Every year millions of pet owners find themselves spending thousands of dollars on care for their cats and dogs. Many of those pet parents are now looking to avoid the catastrophe by purchasing insurance. But how is any pet owner to know if it’s the right choice for them right now? And how much will pet insurance actually cost?
The Average Cost of Pet Insurance
The actual cost depends on the breed, age, and species of the animal you’re looking to insure. The cost can also change depending on what you want to cover and whether you’re choosing to cover only catastrophic care or routine care too. Some plans run as high as $100 each month. Other plans are a mere $10 a month. On average, pet owners who insure their pets spend about $40 a month on their plans.
Types of Pet Insurance Plans
There are three basic types of plans:
Accident and Illness
Accident-only insurance plans will cover exactly that: accidents. This is similar to a catastrophic care plan. When your pet is injured in an accident, like getting hit by a car or getting into a fight with another animal, this plan will cover the care necessary to get them back on their feet. Some accidental problems, however, might not be covered. Care for tick bites or fleas usually aren’t covered under these plans. Neither are preexisting conditions or repeat injuries. Accident-only plans are usually the cheapest plans available and work well for young, generally healthy pets.
Accident and illness plans cover what the name implies: accidents and illnesses. They are the next step up in coverage. They’ll cover not only the accident but also if your pet gets a urinary tract infection, upset stomach, or even cancer. These costs are sometimes the ones that add up the most as pets get older, so this type of plan can work well for an aging pet. But again, these plans will not cover preexisting conditions—read the fine print carefully on any plan you’re considering.
Comprehensive coverage is the most expensive option but also covers the most types of care. It will cover any care your pet needs due to accident or illness, and it will cover the cost of routine and preventative care. Spaying and neutering, deworming, dental care, and occasionally behavior classes are all covered under these plans. Many of these plans will also cover microchipping. The only things typically disallowed under these plans are issues from abuse or neglect, preexisting conditions, and very complex procedures (like certain types of surgeries or prosthetic limbs).
How Pet Insurance Works
Since pets are legally considered property, insurers run the policies a little differently. When looking at pet insurance plans, you’ll see a lot of the same terms you come across in your own health insurance. Words like deductible, preexisting conditions, and monthly premium are all there. But a lot of insurance companies will not work directly with your vet’s office, so it will be up to you to pay up front and then get reimbursed.
It can be quite a bit of extra work, but it can be worth it if your pup needs something extraordinary. A study done by Consumer Reports showed that in most situations pet insurance is more expensive than the out-of-pocket cost—unless your pet needs a procedure like knee surgery or gets into serious trouble by swallowing magnets or other dangerous things.
What to Consider When Choosing a Pet Insurance Plan
There are around twenty pet insurance companies, all of which offer a wide variety of plans. Here are the top five things to consider when evaluating a pet insurance policy:
1. Whatkind of coverage do I expect my pet to need? Typically cats and dogs receive the most veterinary care, with larger purebreds requiring the most care. If you own an exotic pet, you might need not only coverage for regular care but also insurance for theft or death. If you have a dangerous pet, you should consider liability coverage too.
2. Can I fit the cost of the plan into my monthly budget? The average plan costs around $40 per month for basic coverage. When you add wellness visits, vaccinations, and the possible need for emergency care to the bumps and bruises that come with owning a pet, that doesn’t seem like too much money.
3. Is my pet likely to need emergency care or have serious health problems? Mixed breeds and midsize dogs don’t run into as many problems as large dogs and specialty breeds. Cats don’t usually have as many injuries as puppies. Care for exotic birds and other nontraditional pets can get expensive quickly. Think about your pet and do some research on what types of problems they’re likely to encounter and how much those problems will cost out of pocket.
4. Is a physical exam required to qualify for coverage? Many insurance companies will require this because they will not insure animals with preexisting conditions. That physical will cost you money up front and you’ll need to plan accordingly.
5. Do pet insurance plans have annual or lifetime caps, and how high is the deductible? What about prescription drugs? Just like health insurance for humans, pet plans have a lot of different options and coverage levels. For many of your pet’s needs, it might be cheaper to pay out of pocket if you’ve got a high deductible. Some plans might cover common drugs but not other medications. Some plans might not cover meds at all. Be sure to look into the details!
Some property insurance companies, like Progressive, Geico, and Nationwide, partner with pet insurance companies. Check with your insurance provider to see if you can bundle coverage and get a better deal!
Best Resources for Choosing a Pet Insurance Plan
If you decide that pet insurance is the right option for you, how do you choose a company or a plan?
And don’t forget what is possibly the best resource you’ve got when it comes to your pet’s health: your veterinarian! Your vet has seen lots of animals over the years in many different situations and knows your pet’s health risks best. Ask them what they think might be best for your furry friend.
With more and more pet insurance options on the market, you’ll definitely be able to find a plan that will work for you.
Pet Insurance FAQs
How do I know if my pet has a preexisting condition? The only way to find out if your pet has a preexisting condition is to take them to the vet. Many plans will ask you to have your pet examined before a policy is issued, and a condition, if present, will show up then.
What happens with my pet insurance policy if my pet dies? Most pet insurance policies do not work like life insurance—they will not pay out if your pet experiences a fatal illness or accident or dies during surgery. Whether or not the medical care required will be covered by an individual plan depends on the details of that plan, so be sure to read it carefully.
Which insurance companies offer pet insurance? There are only three big-name property insurance companies that partner with pet insurance companies to offer policies. They are Geico, Nationwide, and Progressive. There are a lot of other companies that specialize in pet insurance.
What kinds of dogs and cats need health insurance the most? Your veterinarian knows best what kind of care your pet is likely to need, but typically large dog breeds and purebred cats and dogs have the most health problems. Health insurance may be a good choice if you own one of these types of pets.
I just found out my dog needs surgery. Can I get insurance? Most likely not. The time to buy insurance is before an animal gets ill or injured. Most insurance companies will not insure an animal if they already have a history of health problems. Or, if they do, it will be more expensive.
Pet insurance could go a long way to offsetting your veterinary costs. But the type of coverage each pet needs will vary, so be sure to compare plans from multiple companies and get your vet’s advice.
Written by Laura E. Hilton
Laura is a writer, teacher, and mother based out of Utah. She is passionate about making and maintaining strong, safe, healthy communities. To learn more, visit her website at lauraehilton.com. Learn more