For some, their animal is quite literally a member of the family. While pet owners clearly love their pets, they likely detest the rising costs of pet care and emergency costs.
In 2017, the average cost of pet expenditures alone (food, supplies, routine vet care, grooming and boarding) was $69.4 billion compared to $41.2 billion in 2007. These costs don’t include any emergency treatment or surgeries.
With the rising cost of pet care, it begs the question, is pet insurance worth it? To help answer this complex and personal question, we’ve outlined the basics of pet insurance for you.
What is pet insurance?
Pet insurance, like health, car or homeowners insurance, is financial protection against accidents, illness or unforeseen events that cause damage. The pet owner pays a monthly or annual premium to an insurance company and in return, the insurance company provides compensation in the event your pet is injured, sick or in need of medical treatment.
Coverage and cost vary depending on which pet insurance plan you purchase. There are three main types of coverage to consider:
1. Accident coverage
No pet parent can predict if and when their pet will experience an accident. But when accidents do occur, every pet parent will want their animal to get the help they need without worrying about the cost.
Accident coverage insurance helps alleviate the cost of care for accidents like broken bones, bites, stings, lacerations and eye injuries. Whether you have a rambunctious puppy or a senior dog, this type of coverage can be useful for pets of any age.
2. Illness coverage
Pets can experience illness at any age. However, if you’re considering illness coverage, it’s smart to purchase a pet insurance plan when your pet is young. As your pet gets older, costs can rise and insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions.
Illness coverage helps reduce the cost of treatment for things like UTIs, cancer, allergies and digestive issues, which can cost thousands of dollars out-of-pocket.
3. Wellness coverage
Routine wellness visits are essential to ensure your pet is healthy. During a wellness visit, your pet will get its vaccines, be checked for rabies and heartworm, be spayed or neutered, have their teeth cleaned and be examined for any parasites, fleas or ticks.
Depending on the pet insurance company you purchase a plan with, you can choose any or all of these coverage options for your pet.
How does pet insurance work?
With any type of insurance, you’ll be expected to pay a pre-determined deductible, co-pay and premium. Pet insurance is unique because you’ll be expected to pay the full amount upfront and be reimbursed by the pet insurance company later.
After your pet has received treatment and you’ve paid the veterinary clinic, you’ll submit an itemized receipt and reimbursement form to the insurance company. Then, the insurance company will pay their portion back to you. This can range anywhere from 20 to 100 percent, depending on your insurance plan and what’s covered.
How much does pet insurance cost?
The cost of pet insurance varies based on the type, breed and age of the pet, but ValuePenguin estimates the average cost at around $45 a month for dogs and $28 a month for cats.
The breed affects the cost of pet insurance because some types of animals are known to have hereditary conditions. The age of the pet matters because the older an animal gets, the more likely it’ll have health issues.
Costs will also vary based on where you live and the type of plan you choose. Because vet costs are higher in some zip codes, the price of your monthly premium will fluctuate. If you choose accident, illness and wellness coverage, your monthly premium will be more expensive than if you only had accident coverage. The other thing to consider is most pet insurance companies cover dogs and cats. If you have another type of pet, like a rabbit, bird or reptile, insurance options and coverage will vary greatly.
What pet insurance won’t cover
While pet insurance has its perks, it may not be the right choice in all cases. For example, if your pet’s breed is predisposed to a certain disease or condition, it may not be eligible for coverage.
Take Addison’s disease, which is common in Standard Poodles, Great Danes and Bearded Collies. Knowing that these breeds have a higher chance of having Addison’s disease, pet insurance companies would likely not cover them or their treatment. Pet insurance may not be worth it if you had hoped the insurance would cover the monthly treatment.
Just like health insurance policies for your family, pet insurance also won’t cover any pre-existing conditions.
So, is pet insurance worth it?
Now that we’ve discussed the different types and average costs of pet insurance, let’s look at a few real-life examples of when pet insurance may and may not be worth it.
Because pet insurance is an added expense of your monthly budget, you may be unsure if it’s worth the cost. If you have a pet, it’s smart to consider the monthly premium vs. paying out-of-pocket should something occur.
“Depending on the person and how they view their finances, it might be easier to budget and pay a monthly subscription for pet insurance instead of a large fee all at once. If a cat or a dog consumes a foreign object, it can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 for removal, in which case insurance can cover all of that.” -Amber, a vet tech at Cottonwood Animal Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah
Pet insurance might be worth it for you if…
- You don’t have money in savings to cover an emergency
- Your pet will need office visits beyond annual checkups
- Your pet requires regular medication (this may or may not be covered depending on your plan)
- You receive a discount on coverage as a work benefit
Pansy Winterburn has a half pit bull, half chocolate lab and is an advocate for pet insurance.
“I bought it for my puppy and it was great. It covered the spay, all shots, heartworm for a year and no office visit fees. Plus, I receive 10 percent off on all other emergencies that may not be covered,” she explains.
“My pup has a sensitive tummy so we have been into the vet 6 times above and beyond regular checkups. Without the insurance, that would have cost me $320 in office visit fees alone. The total amount for the year was $385 so it has definitely saved me some money but also, we felt a bit more at ease, knowing we could take her in when needed without worrying about how much it was going to cost.”
Pet insurance might not be for you if…
- You have an extra $3,000 to $5,000 in an emergency savings account or rainy day fund and are able to use that money should something occur
- Your pet breed is predisposed to certain diseases or conditions
- Your pet has a pre-existing condition
- Your pet is generally healthy and only needs annual vet visits
Determine if pet insurance fits into your budget
Pet insurance can bring peace of mind to pet owners knowing that they can get their beloved pet the health care they need without having to break the bank. Pet insurance can also save pet owners money on expensive treatments and accidents.
However, it’s ultimately up to you to decide if you can add it to your budget and afford the monthly payment. As with anything in life, there are pros and cons to pet insurance. It’s up to the pet owner to research and decide which pet insurance plan, if any, are right for you.