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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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