Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Find the Cheapest Pet Insurance Quotes in Your Area

Pet insurance is meant to protect owners from paying expensive medical bills when a pet gets injured or falls ill. While pet-care policies may provide peace of mind, they 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.

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?

When deciding whether to get pet insurance, there are two main factors to consider:

  • How much you can pay if your pet has a serious emergency
  • How much tolerance you have for risk

While the cost to treat ear infections or an upset stomach likely won't break the bank, serious pet health problems can cost several thousand dollars. You could be faced with a hard decision if you don't have insurance and can't afford emergency costs.

For a plan with comprehensive coverage, the average cost of pet insurance in the US is around $49 per month for dogs and $29 for cats. This can help offset the costs of major operations and other expensive care.

For example, the surgery for removing a foreign object from a dog's stomach can cost as much as $5,000. Assuming a $500 deductible and 80% reimbursement level after deductible, you could spend just $1,400 on the surgery ($900 for the 20% copay plus the $500 deductible).

In the table below, we show more examples of the costs versus the benefits of pet insurance using these same assumptions.

Most common in ...
Treatment cost
Annual insurance cost
Yearly savings
Bladder issuesDogs$625$600$0
Fractured pelvisDogs$3,000$600$1,400
Swallowed toyDogs$7,000$600$4,600
Acute kidney failureCats$15,000$300$11,600

Find the Cheapest Pet Insurance Quotes in Your Area

Some pet owners end up paying an insurance premium for years and never receive the benefit, but 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.

But keep in mind, insurance is only worthwhile for large, unexpected expenses. Most insurers do not cover preexisting conditions or routine checkups. For inexpensive treatments and annual wellness exams, you'll pay out of pocket — unless you get a wellness rider.

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?

What are the costs of pet insurance?

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 a month to insure your dog and between $10 and $40 a month to insure your cat.

These costs can be lower or higher, depending on how much coverage you want. For example, you can increase your premium in exchange for a higher maximum and a larger payout when your dog or cat gets an eligible treatment.

If you're looking to purchase a policy, get a quote from an insurer's 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 retriever 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.

Monthly dog premium
Monthly cat premium
9Healthy Paws$41$16

Pet insurance plans

Because basic pet health insurance doesn't cover preventive care, the only real benefit of buying coverage is for accident and illness protection, so make sure your policy covers both. Most policies are customizable and allow policyholders to choose their deductible, reimbursement level and annual or incident maximum.

  • Your deductible — ranging from $0 to $1,000 for most plans — is what you must pay for treatment before insurance kicks in.
  • Reimbursement options are usually available from 50% to 100%, meaning you can choose to be partially or fully reimbursed.
  • The annual and incident maximums vary from as low as $1,000 to unlimited, though you'll pay substantially more for a higher max.

Finally, it's important to note that pet insurance is different from human health insurance. Whereas companies that cover humans pay for medical fees up front, pet insurance companies require owners to pay for medical bills and then apply for reimbursement. This can lead to some owners being surprised to learn that certain conditions aren't covered when a reimbursement request is denied. If you're unsure about what's covered, read your contract and ask the company questions about your plan.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author's opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.