Going to the vet can be expensive. Any pet owner will tell you that. The worst part is that you never know what’s wrong until your furry friend goes through tests and screenings.

Taking care of your pet’s medical needs is an important part of having a pet! But having pet insurance may help cover some of the costs of your pet’s medical needs.

Like your own human health insurance, pet insurance helps cover some of the costs of going to the vet. With premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket maximums, your pet’s insurance actually works similarly to your own insurance.

There are plenty of reasons why you might not already have pet insurance. Maybe you’ve brought a new friend home and haven’t gotten to it yet. Or maybe you’ve never done the research for whether pet insurance is right for you!

Below, we hope to demystify pet insurance and give you clear answers if pet insurance is right for your pet!

What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

For starters, let’s talk about what pet insurance covers. Your pet will hopefully lead a long and exciting life. But you can’t always predict what’s around the corner for them! 

It’s important to note that pet health insurance varies by provider and plan type. There is no one-size-fits-all plan. So only use this as a rough guide while shopping around.

Accidents and unexpected illnesses are typically covered by pet insurance. If they get sick eating some plants they’re not supposed to, you can get help covering the cost of treatment!

More importantly, pet insurance usually covers congenital and hereditary conditions. Most animal breeds have common conditions associated with them. Insurance is designed to mitigate the cost of care for these predictable ailments. For example, bulldogs are prone to respiratory problems because of their natural face shape.

Finally, pet insurance also covers serious conditions like cancer or other diseases. These aren’t fun to think about, but having the right insurance product can help you get into a care plan with confidence and ease.

Man with a surfoard by the ocean next to his black dog.

Average Cost of Pet Insurance

Pet insurance has continued to go up in price over the last few years. This is probably similar to your own healthcare costs!

Average Cost of Insuring a Dog

Dogs are by far the most popular pet choice in America. But not every dog is insured the same way. Breed, size, age, and health concerns all play a role in how much it costs to insure a dog.

The average monthly premium for dogs is between $20 and $70. The average for most insurers is somewhere around $50 per month.

As we said, the cost changes depending on the health or breed of your dog. As dogs get older, insurance tends to cost more. Your annual deductible may go up as may your monthly premium. This is because your dog will likely need more vet care!

These averages are built around an assumption of a $500 deductible, 20% out-of-pocket payments, and an annual out-of-pocket maximum of $5,000. These are pretty standard terms that you’ll likely come across when you first start shopping.

Average Cost of Insuring a Cat

Using the same basis as the dog, a $500 deductible, $5,000 annual maximum, and 80% reimbursement, let’s take a look at cat insurance.

Cat insurance is generally cheaper than for a dog.

On average, cat insurance is about $20 per month. For cheaper insurance options, you can get insurance for about $15 per month. These usually carry higher deductibles.

On the higher end, you can expect to pay around $40 per month. This would be for cat breeds more susceptible to health issues.

Young woman holding a kitten against her chest.

What Kind of Pet Insurance Should I Get?

All this talk of deductibles and monthly payments may make it hard to decide which type of insurance is right for you. You’re a pet parent, not an insurance broker, right? Here’s what you need to consider.

For starters, figure out how old your pet is and how long they expect to live on average. This differs by breed, so do your research.

The younger your pet, the less likely they are to develop major health problems. For example, golden retrievers are prone to hip issues in their mid to late life. If your dog is around this age, getting pet insurance may make more sense than paying out of pocket.

For brand new pets, a pet insurance plan may not be necessary. Setting aside some money out of pocket into a pet HSA could do the same thing as getting insurance.

What is a Deductible?

Your deductible is how much money you need to pay before insurance kicks in. Higher deductible plans are generally cheaper month-to-month. But they require you to pay more out of pocket if something goes wrong.

High deductible plans usually make the most sense for newer pets. This is because you can lower your monthly payments. Your pet likely won’t need much medical attention.

What is a Monthly Premium?

Your monthly premium is how much you pay each month to have insurance. These payments don’t do anything for how much your vet bills are—premiums don’t contribute to your deductible.

What is a Reimbursement Amount?

Even if you meet your deductible, some pet insurance may not cover 100% of your veterinary bill. The amount insurance will cover is called a reimbursement amount. 

In the examples above, we’ve outlined pet insurance policies with an 80% reimbursement. This means that after you meet your deductible and rack up $1,000 at the vet, your insurance will pay $800. You’ll owe the remaining $200 out of pocket.

It’s likely that you’ll have to cover the full $1,000 at the time of checkout at the vet. You’ll then file a claim with your insurance provider to get reimbursed.

How to Lower Your Pet Insurance Costs

Staying Up to Date

The easiest thing you can do to keep your pet insurance premiums low is to keep up with your vet visits.

Like putting off your doctor’s visit, health issues can stack up if you’re not careful. Keeping up to date with shots, checkups, and routine care can keep your insurance costs low over the long term. A healthy pet is a happy pet, right?

Choosing a Different Breed

If you haven’t gotten your pet friend yet, you can be smart about your choices. Before you bring a pet home, learn which breeds are more prone to health problems.

For dogs, these issues could mean your pup is more prone to cancers or breathing problems later in life.

Your insurance premiums are directly tied to the expected cost of a pet.

Shop Around

Pet insurance isn’t stagnant! Don’t be afraid to continually shop around for different pet insurance companies.

As your pets age or get health problems, your current insurance provider may try to raise premiums or your deductible. Use this as an opportunity to see if you can get cheaper insurance with other providers.

Veterinarian holding an iguana for an exam.

What Pet Insurance Doesn’t Cover

Having pet insurance is beneficial for serious illnesses. But your pet health insurance may not cover everything you expect it to. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Pre-Existing Conditions for Pets

Pre-existing conditions for pets include things your pet has before they’re insured. Insurers won’t cover pre-existing conditions under most plans.

This means that if your pet gets sick, you can’t get insurance to just cover the cost and then ditch it later. It’s important you have insurance before your dog gets sick.

Routine Vet Visits

Your pet usually goes to the vet at least once per year. You may also need shots or boosters to medications while you’re there.

Often, these costs aren’t covered by insurance providers by default. You may be able to get an additional bit of coverage that covers these expenses. But it will be up to you to determine if your monthly premium increase is worth the offset of not having to pay as much when you get to the vet.

Exams

Lastly, routine exams or scans may not be included. Insurers don’t want you taking your pet to the office every time they feel a little sick. So by not including tests and exams in insurance, they’re able to dissuade you from going too often.

Whether or not pet insurance is right for you and your family is up to you. Like your own health insurance, anticipating your pet’s needs and genetics play a role. 

Getting insurance may make sense if you have an at-risk breed of pet. Or if your pet is getting older and you’re anticipating them needing more visits to the vet soon. Remember to shop around for combinations of deductibles and premiums to find one that fits your needs. 

As we’ve mentioned before, owning a pet may be more expensive than you think!