Pet Insurance for Dogs: Everything You Need to Know

Pet Insurance for Dogs: Everything You Need to Know

Find the Cheapest Pet Insurance Quotes in Your Area


Dog insurance can help reduce the costs of medical treatments for accidents and illnesses. However, preexisting conditions, preventative treatments and some common conditions like hip dysplasia are usually not covered under dog insurance plans. Plans cost around $45 per month on average, with older dogs and larger breeds typically carrying higher costs.

Dog Insurance Explained

Medical insurance for dogs works a bit differently than human insurance. Whereas regular health insurance companies will pay for humans' medical bills up front, pet insurance companies require dog owners to pay for costs out of pocket first and file a claim for reimbursement after. However, the payment structure is similar to human health insurance, with pet insurance companies allowing policyholders to choose their desired deductible, reimbursement level and annual maximum.

  • Monthly Premium: The amount of money you pay to your insurer each month for coverage. Depending on the level of coverage, this will likely range from as low as $25 to as high as $100.
  • Annual/Incident Deductible: The amount of money you have to pay for a treatment or per year before your insurance policy kicks in. Options range from $0 to $1000, with higher deductibles leading to higher monthly premiums.
  • Reimbursement Level: The percentage of a bill that insurance companies will pay after you pay your deductible.
  • Annual Max: The maximum amount that your insurer will pay towards eligible medical bills each year. This amount usually ranges from $5,000 to $15,000. Plans with incident and lifetime maxes are available but increasingly less common.

When choosing your deductible, reimbursement level and annual max, you should consider more than just how much you want to pay each month. If you set your coverage level solely based on making a low monthly payment, you'll likely not get very much back when an accident or illness does occur. And if you go for the highest insurance levels, you'll likely be paying $100 or more per month—especially if you have an older or larger dog, which are already costly to insure. Below are sample quotes for a four year old Labrador retriever.

DeductibleReimbursement LevelAnnual MaxMonthly Premium

A good way to decide your deductible, reimbursement level and annual max is to think about how much you can pay each month, but also how big of a hit your savings account could handle if your dog needed a $5,000 or $7,000 operation. The main purpose of dog insurance is to reduce the cost of large expenses, so it's most important to pick a plan with sufficient coverage for big costs.

DeductibleReimbursement LevelAnnual MaxReimbursement on $7,000 Treatment

How Much Is Dog Insurance?

In addition to varying by coverage level, the cost of dog insurance also varies from as low as $25 to higher than $100, according to dogs' breed and age. Without exception, all insurance companies charge higher premiums for larger breeds and older dogs. This is because large breeds tend to have more issues with their joints, ligaments and bones as a result of their weight. Older dogs also tend to be sicker as physical complications arise with age.

Dog Insurance Costs by Breed

To find out how much the most popular breeds cost to insure, we obtained quotes across twenty breeds from a leading insurer. The quotes are for a four year old dog and for a plan with a $250 deductible, 80% reimbursement level and $5,000 annual maximum. As mentioned previously, smaller dogs like the Yorkshire terrier and shih tzu are the least expensive to insure, costing $32.54 per month, while larger dogs like the rottweiler and Great Dane are the most expensive.

Popularity RankBreedCost
1Labrador Retriever$48.81
2German Shepherd$44.74
3Golden Retriever$52.88
6French Bulldog$52.88
9Yorkshire Terrier$32.54
11German Shorthaired Pointer$32.54
12Siberian Husky$40.66
14Great Dane$52.88
15Doberman Pinscher$52.88
16Australian Shepherd$42.71
17Miniature Schnauzer$46.77
18Pembroke Welsh Corgi$40.66
19Cavalier King Charles Spaniel$40.66
20Shih Tzu$32.54

Dog Insurance Costs by Age

As mentioned above, older dogs are more expensive to insure because they are more likely to get sick or injured—as with premiums for auto insurance and regular health insurance, riskier groups cost more to insure. The graph below shows monthly dog insurance premiums for a German shepherd with a plan that has a $250 deductible, 80% reimbursement level and $5,000 annual maximum.

Graph showing how older dogs are much more costly to insure

Dog Insurance Coverage

Insuring your dog will allow for coverage for some, but not all, medical issues. Some of the most common exclusions from dog insurance coverage include:

  • Dental disease
  • Preexisting or hereditary conditions
  • Behavior issues
  • Routine check-ups, preventative care
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Grooming

The preexisting conditions exclusion can often come as a surprise to pet owners, as some insurers have broad definitions of preexisting. For example, some plans count "bilateral conditions" as preexisting—meaning that if your dog tore their left ACL before you bought coverage, then you won't be reimbursed if they tear their right ACL. However, many common conditions are indeed eligible for coverage. Below are some of the most commonly treated and reimbursed ailments and illnesses, according to Pets Best's claims data.

Graph showing common dog conditions that are covered by pet insurance
RankConditionPercentage of Annual Claims
1Environmental Allergies9.7%
2Ear Infections5.0%
6Cruciate Ligament Injury2.5%
7Gastrointestinal Condition2.3%

Puppy Insurance vs. Senior Dog Insurance

Due to their increased health problems, older dogs are ineligible for coverage with some companies. Among those who do insure seniors—usually defined as over the age of 7—monthly premiums can be more than double those for younger dogs. Additionally, the most common exclusions from plans tend to be the ones that affect senior dogs, like hip dysplasia and dental disease. If you're looking to get insurance for an older pet, it's best to find an insurer that has a plan made specifically for seniors, with minimal exclusions and reasonable premiums.

Pet insurers will generally begin covering puppies when they reach 8 months old. For younger dogs, you'll have to pay for any accident and illness treatments out of pocket. Once they reach the eligible age for insurance, you can secure a plan at a low monthly cost—though your premiums are likely to rise as your puppy ages. The good news is that some insurers, like Healthy Paws, will cover ailments like hip dysplasia if you enroll your dog when they're still young.

Pet Insurance for Dogs: Is It Worth It?

If your dog is relatively young and healthy with no preexisting conditions, then it's a good idea to get dog insurance. For younger dogs, monthly premiums are much lower and there's a lower risk that an injury or illness will be considered preexisting. In these cases, having a policy will likely be worth it financially if your dog ever needs an expensive procedure.

For older dogs or for those with a history of illness and injury, it's likely that the monthly premium will be upwards of $60 or $70 per month. On top of that, it's possible that previous illnesses and injuries will disqualify a new treatment from eligibility. However, if your dog does need an expensive, life-saving treatment that's eligible for reimbursement, then insurance will have been worth it.

Ultimately, the decision about whether or not to purchase dog insurance is an emotional as well as financial one. You should consider that without insurance and with little savings, you may have to put your dog down for financial reasons. If you don't have enough in the bank to pay for a major treatment—and you can't fathom the thought of finances deciding your dog's fate—then you should get an insurance plan. Just keep in mind that you'll have to pay for medical costs upfront and will get reimbursed by the insurer later.

Yowana is a former product analyst at ValuePenguin, specializing in credit cards, rewards programs and travel. He previously covered mortgages, banking and insurance for the website. Yowana graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in Political Science.

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