Pet Care Costs in the U.S. vs Europe

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Contributor, Benzinga
March 24, 2022

The love for pets is universal, but the cost to care for your pet can vary greatly across the world. Just looking at pet insurance alone, the overall sentiment regarding it is different when comparing the U.S. to Europe. Knowing how your location can affect the price you pay for your pet’s care costs and your pet insurance (as well as how you can lower what you pay) will help ensure your pet is getting the highest quality care, no matter where you are.

Average Pet Care Costs in the U.S.

Pet care costs vary depending on a number of different factors, but what is required to own a pet is pretty much the same across the board. There are one-time costs, which you’ll cover at a single stage in your pet’s life (like neutering), and then there are annual costs, which are things you need to buy consistently throughout the pet’s life (like an annual exam). 

To get an idea of the average pet cost in the U.S., we can take a look at the basic one-time expenses necessary for a dog or cat. The cost to adopt or buy a pet is usually around $250, but that can be less or more depending on where you’re purchasing it. Spaying or neutering typically costs around $300 for dogs and $150 for cats. Expect to spend around $300 for your pet’s initial medical costs and between $100 and $200 for other starting necessities (like leashes, scratching posts, toys and other accessories). 

Annual expenses include $225 to $300 for food, and veterinary care costs between $160 and $225, assuming your pet only needs routine care in a given year. You can also expect to spend about $30 per year on grooming and between $350 and $550 in pet insurance costs if you choose to add this protection to your list of household coverages. Over the course of your pet’s lifetime, you can expect to spend around $11,000 on for your dog or cat. As you can see, pets are a major financial responsibility. 

Average Pet Care Costs in Europe

Similar to pet care in the U.S., when you own a pet in Europe, there are expenses you pay once and those you will have to pay multiple times throughout the pet’s life. To get an idea of the average pet care costs in Europe, take a look at one-time costs in the United Kingdom when converted into their equivalent in U.S. dollars.

In the U.K., the cost of the adoption or purchase of a pet is around $260, and you can expect to spend around $160 to spay or neuter it. For the basic necessities such as collars, leashes, crates, beds and training, the total costs you’ll pay in startup expenses comes to around $350. 

Annual expenses in the U.K. include food for around $520, vet costs for about $230, grooming for around $320 and toys at an estimated $160. You can also expect to pay around $130 each year for your pet’s flea, tick and heartworm prevention as well as about $370 per year to maintain a pet insurance policy if you choose to do so.

Assuming the cost is around these approximations, the average pet care costs in the U.K. when adding up the one-time and annual costs and multiplying it by the average lifespan of 11 years, would be around $20,000. Because the United Kingdom is only one part of Europe, this cost for pet care can vary greatly from one country to the next. For example, the average pet care cost in France is around $14,500 over the course of an animal’s lifetime, while the average cost in Ireland is around $13,000. 

Pet Insurance Options in the U.S.

Many insurance options are available to pet parents in the U.S. These pet insurers offer different levels of coverage, flexible premiums and deductibles, different term options as well as a number of add-on riders or preventative care coverage options. Some of the major pet insurance providers in the United States include Spot Pet Insurance and ASPCA Pet Insurance.  

Pet Insurance Options in Europe

European pet insurance companies offer pet parents customized policies. The number of pets insured in Europe compared to the United States is considerably higher. The coverage offered in Europe is broader than coverage offered in the U.S. The difference is so prominent that most pet owners consider pet insurance to be as necessary as toys or food, whereas the sentiment is much different in the U.S. Major pet insurance providers operating throughout Europe include Petplan UK and Nationwide.   

Advantages of Pet Insurance

Other than the obvious peace of mind that comes with knowing your pet will get the care it  needs without breaking the bank in the event of an emergency, there are several other advantages of pet insurance, including: 

Less chance of minor issues developing into major ones: Sometimes pet parents forgo the care that their pet needs simply because of the cost. If you have pet insurance, the expenses your veterinarian billd you for treatment doesn’t fall on only your shoulders. This can be a major consideration with a variety of injuries and illnesses, as putting off treatment can make many conditions worse over time. With pet insurance, you don’t have to wait to help your pet on the road to recovery. 

Ability to choose your vet: When it comes to choosing a doctor for your own healthcare, you might need to choose one within your insurer’s network, depending on the type of policy you have. Pet insurance works differently because there are no networks associated with individual insurance providers. With pet insurance, you can choose any vet you wish, so you don’t have to worry about switching veterinarians. This can be a major benefit if you have a pet who already has an established relationship with a local care provider. 

Drawbacks of Pet Insurance

Just as there are several advantages to pet insurance, there are drawbacks as well. It’s up to you to decide whether the advantages outweigh the downsides enough to take the plunge and purchase a pet insurance plan. 

Limited coverage: While pet insurance can cover a number of pet care expenses, there are plenty of services and expenses that are not covered. Routine care, which includes annual wellness exams and teeth cleanings, are not typically covered by pet insurance. There are also certain conditions and treatments that your pet may be susceptible to that are not typically covered by pet insurance plans. For example, if your pet has a preexisting condition at the time you sign up for coverage, it will likely be excluded from your plan. 

Animal restrictions: It can be easy to find a plan for your dog or cat, but there are limited options for more exotic pets like birds and snakes. Even for your dog or cat, there may be breed or age restrictions that stop them from getting coverage. Keep in mind, of course, that you may want to have a bush baby, for example, as a pet. You may have difficulty finding insurance for your pet, but there may also be restrictions on exotic pets in your state or city. Even if your pet is “common” (for instance, a horse), only ASPCA offers coverage.

Tips to Reduce Pet Care Costs

The cost of caring for your furry family member can add up. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce the cost you pay to care for your pet. Begin with the following tips to lower your annual pet care costs. 

Keep up a healthy diet and lifestyle: The best way to reduce pet care costs is by keeping your pet on a healthy diet and ensuring they get plenty of exercise to keep them in top shape. If your pet is healthy, you’re less likely to need to worry about any hefty vet expenses resulting from an illness. 

Spay or neuter: If you’re struggling to care for your one pet, you don’t need to add any more family members. You can prevent this possibility by spaying or neutering your pet as soon as possible to avoid major costs that come with an animal pregnancy and babies. 

Keep up with annual vet visits and vaccines: To avoid having to pay for major treatments resulting from an illness or injury that could’ve been avoided, take your pet for annual wellness checks and keep them up to date on vaccinations. While these things cost money, it will help prevent any major expenses that can come from complications resulting from the lack of wellness exams and vaccination boosters. 

Frequently Asked Questions


How much does pet insurance really cost?


Depending on your pet’s age and breed, pet insurance may cost as little as a few dollars a month to hundreds of dollars a month. You’ll also need to consider your plan’s deductible, which you’ll need to cover annually. Get quotes from competing pet insurance providers before signing onto a plan to be sure that you’re getting the best coverage.


Will my pet insurance go up if I make a claim?


Though policies vary by insurance provider, you’re likely to see an increase in your premiums after filing a claim with your pet insurance provider.