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Should You Get Pet Insurance?

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Your pet can be your best pal, turning a bad day into a good day with just a wag of his tail. When pets need veterinary care, it’s your turn to return that kindness. Pet insurance promises to help make pet care costs more manageable, but most pet-owning households don’t have coverage. Pet insurance may not be for everyone but many households can benefit from having coverage. Here’s what you need to know before you decide whether you should get pet insurance.

Pet Insurance Cost

Veterinary costs for dogs and cats often differ and care for dogs costs a bit more than care for cats. Average annual veterinary costs for dogs is nearly $650 per year, while annual vet care costs for cats comes in under $400 per year. Averages include both highs and lows, however, so in some years, pet care costs may be minimal and in other years, vet care can become a big part of the household budget. 

Pet insurance offers a way to help cover vet care costs by paying a monthly amount called a premium rather than face potentially large vet bills. Often, annual pet insurance costs significantly less than the annual vet care costs cited earlier and it can be a lifesaver if your pet has a serious medical emergency.

Benzinga surveyed 15 leading pet insurance providers and found a wide range in monthly costs, but some of the rates we found might surprise you. For cats, monthly costs for pet insurance ranged from as low as $9 per month to as high as $40 per month, with an average monthly cost of $17. Dogs are often more expensive to insure than cats but there are plans available for every budget. We found pet insurance for dogs ranging from $13 per month up to $72 per month. The average cost for dogs among the providers we surveyed came in at $37 per month.

The wide range in monthly costs is due to differences in the types of coverage offered. Some pet plans offer only accident and illness coverage. Others offer comprehensive coverage that includes accident and illness coverage but also extends to cover specialist care, hospitalization and surgery, prescription drug coverage and more. Some basic plans only cover wellness visits or only cover risks for a limited time. Top-tier plans often include coverage for most vet care costs and have fewer limitations.

Rates also vary based on the breed of your pet, your pet’s age and often by location as well, which affects the cost of providing care for your pet.

Deductibles and copayments play a role in monthly costs of pet insurance plans as well. The deductible is the part of the claim you pay, so a plan with a higher deductible may have lower premiums but may also result in higher out-of-pocket costs when your pet needs care. Similarly, copayments are a portion of the bill that you pay. Most pet insurance plans use a percentage-based copayment. A 10% co-pay requirement is common, but plans may vary. If choosing a less expensive plan, study the deductible and copayment requirements carefully to be sure the amounts you’ll be responsible to pay fit your budget.

Pet Insurance Situations

About 13 years ago, my own dog Scout was diagnosed with cancer. He wasn’t young but wasn’t old, either, and we made the decision to get him the care he needed. We didn’t have pet insurance. In total, we paid over $7,000 for his specialized care, not including regular vet care during that time. Thankfully, he lived several more years, gifting us with a lifetime of fond memories.

The value of pet insurance is often found in more extraordinary situations. Most households can find a way to pay for routine care, but when a $7,000 bill arrives unexpectedly, the cost of caring for a pet can drain your savings or even force you to use credit, possibly making the cost even higher. Like other types of insurance, pet insurance shows its value when life throws a big expense our way.

Let’s consider a sample case. We’ll call him Spot the dog.

Average annual vet care costs for dogs run about $650 per year according to data from the American Pet Products Association. But then you also have to consider the case of Scout, the real dog, whose vet bills and cancer treatment cost over $7,000 within a short period of time. Spot, our sample dog, might develop cancer, might break a leg playing in the yard or develop a breed-specific condition, any of which might break the budget in some households.

Nationwide, one of the companies we surveyed, offers an easy way to understand coverages and bases its data on the company’s own received claims. Nationwide quotes the base monthly premium for its Whole Pet with Wellness plan at $92.95 per month. 

Here’s a basic breakdown of how the plan works.

The plan comes with a $250 deductible and a 10% copay. Because the Whole Pet with Wellness includes coverage for routine care, you may pay a bit more for this plan, but the plan doesn’t cap coverage like some other plans do.

Reimbursement samplesVet care costsReimbursed
Pancreatitis$907.88$592.09
Lacerations$363.27$325.50
Ear infection$193.62$174.26
Routine care$800.48$719.31
Totals$2265.251811.16

Premiums for the Whole Pet with Wellness plan cost $1,115.40 annually in this example, but the plan would reimburse over $1,800 based on the expenses in the table above. To be fair, it may be unlikely that Spot, our sample dog, experiences all these maladies during a single year, but as pet owners know, it’s possible. The $700 saved by having this particular plan goes a long way toward paying for the next year’s premiums.

Other providers may offer similar coverage at a higher or lower amount. In fact, we found higher and lower premiums even on the Whole Pet with Wellness plan based on the age of the dog, its breed and your location. 

We also got a quote for Fluffy the cat, a 2-year old mixed-breed female. This time we chose Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. 

Healthy Paws quoted us $12.25 monthly. Typically, pet insurance is less expensive for cats in general and for younger pets in particular. Healthy Paws lets you set your own deductible and reimbursement rate. We chose the standard recommendation of $250 for the deductible and 80% reimbursement for covered claims. The maximum payout on this plan is unlimited but the plan does not cover wellness visits.

At only $147 annually, pet insurance for cats is an easier purchase decision than coverage for dogs. 

Reimbursement samplesVet care costsReimbursed
Injury requiring surgery$4,000$3,200
Lacerations$350$280
Prescription Medications$180$144

These numbers are based on 80% reimbursement. It’s important to consider deductibles as well. In this case, your deductible is $250, which is higher than the amount reimbursed by the plan for some covered claims. If the deductible hasn’t been met, claims below the deductible amount may not be paid even though they are covered by the plan.

Best Pet Insurance Providers

Pet insurance can make good financial sense, especially when you consider some of the possible costs at the higher end of the price range. If the only pet care costs were routine wellness visits, the value in pet insurance isn’t as apparent. Pet insurance, like most types of insurance, shows its real value when a big expense comes your way.

You can get a customized quote with just your ZIP code. You may need to know your pet’s age or breed, so compare rates and choose a pet insurance plan that fits your needs.

Starting Rate
$10/month
Best For
Best Overall
Get started securely through Spot Pet Insurance’s website
Starting Rate
$10/month
Best For
Best Overall
1 Minute Review

Recommended by pet specialist Cesar Millan, Spot Pet Insurance’s innovative approach provides user-friendly access to customizable coverage. Your dog or cat is covered without completing a medical exam. The policies cover veterinary bills, either partially or in full, when your pet goes in for a check-up or routine vaccination or needs care for injury, chronic illness or prescription coverage. Spot also covers implanting a microchip in your pet. You’ll also get 10% off of each additional pet you insure.

Best For
  • Cats and dogs of all breeds, sizes and ages
  • Insuring multiple pets
  • Customizing an insurance plan
  • Prescription food and supplements
Pros
  • Multiple pet discount
  • Covers prescription food and supplements
  • No upper age limit for coverage enrollment
  • 30-day money-back guarantee*
  • More reimbursement options: 70%, 80% and 90%
Cons
  • Doesn’t cover exotic pets
Starting Rate
$16 for cats, $30 for dogs/month
Best For
Bundling
Get started securely through Progressive’s website
Starting Rate
$16 for cats, $30 for dogs/month
Best For
Bundling
1 Minute Review

Progressive is a major insurance provider offering a wide selection of insurance products, including insurance for dogs and cats. Although Progressive’s pet insurance options are affordable, consider wellness coverage, but you won’t be able to claim 100% reimbursements on every policy. With easy quotes and accident-only plans, however, Progressive can be an excellent choice for pet owners shopping on a budget.

Best For
  • Bundling with other insurance products
Pros
  • Customizable coverage options with the choice to add wellness coverage
  • Quick email quotes make comparisons simple
  • Affordable accident-only policies available
Cons
  • Only available for cats and dogs
  • Boarding costs not included in any plan
Starting Rate
$15 for cats, $30 for dogs per month
Best For
Training and Grooming
Get started securely through Embrace Pet Insurance’s website
Starting Rate
$15 for cats, $30 for dogs per month
Best For
Training and Grooming
1 Minute Review

Embrace pet plans start at just $15/month. Accidents, illnesses and breed-specific conditions are just a few of the included coverages offered in their nose-to-tail plan. This is a comprehensive coverage plan that reimburses up to 90% of your pet’s unexpected vet bills. Claims is easy as 1,2,3: complete a form, attach an itemized invoice and send it in.

Best For
  • Pets with chronic conditions
  • Prescription drugs
  • Breed-specific owners
Pros
  • Has a deductible feature included in the Embrace Plan at no additional cost
  • Covers dogs and cats
  • Coverage for exams
  • Rewards program
  • Great customer service
Cons
  • Comprehensive plans only for animals at the ages of 1 to 14
  • Plans don’t cover preexisting conditions of pets
  • No unlimited claims options

Is Pet Insurance Worth it?

Protecting our pets is part of our responsibility as pet owners. We all hope for the best and wish that our pets don’t become ill, but life happens. Accidents, injuries, age or breed-related conditions and other veterinary needs are all real risks and they can cost thousands in treatment expenses. Think of pet insurance as a way to protect both your pet and your finances. Most households that have pets can benefit by choosing the best pet insurance.

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