 veterinarians for every 1,000 pet-owning households, Vermonters can feel confident that Kitty, Fido, and any other resident pets will have access to good medical care. Vets make 110% of the median annual income in Vermont.

7. Colorado

  • Pet healthcare quality score: 81.9

  • Vets per 1,000 pet households: 2.13

  • Average monthly pet insurance rate: $34

Pet ownership is relatively low in Colorado, with only 47.2% of households having a pet. Though Colorado is tied with Montana for the lowest-paid veterinarians in the top 10 — vets earn just 104% of the median state salary — the Centennial State is a great place for pet owners. 

Cherry Creek State Park outside of the Aurora/Denver area is home to a 107-acre fenced-in dog off-leash area where Rover can run to his heart’s content. In addition, dogs in Arapahoe County are legally allowed to bark for 20 minutes continually between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. or 10 minutes continually overnight — at least, those are the minimum requirements before a neighbor can file a complaint.

6. Alabama

  • Pet healthcare quality score: 83.0

  • Vets per 1,000 pet households: 0.98

  • Average monthly pet insurance rate: $31

Almost 60% of Alabama households include a pet, and they’re well cared for. Veterinarians make an impressive 166% of the state’s average annual income, although there is less than one vet per 1,000 pet-owning households. Pet owners pay an average of $31 per month for pet insurance, well south of the national average of $37 per month.

Alabama is also home to an impressive $500,000 dog park, located in the town of Alabaster. The Beneful Dream Dog Park was built as a sub-facility of Veterans Park when former Humane Society Director Jenny Wilson won a national essay contest describing how she found her dog Honey Belle as a stray in that park. This dream of a dog park includes splash pads, a mini football field, padded walking trails, and climbing rocks.

5. Maryland

  • Pet healthcare quality score: 83.8

  • Vets per 1,000 pet households: 1.52

  • Average monthly pet insurance rate: $38

Veterinarians in Maryland have the highest relative wages for the profession in the United States, with an average annual income of $127,110, which is 162% of the state’s median annual income. Almost 49% of Maryland households include a pet, and there are 1.52 vets for every 1,000 pet-owning homes. 

The Maryland legislature has recently shown its care for cats and dogs with two new laws signed in 2022. The first outlawed the practice of declawing cats, which is a surgical procedure that can have lifelong consequences. Maryland is only the second state in the nation to outlaw this procedure (the first was New York). The second law bans dog owners from leaving their pets unattended outside in extreme weather conditions without access to shelter for more than 30 minutes at a time. 

4. Montana

  • Pet healthcare quality score: 88.2

  • Vets per 1,000 pet households: 1.98

  • Average monthly pet insurance rate: $30

Though the days of cattle rustling may be mostly in the past, Montanans are still committed to their animal companions. Close to 70% of households have a pet, and there are 1.98 veterinarians for every 1,000 homes with a pet. Montana veterinarians earn 104% of the average annual income for the state, and pet insurance costs only $30 per month, on average.

Montana has some unusual animal laws on the books. For example, it’s illegal to pretend to hurt an animal in front of a minor in Big Sky Country, and anyone who does faces a fine of up to $50,000 and up to 20 years of jail time. A slightly less weird law prohibits anyone in Billings, Montana, from raising rats as pets.

3. Oregon

  • Pet healthcare quality score: 91.0

  • Vets per 1,000 pet households: 1.53

  • Average monthly pet insurance rate: $25

At an average of $25 per month, pet parents in Oregon have the lowest cost pet insurance in the United States. Just over 59% of Oregonian households enjoy the companionship of a pet, and there are 1.53 veterinarians per 1,000 pet-owning households.

Dog lovers in Oregon can enjoy the aptly named Thousand Acres Dog Park (also known as Sandy River Delta Park) in the Portland Metro area. The park boasts 1,400 acres where your dog can run and play off-leash, including open fields, wetlands, blackberry bushes, and two rivers.

2. South Dakota

  • Pet healthcare quality score: 99.8

  • Vets per 1,000 pet households: 2.05

  • Average monthly pet insurance rate: $28

Coming in second on our list is South Dakota, where only 46.4% of households include a pet, making it the lowest level of pet ownership in our top 10. Though the number of pet owners is relatively low, South Dakota has more than two veterinarians for every 1,000 pet-owning households, meaning South Dakotan pets can expect excellent care. Pet insurance is also relatively low, at only $28 per month on average.

In 2020, South Dakota’s legislature recognized the emotional support value of dogs when it added provisions to allow children or those with developmental disabilities to use certified therapy dogs in the courtroom when providing testimony in criminal proceedings.

1. Florida

  • Pet healthcare quality score: 100.0

  • Vets per 1,000 pet households: 1.00

  • Average monthly pet insurance rate: $26

The best state for pet healthcare is none other than Florida. Fifty-six percent of households have an animal family member, and pet owners pay only $26 per month, on average, for pet insurance. 

The Sunshine State also boasts 4,790 veterinarians total, making it third in the nation for the number of total vets after California (7,620) and Texas (5,400). However, Florida vets are better paid than vets in California and Texas, as they make 166% of the state’s average annual income. California vets make 154% of their state’s average, and Texas vets make 162%.

Florida also boasts three of the top 50 dog parks in the nation

  • Fort De Soto Park in Tierra Verde, which has a dog beach where your best friend can enjoy the waves with you

  • Dog Wood Park in Jacksonville, where you can frolic together in open fields, along the walking trails, or in the big pond

  • Dog Beach in Fort Myers Beach, where dogs can run free on the beach and you can rinse them off at one of the doggie shower stations before heading home

Methodology

To identify the best states for pet healthcare in 2023, Insurify’s data scientists created a Pet Healthcare Quality Score, which is a composite that weighs the number of vets per 1,000 pet-owning households, the average wage for vets as a percentage of the median wage, and the average monthly cost of pet insurance. Pet insurance cost estimates are for a 3-year-old, medium-sized, mixed-breed dog. 

The data used to create the composite score was sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and 365 Pet Insurance.

Keeping your pets and your finances healthy

The best states for pet healthcare generally have plentiful and well-paid veterinarians, as well as affordable pet insurance premiums. That means Florida pet owners can easily find a veterinarian and feel confident they can afford the bills when they have to take their pet to see the vet.

But even if you don’t live in one of the highest-ranked states for pet healthcare, you can still keep your pets healthy and happy. Pet insurance is one way to ensure you can afford to take your pets to the vet — for both preventive care and treatment for problems.

Havemann recommends pet insurance as a way to save money on your pets without sacrificing their well-being. 

“Owners can plan for unexpected costs with a pet savings fund they contribute to monthly or with pet insurance,” she explains. “Pet insurance will often help subsidize preventative care and a percentage of emergency visits. It allows owners to pay a monthly fee they can afford in order to reduce the risk of being hit by a large and unexpected cost.”

Data Attribution

The information, statistics, and data visualizations on this page are free to use, we just ask that you attribute any full or partial use to Insurify with a link to this page. Thank you.

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