Pet insurance is meant to protect owners from paying exorbitant medical bills when their pet gets injured or falls sick. While convenient for your peace of mind, pet care policies can also cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year. If you're financially secure enough to pay a large sum out of pocket for emergency pet care, you can probably do without insurance. But if you wouldn't be able to pay thousands for an unexpected treatment, you should consider taking out an insurance policy.
- Should You Get Pet Insurance?
- What are the Costs of Pet Insurance?
- What Pet Insurance Plans are Available?
Is Pet Insurance Worth the Cost?
When choosing whether or not to get a pet insurance plan, there are three questions to consider: how much you'd be willing to pay if your pet has a serious emergency, how much you could actually pay, and how much tolerance you have for risk. While the cost of remedying something like an ear infection or upset stomach likely won't cost you more than a few hundred dollars, more serious health problems can cost multiple thousands. If you don't have insurance, you might be forced to put your dog down for economic reasons.
If you wouldn't be able to afford a major operation—and you don't want financial constraints to decide your pet's fate—then you should get insurance. For a plan with decent coverage, the average cost of pet insurance is around $45 per month for dogs and $25 for cats. In most cases, the annual costs of such plans will be significantly less than a large operation. Consider that the surgery for removing a shoe or chew toy from a dog's stomach can be as much as $7,000, while insurance will be between $300 and $600 per year. Assuming a $500 deductible and 80% reimbursement level, the table below illustrates the costs versus benefits of pet insurance.
|Condition||Most common in...||Treatment||Annual Insurance Cost||Yearly Savings|
|Acute kidney failure||Cats||$15,000||$300||$11,600|
While some of the treatment costs listed above are for the most severe cases, you can see how much a pet insurance plan will save you if the unexpected happens. Though you can end up paying an insurance premium for years and never receive the benefit, it's better to think of insurance as an annual cost. If nothing happens to your pet during one policy year, then you've protected your pet and your wallet for the next year.
It's important to emphasize that insurance is only helpful and worthwhile for large, unexpected expenses. Most insurers do not cover preexisting conditions or routine check ups. For those treatments and for wellness exams, you'll pay out of pocket either way. As such, the decision to purchase pet insurance comes down to risk: how financially and emotionally comfortable are you with the risk that the bill for saving your pet's life is out of your price range?
Pet Insurance Costs
The cost of pet insurance varies depending on where you live, your pet's age and breed, and the level of coverage you want. In most cases, you'll end up paying between $25 and $70 to insure your dog, and between $10 and $40 to insure your cat. These costs can be lower or higher depending on how much coverage you want. For example, you can pay more each month in exchange for a larger payout when your dog or cat gets an eligible treatment.
If you're considering purchasing a policy, you should get an actual quote from an insurers' website. You can also compare pet insurance plans to find the policy that best matches your budget and desired level of coverage. The table below shows quotes for two sample pet profiles: a 4 year old male Labrador, and a 4 year old female Bengal cat. For older pets, the costs of pet insurance will likely be much higher and may not be worth the expense.
|Rank||Insurer||Monthly Dog Premium||Monthly Cat Premium|
Pet Insurance Plans
If you do choose to purchase pet insurance, you should get a policy that covers both accidents and illnesses. Because pet health insurance doesn't cover normal check ups or preventative care, accident and illness protection is the only real benefit of buying coverage. While the covered diseases can sometimes be limited, the good news is that most pet insurance plans are highly customize and allow policyholders to choose their deductible, reimbursement level and annual or incident maximum.
Your deductible is the amount of money you have to pay for treatment before insurance kicks in. This ranges from $0 to $1,000 for most plans, with higher costs for a lower deductible. Reimbursement options are usually available from 50% to 100%, meaning that you can choose to be partially or fully reimbursed. And the range for annual and incident maximums varies from as low as $1,000 to higher than $15,000--though you'll be paying substantially more for a higher max.
Finally, it's important to note that pet insurance works differently than normal health insurance. Whereas companies who cover humans pay for medical fees upfront, pet insurance companies require owners to pay for medical bills and then apply for reimbursement. Some owners express frustration at the reimbursement process and are surprised to learn that certain conditions aren't covered. If you're unsure about what's covered, make sure to read over your specific contract and ask the company questions about your plan.