Updated December 10, 2023 at 4:00 PM PST | Reading time: 4 minutes
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Pet insurance is a predictable monthly expense that can help pet owners pay for their pet’s medical bills for routine and emergency vet care. Even though it’s an additional expense, it can save you money if your pet gets sick or injured.
Depending on the type of insurance policy you buy, your coverage might not cover all your pet’s care. Your pet’s age and health status can also increase how much you pay for coverage.
Here’s what you should know about pet insurance to help you decide whether it’s worth it.
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Should you get pet insurance?
Whether pet insurance is a good idea for you depends on your budget and your pet. Coverage usually makes sense if an unexpected veterinary bill would cause you financial stress. Pet insurance may not cost much less than typical annual pet care expenses, but it can make a substantial difference if your pet experiences an unexpected injury or illness.
For example, dog owners across the U.S. spend an average of $242 per year for routine vet visits and $458 for surgical procedures — for a combined total of $700. Compared to the annual average cost of $640 for pet insurance for a dog, out-of-pocket expenses only cost about $60 more on average.
The cost of pet insurance
The average cost of pet insurance for accident and illness coverage is $53 per month for dogs and $32 for cats, according to data from the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. Prices can vary dramatically depending on your pet’s health status and more. Policies may also have exclusions for pre-existing health conditions.
Here are the main factors that influence the cost of pet insurance:
Coverage type: More extensive coverage costs more, while basic policies tend to cost less. For example, accident and illness coverage is more expensive than accident-only coverage.
Animal: The type of animal you want to insure affects how much coverage costs. For instance, cats typically cost less to insure than dogs.
Breed: Some breeds are prone to certain health conditions or other medical concerns that lead to increased costs.
Age: Your pet’s age affects costs. Older pets are typically more expensive to insure since they may have more medical issues due to aging.
Average cost of common pet treatment
The average yearly cost of vet expenses, including routine visits and surgical vet care, is $700 for dogs and $379 for cats. One-time medical expenses or an emergency surgery can increase the amount you pay in a given year.
For example, you can expect to pay more than $500 to spay or neuter your pet. And dental cleanings — which usually require anesthesia — cost around $400.
The one-time or unexpected veterinary expenses can add up quickly for pet owners.
Good to Know
The expense of significant medical procedures may justify the annual cost of an accident and illness pet insurance plan, which is $640 for dogs and $387 for cats on average.
Pros of pet insurance
Pet insurance can make paying for pet care less stressful. Here are some of the best aspects of having pet insurance:
Affordable monthly payments: The average monthly cost of pet insurance premiums are reasonable, at $53 for dogs and $32 for cats.
Customize coverage: Pet insurers typically offer different plans that allow you to pick the coverage you want, which can help decrease the cost of coverage.
Predictable expense: Instead of paying for large veterinary bills, you can pay the monthly premium, which might allow you to budget more effectively.
Cons of pet insurance
You should consider a few of the potential drawbacks of buying pet insurance, including the following:
Rates vary dramatically: Your pet’s age, health, location, and breed can all affect how much coverage costs and might significantly increase the cost of pet insurance.
Must submit claims: Most pet insurers require customers to pay costs up front and then file a claim for reimbursement.
Coverage limits: Some pet insurance plans have an annual limit for coverage and won’t provide reimbursement after a certain threshold.
What pet insurance covers
Pet insurance companies typically offer three different levels of coverage: basic, comprehensive, and preventive protection. Specifics vary depending on your pet insurance policy type, but insurance companies usually provide coverage for the following health issues and accidents:
What pet insurance doesn’t cover
Even the best pet insurance plan has limits. You’ll have to pay out of pocket for some procedures and care regardless of the level of coverage you have. Pet insurance companies don’t usually cover the following illnesses or medical conditions:
Pregnancy or birth
Theft of pet
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Pet insurance FAQs
Determining whether the cost of pet insurance makes sense for your financial situation can be a difficult decision. Pet owners often consider the following questions while making a decision.
How much should you be spending on pet insurance?
On average, pet insurance costs $640 per year for a dog and $387 for a cat. However, like human health care insurance, pet insurance costs can vary dramatically depending on the type of coverage you want and your pet’s health. Comparing quotes from multiple pet insurers can help you review options and get the best rate.
What are the benefits of pet insurance?
Pet insurance can help pet owners pay for routine and emergency treatment. Vet bills can add up quickly, and if finances are a consideration, the cost of treatment might prevent you from getting the care your pet needs. Pet insurance reduces the financial burden of seeking care and ensures your pet can get the necessary treatment.
How much do pet expenses cost without insurance?
Routine veterinary appointments and surgical care cost dog owners $700 and cat owners $379 per year. Since those represent the average costs of care across the U.S., the true costs can fluctuate each year. Pet owners can also expect to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for one-time medical costs, like surgeries or dental care.
Taylor Milam-Samuel is a writer and credentialed educator who is fascinated by how people earn, save, and spend their money. When she's not researching financial terms and conditions, she can be found in the classroom teaching.