The cost of pet ownership isn’t cheap. Routine veterinary care, including medications, averaged $410 for dogs and $300 for cats in 2021, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Treatment for severe diseases or injuries can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars more. Little wonder, then, that the demand for pet insurance in the U.S. has been rising steadily over the past few years. This guide will explain the basics of how pet insurance works and help you decide whether insuring your pet is worth the cost.
The Best Pet Insurance Providers of 2022
What Is Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance is designed to offset the expense of veterinary treatment. In exchange for paying a monthly premium, you will be reimbursed for a portion of the cost of procedures and treatments that are covered by your plan. Some policies cover accidents only, while others include illness as well. Wellness plans for routine care are also available.
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
Generally speaking, pet insurance works on a reimbursement basis. You pay for the full cost of treatment upfront, then contact the insurer to be compensated. Some insurers base compensation amounts on a given percentage, typically 70% to 90% of the cost of the procedure. Other insurers use a benefit schedule that reimburses a set dollar amount per procedure.
As with other types of insurance, policies for pets usually include a deductible, the amount of money you must spend on care before your insurer will cover a claim. This can range from $50 to $1,000, depending on the insurer and policy type.
In most cases, the deductible is an annual amount, meaning it must be met yearly before coverage kicks in. Trupanion, one of the companies in our rating of the best pet insurance companies, handles deductibles a little differently. It imposes a lifetime limit per medical condition, not an annual one. This means that once you’ve met that limit for a particular type of treatment, you won’t pay it again provided you maintain your policy.
Pet insurance does not require that you take your pet to a participating or “in-network” veterinarian in order to be reimbursed. You can take your pet to any licensed vet and do not need preapproval to seek treatment.
What Does Pet Insurance Cover?
Before you buy a pet insurance policy, it’s a good idea to contact the insurer and find out what is and is not covered by the policy, particularly breed-specific, hereditary, or chronic conditions, and whether there are waiting periods for new enrollees. You should also ask whether your pet must have a medical exam or if you need to provide your pet’s medical records.
Each pet insurance company is a little different when it comes to what kinds of policies are offered and what is and is not covered. In general, the following are usually included:
- Accidents and injuries, including cuts and broken bones
- Illnesses such as an ear infection or bladder infection
- Hereditary or breed-specific conditions like hip dysplasia
- Hospitalization and surgery
Some plans may also cover alternative therapies like acupuncture, prosthetics and mobility devices, euthanasia, and behavioral therapies.
What Does Pet Insurance Not Cover?
Even the most comprehensive of pet policies won’t cover everything. The following are typically excluded from coverage:
- Pre-existing conditions
- Spaying and neutering
- Grooming, bathing, or boarding
- Treatment for parasites like fleas, heartworms, ticks, and roundworms
- Elective surgery and procedures like tail docking and anal glad expression
- Breeding and pregnancy services
What Does a Pet Wellness Plan Cover?
Some pet insurers also offer supplemental wellness plans that will reimburse you for routine care not covered by an accident/illness policy. Premiums vary, ranging from $14 to $52 per month according to our research. Unlike accident/illness plans for pets, wellness coverage typically does not have deductibles.
Treatments and procedures covered by wellness plans usually include the following:
- Routine checkups
- Dental cleanings
- Fecal and blood testing
- Heartworm, flea, and tick prevention
How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?
The cost of insuring a pet depends on several factors, including the animal’s species, breed, age, and gender. Premiums also vary based on the amount of coverage and deductible you choose, as well as the cost of vet care where you live. In general, dogs cost more to insure than cats. Depending on the insurer, you may be eligible for discounts, including those for insuring multiple pets or for being in the military.
Below is a breakdown of sample monthly premiums, based on our analysis.
Pet Insurance Cost Comparison
* Any rates listed are for illustrative purposes only. You should contact the insurance company or insurance agent directly for applicable quotes.
* Monthly costs are for a 1-year-old female Mixed-breed dog and an under 1-yo male domestic shorthair cat, respectively, in excellent health residing in Texas, for a $500 annual deductible, $5000 annual benefit limit and 90% reimbursement rate.
* Healthy Paws has no benefit limit
** Trupanion’s deductible is per incident throughout lifetime, whereas other companies uses an annual deductible. Trupanion also has no benefit limit.
*** The customizable factors for Nationwide is $250 deductible and $10,000 annual benefit limit, for our oringinal archetype does not apply.
How Much Does Vet Care Cost?
Most adult dogs and cats don’t need to go to the vet’s office more than once or twice a year for routine checkups and vaccinations. Puppies and kittens require more frequent visits during their first year for shots, spaying/neutering, and checkups. Regardless of your pet’s age or the frequency of their visits, costs can add up even for healthy animals.
Here is breakdown of some common veterinary treatments and what you can expect to pay:
- Physical exam: $45-$55
- Routine checkup: $50-$220
- Vaccines, per shot: $18-$28
- Fecal exam: $25-$45
- Microchipping: $25-$60
- Heartworm test: $45-$50
- Dental cleaning : $70-$400
- Spay/Neuter: $160-$220
- Blood test, allergies: $200-$300
- X-ray: $75-$250
- Ultrasound: $300-$600
- Hospitalization: $600-$3,500
- Emergency surgery: $1,500-$5,000
Is Pet Insurance Available for an Older Dog or Cat?
Some insurance companies impose age restrictions on coverage, meaning you may not be able to buy a new insurance policy for an older pet. Here’s how the insurers in our list of top-rated pet insurance companies stack up:
Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
Knowing you will be reimbursed for veterinary care can provide peace of mind, particularly if you don’t think you’d be able to pay out of pocket for an unexpected accident or illness. But if your beloved pet lives a long life with few health issues, you may find the price of that peace of mind wasn’t worth it. Before you decide, it’s a good idea to consider your budget as well as any breed-specific issues your pet may face down the road.
For more information about pet insurance, see the following guides:
Related 360 Reviews
For more information on other types of insurance, see the following guides:
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