You have insurance for your health, car, and house, but what about your pets? Do they have pet insurance coverage? If you don’t currently have pet insurance, you’re not alone. While more than 70% of U.S. households have pets, just 26% of those American pet parents have purchased insurance for their pets, according to a 2021 study from Liberty Mutual.
Pet insurance protects owners from paying skyrocketing medical bills when their pet gets injured or falls ill. While convenient for your peace of mind, pet-care policies can also cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year. You can probably do without insurance if you’re financially secure enough to pay a large sum out of pocket for emergency pet care. But if you wouldn’t be able to pay thousands for unexpected treatment, you should consider purchasing an insurance policy.
Pet insurance providers pay out millions in claims, yet the cost of premiums has dipped in recent years. This article will walk you through the pet’s responsibilities and costs, which do not go heavy on your pocket if you have pet insurance. However, the most critical information for you is the cost of pet insurance, so you can decide the type of pet insurance you will purchase. So, keep reading!
What is pet health insurance?
Pet insurance is a health policy that protects pet owners from unforeseen medical expenses that could incur anytime. Like other insurance plans, pet insurance also has premiums. If your pet is sick or injured, you present the bill upfront and submit a reimbursement claim to the insurance agency for reimbursement. Depending on the policy, you may also need to pay a deductible and a percentage of the bill, and policies typically exclude certain illnesses and preexisting conditions.
While the monthly premiums can add up to a few hundred dollars per year, the benefit of pet insurance is that cost will be less of a factor when deciding whether to go through with an effective procedure. Illness and injury treatments can cost pet owners hundreds or thousands of dollars. However, like any other insurance policy, pet insurance plans also have limitations that pertain to specific scenarios.
There are two primary factors when deciding on pet insurance: how much does pet insurance cost? And how much tolerance do you have to take the financial risk for your pet? These two factors help you decide which pet insurance plan you are willing to purchase.
Pros & cons of buying pet insurance
Pet insurance acts similarly to human health insurance. You pay monthly for coverage, and when your pet needs to go to the vet, your insurance covers some, if not all, of the cost of the visit. However, you would like to consider some pros and cons of pet insurance when purchasing the pet insurance plan.
Following are the pros of having pet insurance.
- It’s easy to compare options: Unlike human health insurance, which can be a labyrinth of plans and riders, you need a pro to help decode. Policies are simple, tiers are easy to compare, and you can get a no-commitment quote from different companies within minutes, making price shopping a breeze.
- Premiums can be low for young pets: If your pet is young or healthy, or you choose a lower tier, you can get coverage for less than the cost of your Netflix and Hulu subscriptions. Such a low monthly premium is not a huge price to pay for the security of knowing your pet can get the help they need.
- Deductibles are manageable: Compared to the cost of one late-night animal ER visit, most plans’ deductibles are affordable. If your pet is seriously injured or ill, you could wind up paying at least the deductible cost anyway, but with insurance, you can get your pet the extra care and peace of mind toward vet bills that you may not have been able to afford on your own.
- You can choose your vet: There are no “out-of-network” provider headaches for pet insurance. As long as your vet is licensed, eligible expenses should be covered, and there’s no need to worry if your vet “accepts” your plan. Since you pay for the cost out of pocket and then submit a claim to the company for reimbursement, all you need from your vet is a copy of their invoice and for them to fill out a section of the claim form or to send along your pet’s records.
Following are the cons of pet insurance that you should also consider.
- Premiums can be higher for older pets: If your pet is older or has a pre-existing condition, or chooses a high tier, you could be looking at monthly premiums of $50 or more. You would want to carefully weigh the factor of whether the annual cost makes sense for you. The more customized coverage you require, the higher you expect to pay.
- You have to pay upfront: Having pet insurance will not save you from shelling out big bucks if your pet needs a costly procedure. Whether you have coverage or not, it’s wise to have a separate savings fund for vet emergencies to ensure you can handle upfront charges until your claims are processed.
- The coverage has limitations: Many plans also limit the amount you can claim, either annually or over your pet’s lifetime. If your pet is unfortunate enough to suffer a significant medical problem, you could quickly max out your plan’s limit and find yourself paying the difference.
- You could even spend more: If your pet only needs routine vet care, you won’t save much. And pet owners with insurance spend an average of $324 out of pocket on a dog and $264 out of pocket on a cat, according to the zoology and veterinary sciences journal, Animals, compared to $251 for an uninsured dog and $146 for an uninsured cat. Hence, pet parents with insurance spend more on veterinary care than those without.
This is largely because, unsurprisingly, owners with pet insurance take their animals to the vet more often than those who don’t have insurance. This is a good thing, as animals age more quickly than humans and deserve the kind of care vets can provide. It’s just something to be aware of if you’re already struggling to pay your vet bills.
How does pet insurance work?
Pet insurance helps reduce the financial risk of unexpected veterinary costs. The right coverage plan can buy you priceless peace of mind and empower you to do the right thing for your dog or cat. Companies typically require a health checkup and impose a waiting period before coverage kicks in to prevent owners from getting insurance when their pet is already sick. For accident coverage, the waiting period is usually a few days.
When you need to use the insurance, you must pay the vet bill out of pocket first and then file a claim. Insurers will evaluate your claim and, if approved, either deposit the funds in your account or send a check in the mail. This process usually takes two to three business days, though it can take longer than a week for more complicated claims or if you receive reimbursement funds in the mail. Your reimbursement depends on how your plan is structured. Here are the main parts:
Deductible: This sum you must pay before coverage kicks in either per year or incident and usually ranges from $0 to $1,000.
Reimbursement level: After paying the deductible, the insurer will pay a percentage of the bill, usually 50% to 100%.
Annual max: Your insurer will stipulate the maximum amount it will pay in medical bills each year. You’ll need to cover any charges above the max.
Like with human health insurance, pet insurance providers alleviate some of the costs of keeping your pet healthy. You can choose from different levels of coverage, with each plan costing a monthly or annual premium based on how much coverage you select. Some plans cover basic scenarios like accidents and injuries, some only cover accidents, including injury, accident, illness, and genetic/hereditary conditions. Let’s give you an overview of what pet insurance does or does not cover.
What’s covered by pet insurance?
Pet insurance is a kind of health insurance policy that pays a portion of a pet’s medical bills. You can purchase a comprehensive policy that covers a wide range of health-related problems. Some plans even cover costs such as microchipping or end-of-life expenses for a pet. Pet insurance usually covers the following:
- Accidents and injuries, such as poisonings, sprains, and ACL rupture
- Chronic illnesses such as allergies, arthritis, and skin conditions
- Common illnesses such as ear infections, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes
- Hereditary conditions such as hip dysplasia, eye disorders and blood disorders
- Testing and diagnostics such as X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, blood tests and ultrasounds
- Procedures such as surgeries, hospitalizations, nursing care, endoscopies and chemotherapy
- Holistic and alternative procedures such as acupuncture, chiropractic and laser therapy
- Wellness procedures such as vaccinations, flea/heartworm and spay/neuter
- Behavioral therapy for problems such destructive chewing, excessive barking, and aggression
Comprehensive pet insurance policies will be the most expensive plans. If you do not need a policy that covers a wide range of problems, you can buy a policy with fewer benefits. For example, you can buy a pet insurance plan that covers only accidents. Some pet insurance plans include pet dental insurance, which covers problems like dental illnesses such as gum disease and dental accidents such as broken teeth.
What’s not covered?
When shopping for pet insurance, you must know what pet insurance covers and what does not. Standard pet insurance will cover most accidents and illnesses, but there are usually some exclusions, such as
- Dental disease
- Preexisting or hereditary conditions
- Behavior issues
- Routine checkups
- Preventive care
- Hip dysplasia
No insurance company covers the pre-existing condition of your pet. However, few pet insurers, such as Embrace, will cover your pet’s preexisting conditions, which are curable. If your pet shows no signs or symptoms of the disease for 12 months after the onset, Embrace will expire it as a preexisting condition and cover it for the pet’s life.
How much is a pet insurance policy?
The cost of pet insurance is affected by various factors, from the type of pet and breed you want to insure to your location and the deductible you choose. The price you pay for pet insurance could add significant savings on veterinary care throughout the year. Each company has different coverage options, exclusions, and limitations, with varying premium costs. We have gathered information on pet insurance plans’ costs, which could be useful when you decide. Let’s proceed.
The cost of pet insurance plans
The more coverage you want, the more you have to pay for a pet insurance plan. The average monthly cost for a low level of coverage with a $5,000 annual limit is $27.59 for dogs and $14.96 for cats. Cats are usually kept indoors and visit the vet less than dogs, so they are less risky to insure.
On the other hand, dogs are more energetic and adventurous, so they are more prone to injuries and illnesses. The table below shows the average cost of pet insurance plans for dogs and cats with the most popular pet insurance companies.
The monthly cost of pet insurance by plan
|Pet insurance plan||Overall average cost per month (dog)||Overall average cost per month (cat)|
|24 Pet Watch||$45.49||$22.51|
Factors in pet insurance costs
Insurance is a product based on risk. The more risk your pet poses to a carrier, the more you can generally expect to pay for your pet insurance plan. The cost of pet insurance depends on your pet, the coverage you buy, and where you live. Insurers will also look at
- Species: Dogs cost more to insure than cats, and male animals generally come with larger premiums.
- Breed: Larger pets generally cost more to insure because they tend to have shorter life spans and develop more health issues.
- Age: Younger pets are cheaper to insure, as they usually have minimal health issues in their early years.
- Location: Premiums vary according to state and ZIP code, with more densely populated areas carrying higher insurance costs.
- Type of plan: Premiums are affected by the type of policy you choose, such as accident-only versus accident and illness coverage.
- Deductible: Higher deductibles usually result in lower premiums, and vice versa.
- Benefit limits: Policies with higher benefit limits (or no limits) often come at a higher price.
How to save on pet insurance costs?
Some factors that influence pet insurance costs are not under your control. These include your pet’s breed and age and where you live. However, there are some factors that you can control if you are looking to save on pet insurance costs. By choosing a higher deductible, smaller reimbursement percentage, or reduced benefit limit, you can decrease the price of your new plan. You can also choose more affordable plans (accident-only versus accident and illness, for example), as well as look into certain discounts that your carrier may offer.
If you are ready to see which options are available to you and start shopping around, we suggest checking out our picks for the best pet insurance companies. You will find a rundown of the top carriers and what sort of coverage options they each offer to pet parents like yourself.
Pet insurance comparison chart
To help you in making a decision on pet insurance plans easier, we created a comparison chart that includes pet insurance plans, waiting periods, coverages, and some other important factors. You will find all tables below, with providers sorted in order of ranking and popularity.
The table below shows each company’s deductible, reimbursement, and payout options. Please know that not all deductibles, reimbursement levels, and payout limits are available for every dog in every state.
|Company||Deductible||Reimbursement||Payout options||Limit term|
|Pets Best||$50, $100, $200, $250, $500, $1,000||70%, 80%, 90%||$5,000, Unlimited||Annual|
|FIGO||$100, $250, $500, $750||70%, 80%, 90%, 100%||$5,000, $10,000, Unlimited||Annual|
|Healthy Paws||$100, $250, $500, $750, $1,000||50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%||Unlimited||Annual|
|Embrace||$200, $300, $500, $750, $1,000||70%, 80%, 90%||$5,000, $8,000, $10,000, $15,000, $30,000, Unlimited||Annual|
|Lemonade||$100, $250, $500||70%, 80%, 90%||$5,000, $10,000, $20,000, $50,000, $100,000||Annual|
|Fetch||$250, $300, $500||70%, 80%, 90%||$5,000, $15,000, Unlimited||Annual|
|ASPCA||$100, $250, $500||70%, 80%, 90%||$3,000, $4,000, $5,000, $7,000, $10,000||Annual
Coverage details (by comparison)
If you want to know if pet insurance will cover what you need and which are better suited for your needs, the below-mentioned table will help you decide which company will best protect your pet and finances during tough times. However, it is essential for you to know that these pet insurance providers will cover only the following if seemed necessary: emergency care, surgery, hospitalization, specialized exams, and specialty care, X-rays, blood tests, ultrasounds, cat scans, MRIs, rehabilitation, cancer, chronic conditions, euthanasia, hereditary conditions, congenital conditions, non-routine dental treatment, and prescription medications.
These coverages may have a few limitations as well. Let’s find out and help you decide on the one that meets your requirements.
|Company||Behavioral Therapies||Alternative/ Holistic Therapies||Exam Fees||Wellness Care||Avg Claim Processing|
|Pets Best||Yes||No||Extra fee||Yes||25-40 days|
|FIGO||Yes||Yes||Extra fee||Yes||3 days|
|Healthy Paws||No||No||No||No||2 days|
|Lemonade||No||No||Extra fee||Yes||2 days|
Top 5 providers compared
In this table, you will find the information on the top 5 pet insurance providers of 2022. You can visit the providers’ websites to check them out and read our experts’ reviews as well.
|Pet insurance ranking||Best overall||Best value||Fastest claim processing||Best multiple pets discount||Best newcomer|
|Company||Pets Best||Figo||Healthy Paws||Embrace||Lemonade|
|Policy coverage||Comprehensive||Comprehensive||More Limited||Comprehensive||More Limited|
|Customer Service & Reputation||Good||Excellent, Stable||Excellent, Stable||Excellent, Stable||Uncertain, New|
|Claim processing (avg)||25 – 40 days||3 days||2 days||5 days||2 days|
|Policy price (avg)||Lower||Lower||Variable||Higher||Lower|
|Plan customizations||May options available||Many options available||Restricted options||Many options available||Many options available|
Pet insurance is good for covering the medical costs associated with accidents, illnesses, and emergencies. Plan coverages vary by company, so make sure you understand what is and isn’t covered before deciding on a pet insurance provider. Pet insurance can offer peace of mind, financial protection, various levels of coverage to meet most budgets, and the option to choose your vet. However, pre-existing conditions aren’t covered, plans aren’t regulated and it can be expensive for certain breeds.
However, you have to decide if pet insurance is worth it for your unique situation. To do that, consider the monthly or annual cost of pet insurance, as well as how much your vet would charge for pet care. If your out-of-pocket cost would be less with pet insurance, it may be worth it. Keep in mind that you’re buying a policy your pet will have for life. With other types of insurance, shopping around each year for a new policy can save you money. But the older your pet gets, the more pre-existing conditions they’ll likely have, and none of them will be covered if you buy a new pet insurance plan. So do your best to pick a company and a level of coverage that you’ll be happy with long-term.