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Is Pet Insurance Worth It? Key Points to Consider

Candice Elliott
Candice Elliott
Candice Elliott is a freelance writer who specializes in all things personal finance. She learned to manage her money the hard way after moving to New York City and living paycheck to paycheck for years. She wants to help others avoid the personal finance mistakes she made while providing easy and actionable advice in an entertaining way. Candice now lives in New Orleans, where she admits she spends more than she should on restaurants because the food is as good as you’ve heard.

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Table of Contents

Pet insurance is something every pet owner should consider to help cover veterinary costs and avoid falling into debt should their pet have an emergency.

Key Takeaways

  • Pet emergency bills can run in the thousands; pet insurance can cover these costs
  • Having your pet insured can help reduce your out-of-pocket medical costs for veterinary care anywhere from 50% to 100%
  • There are many different types of insurance plans to suit your needs
  • Premiums vary widely but the average owner pays $30 to $60 a month to insure their pet

What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Pet insurance covers a variety of accidents, illnesses, and diseases. While every plan is different, these are some of the most commonly covered costs for an average pet insurance plan.

Covered Expenses

  • Injuries & accidents (broken leg, hit-by-car, etc)
  • Emergency exams
  • Surgeries
  • Hospitalizations
  • Diagnostics (blood work, x-rays, etc)
  • Chronic conditions (diabetes, heart failure, etc)
  • Illnesses (UTIs, ear infections, etc)
  • Cancer treatment
  • Dental surgeries
  • Prescription drugs

Optional Covered Expenses (available as an add-on with some plans)

  • Wellness care
  • Alternative medicine
  • Rehabilitation therapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • End-of-life care

Non-Covered Expenses

  • Preexisting conditions
  • Routine exams (unless covered with wellness plan add-on)
  • Spaying/neutering
  • Vaccinations (unless covered with wellness plan add-on)
  • Dental cleanings (unless covered with wellness plan add-on)
  • Elective procedures

How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?

Pet insurance can cost between $20 and $100 per month but the average pet owner pays somewhere between $30 and $60.

There are many factors that will determine how much pet insurance can cost including:

  • Type of pet (cat vs dog)
  • Chosen type of coverage
  • Reimbursement level
  • Deductible
  • Pet’s age, breed, and sex
  • Location

Breed-Specific Health Risks

Breed can be a major determining factor in the cost of premiums. This is because certain breeds of dogs and cats can be prone to particular conditions that require more veterinary care.

Some breeds that can be higher to insure may include:

  • Brachycephalic breeds (short-nosed, flat-faced) such as French bulldogs and Persian cats that can be prone to respiratory problems
  • Chondrodystrophic dog breeds (long-bodied) such as Dachshunds and Pembroke Welsh Corgis that can be prone to intervertebral disc disease
  • Large breeds such as Great Dane dogs and Maine Coon cats that can be prone to hip dysplasia

Average Cost of Unexpected Vet Bills

Veterinary costs can depend on several factors, including the type of pet, type of medical treatment, type of hospital, and location. These are some average ranges associated with emergencies and illnesses:

  • Exam: $50 to $250
  • Blood tests: $50 to $250
  • X-rays: $150 to $500
  • Ultrasounds: $300 to $600
  • MRI: $2,500 to $5,000
  • Hospitalization: $500 to $5,000
  • Emergency surgery: $1,500 to $10,000
  • Oxygen therapy: $500 to $3,000
  • Cancer treatment $2,000 to $10,000
  • Chronic disease management (such as diabetes): $2,500 to $10,000

One pet emergency can quickly add up to thousands of dollars. With pet insurance, you can save 50% to 100% of the cost (after deductible).

How Pet Insurance Covers Veterinary Costs

Every insurance has a different claims process but for most, you’ll submit your pet’s veterinary bills (or an estimate if it’s a preapproval), medical records, and a claim form to start the process.

Once your deductible is met, a percentage of your pet’s medical bills (based on your level of coverage) will be reimbursed. Reimbursements can range from 50% to 100% but most pet owners have a plan in the 70% to 90% range.

Depending on the type of plan you have (owner reimbursement vs direct-to-vet payment), your insurance company will either be issuing payment to you or the veterinary hospital.

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

With the chance that any pet can have a serious accident or illness, pet insurance is a worthwhile investment. Approximately one out of every three pets will need emergency care every year and cost is a leading factor in owners being able to get their pet treated. Like most insurance, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!

When Should You Insure Your Pet?

Pet insurance does not cover preexisting conditions so the earlier you get your pet on a plan, the more likely any illness they have will be covered. The best time to insure your pet is when they are still a puppy or kitten. The premiums are typically lower and they likely won’t have any preexisting conditions to exclude.

If your pet is older, it’s still a good idea to get them insured. Although they may have preexisting conditions that are excluded, other illnesses or accidents can occur at any time and it’s better to have some coverage than none.

Possible Alternatives to Pet Insurance

If you’re unsure about pet insurance, here are some other options for funding your pet’s medical care:

A Pet Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is money set aside for unexpected expenses, which can include pet emergencies. Consider putting some money aside each month for your pet’s medical needs.

Credit Card

Credit cards can be a troublesome way to fund emergencies especially if it’s a large bill with high interest rates. However, if you qualify for a credit card offering a 0% APR introductory period this may allow you to carry a balance for a number of months without incurring interest. If you can pay the entire balance before the introductory period runs out, the card acts as an interest-free loan.

Veterinary Financing

Some lenders offer financing specifically for veterinary care. If you’ve ever used CareCredit to pay your medical or dental bills, you’re familiar with the concept. In fact, CareCredit offers financing for vet bills. Similar lenders include Scratchpay, LendingUSA, and Credova. You can often apply for these online or in your vet’s office.

What About Payment Plans?

Most veterinary hospitals are unable to accept payment plans as they run quite differently from human hospitals and receive no outside funding. However, some will allow payment plans for smaller balances or with a deposit upfront. Be sure to inquire upfront and never assume that a veterinary hospital will be able to bill you later.

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