Whether you’re the proud parent of a dog, cat, horse, or exotic animal, we at Insurify, know that you would do anything for your pet. Between finding the best-rated groomer in your city, hunting down their new favorite toy, and spending hours researching the best treats, pet owners dedicate large portions of their time and money to their beloved pets.

We know that you want the best for your pet, and that includes the best possible veterinary care

But as veterinary medicine continues to advance, the prices also continue to increase. This can put many pet parents in unexpected, difficult situations. Although many pet parents would be willing to pay for costly treatments, some simply don’t have thousands of dollars in their savings account to spend on unexpected injuries or health problems. This can result in improper medical care, increased suffering in your pet, and even economic euthanasia.

Here are some other common health issues your pet could face, along with how much it would cost to treat these issues without insurance: 

PetConditionExpense
DogEar infection$149 per visit
DogAllergies$235 per visit
DogSprain$250
DogBladder issues$625
CatUrinary tract infection$295
CatUpset stomach$385
CatSeizures$2,000
CatRenal failure$15,000
Dog and catCancer treatment~$10,000

This is why so many pet owners turn to pet insurance policies to guarantee financial accessibility when it comes to vet care. Depending on your policy, pet insurance can mean the difference between paying $4,000 out of pocket for an unexpected car accident or paying $800 out of pocket with a good policy. 

Depending on the company, pet owners can find policies that cover accidents, illnesses, emergencies, and specialist or routine care. Finding the best policy comes down to what you can afford and what kind of coverage fits you and your pet best. 

How does pet insurance work?

Pet insurance policies are a type of health insurance used to lower the out-of-pocket cost of veterinary care after your pet gets an unexpected illness or injury. Most providers only offer coverage for unexpected and emergency vet fees. Some also offer routine and preventative care coverage to help pay for expected annual treatments like parasite control, vaccinations, and regular vet visits.

Some pet insurance companies like Petplan also reimburse policyholders for certain non-veterinary costs like boarding kennel fees, monetary loss due to pet theft, and even the cancellation of a planned vacation due to your pet’s illness or injury. 

Reimbursements

Typically, most companies function through a reimbursement system, which means that you pay for veterinary procedures upfront and are reimbursed later. The standard reimbursement rates are between 70 percent and 90 percent, but some companies offer 100 percent reimbursement—which means you won’t pay anything out-of-pocket when it comes to veterinary fees. 

Payout Limits

These reimbursements are usually capped with a maximum amount of money the insurance company is willing to pay for your pet each year. This means that if you bought a plan with a $10,000 payout limit, and your cat required cancer treatments that exceeded $10,000, the insurance company would not continue to pay for the treatments once you reached that cap. 

Deductibles

Pet owners are usually required to meet an annual deductible between $100 and around $1,000. Deductibles are like copays. It is the amount of money you must pay before your insurance plan kicks in. Policyholders can not receive any reimbursement from the insurance provider until they meet the deductible.

Pre-existing Conditions

While the specific insurance coverage depends on the company, no pet insurance provider offers coverage for pre-existing conditions. This means any problem documented in your pet’s medical history before you enroll in a pet insurance plan won’t be covered by the plan. This includes recurring illnesses, chronic conditions, injuries, and symptoms without a formal medical diagnosis. 

Ailments and diagnoses that qualify as pre-existing conditions depend on the provider, with some insurance policies being more exclusionary than others. So if you brought your cat to the vet for diarrhea, but the vet was unable to make a formal diagnosis for the cause, some insurance providers would remove coverage for any diarrhea-related case in the future. 

Rigorous pre-existing condition policies can be a deal-breaker for some pet parents, especially for those with chronically-ill or senior pets. 

Fortunately, some pet insurance providers like Embrace or Petplan offer to reinstate pre-existing condition coverage for conditions that are deemed “cured.” This usually means that if your pet doesn’t experience any symptoms or receive any further treatment for a consecutive year, insurance coverage for that condition will resume. 

Most insurance providers also won’t cover cosmetic procedures, breeding-related fees, and any medical diagnoses deemed the result of abuse or neglect. 

Who should buy pet insurance?

On the surface, pet insurance can seem very beneficial to pet parents. Accidents and illnesses can be unpredictable, and you never know when you’re going to have to shell out thousands of dollars in vet bills. But that doesn’t mean that pet insurance is for everyone. 

Depending on the company, pet insurance companies can be very particular about the treatments they do and don’t cover. That is why so many of the negative complaints in consumer reports refer to claims being denied for unexplained reasons. 

Since no pet insurance providers cover pre-existing conditions, it might not be the best option for senior pets that have experienced multiple medical problems. However, companies like Embrace or Petplan offer to reinstate “cured” pre-existing conditions, making them better choices for pet parents with senior pets or pets with a complex medical history. Make sure to do your research before settling down with one company. 

Pet insurance is best for young pets with a relatively clean medical history. These policies can come in handy during your dog or cat’s adolescence — when they experience unexpected injuries as they grow and explore, which can cause expensive veterinary trips. The average cost of a policy for a younger pet is also cheaper than that for an older one since older pets are more susceptible to conditions like hip dysplasia and arthritis.

Choosing to purchase pet insurance is choosing to prepare for your pet’s future instead of its past or present. No one knows what’s best for your furry friend quite like you do, and if you know your dog likes to run into the street or that your cat comes from a long line of hereditary conditions, pet insurance might help you continue to give them the best care. 

How much does pet insurance cost?

The cost of pet insurance is determined by factors like your pet’s age, breed, size, and location. Mixed-breed pets typically have lower premiums because they are less likely to develop genetic diseases than purebreds. Younger pets, smaller pets, and pets that live in states with cheaper veterinary care and medical costs also usually have lower premiums. 

Your monthly premium cost is also impacted by adjustable factors like the specific coverage plan, reimbursement rate, annual payout limit, and deductible. Most insurance companies allow you to customize these aspects to determine your monthly premium and amount of coverage. Typically, the more you pay per month, the more coverage you will receive, and vice versa.

Pet insurance quotes for dogs are typically higher than those for cats and exotic animals. The average dog insurance policy costs around $69 per month, while the average cat insurance policy costs around $37 per month. Exotic pet insurance is usually around $15.75 per month, and equine insurance is usually about $12.50 per month. 

Here’s a sample of how much each pet insurance company costs for dog insurance:

Pet Insurance CompanyMonthly price
Embrace$46/mo
ASPCA$49/mo
Figo$59/mo
Petfirst$60/mo
Healthy Paws$65/mo
24petwatch$65/mo
Pets Best$65/mo
Nationwide$68/mo
AKC$72/mo
Petplan$91/mo
Trupanion$126/mo

And here’s a sample of how much each company costs, based on your cat’s breed: 

Pet Insurance CompanyMonthly price
Healthy Paws$28/mo
Figo$29/mo
ASPCA$30/mo
AKC$32/mo
24petwatch$33/mo
Embrace$33/mo
Petfirst$33/mo
Pets Best$38/mo
Petplan$39/mo
Nationwide$45/mo
Trupanion$64/mo

Pet insurance plans from providers like Trupanion, Petplan, and AKC tend to be a tad more expensive than others, while providers like Embrace, ASPCA, and Figo tend to have cheaper plans. However, these quotes can be affected by the aforementioned factors. 

Alternatives to Pet Insurance

There are multiple options for pet parents who aren’t quite ready to buy a pet insurance policy. Whether you want a lower monthly cost or don’t feel the need to pay for unexpected or emergency coverage, there are various alternatives to pet insurance with lower rates. 

Banfield Wellness Plans

For pet parents who are just looking for financial assistance with routine and preventative care, companies like Banfield offer wellness plans through Banfield Pet Hospitals. This means that by purchasing a wellness plan and paying a monthly premium, Banfield will cover the entirety of the cost of certain routine veterinary procedures like routine checkups, vaccines, spay or neutering, deworming, and dental cleanings. Banfield has over 1,000 locations across the United States, primarily located inside PetSmart stores and offers three separate plans with different routine care coverages. 

Banfield is a good option for puppy or kitten parents with access to a Banfield’s animal hospitals. Purchasing a wellness plan can help alleviate some of the high-cost, early expenses. However, it might not be the best option for older, chronically-ill pets or pet parents that want to use a veterinarian out of Banfield’s network.

Banfield is also more expensive than certain pet insurance providers which offer wellness plans in addition to accident and illness coverage. Although it doesn’t provide quotes without a preliminary veterinary appointment, Banfield’s comprehensive plan averages over $45 for cats per month and $55 for dogs per month. Pet insurance providers like Embrace offer a wellness plan add-on in addition to its comprehensive insurance for as low as $29.10 per month for cats and $34.95 per month for dogs. This means that policyholders are given full accident and illness coverage and wellness coverage for less than Banfield’s wellness plan.

Wagmo’s Wellness Plans

Wagmo is another wellness plan pet parents can consider for routine and preventative care coverage. The company offers three different plans – the basic plan for $18 per month, the legit plan for $30 per month, and the extra plan for $50 per month. The plans all provide $100 towards annual office visits, $100 towards vaccines, and $100 towards routine testing. By choosing a more expensive plan, policyholders can add on flea and tick prevention, grooming, and dental care.

Wagmo uses the same system as most insurance companies and reimburses policyholders after they file claims. The company is also working on creating accident and illness insurance plans alongside the wellness option. 

Pet Assure Discount Plans

Another option pet parents can explore, are discount services like Pet Assure. Pet Assure offers a 25 percent discount on all veterinary medical bills, including those associated with pre-existing conditions. Unlike insurance policies that require policyholders to make claims and receive reimbursements, Pet Assure can get you an immediate discount. Similar to Banfield, Pet Assure can only be used within its network of participating veterinarians. However, patients can request their favorite local veterinarian to join the network and become eligible. 

Pet Assure offers flat-rate pricing dependent on the size and number of pets you’re looking to insure. Cats and animals smaller than cats cost $9.95 per month, while dogs and other larger pets cost $11.95 per month. Pet parents looking to insure two to four pets can pay $16.95 per month, regardless of the size. Meanwhile, pet parents with their own zoo can pay $21.95 per month for the unlimited plan, which covers all animals regardless of size. 

Pet Assure is a good, cheaper option for pet parents who aren’t ready to sign up for an insurance policy. While it might not save pet parents as much money on veterinary services compared to insurance policies, it doesn’t have any restrictions on the services it covers. It also offers substantially cheaper monthly premiums and doesn’t require an annual deductible. 

Updated June 1, 2020

Samantha Vargas is a freelance writer for Insurify. She has a background in comparative English literature and film and has produced a variety of journalistic content for the University at Buffalo's independent student newspaper, The Spectrum. She currently works in Buffalo, NY while finishing her master's degree. She spends her free time baking and working with animal welfare groups.