Millions of Americans have pets, with dogs and cats the most popular companion animals. According to a 2021-2022 National Pet Owners survey by the American Pet Products Association, roughly 70% of the households in the U.S. own a pet—around 90.5 million homes. In 2021, $123.6 billion was spent on pets in the U.S., with $34.3 billion attributed to veterinary care and product sales, such as medications.
Many Americans consider pets to be part of the family, and with that comes the responsibility of caring for them—providing them with the food, shelter, and medical care they need to live healthy lives.
Medical care includes routine checkups, preventative treatments such as heartworm, flea, and tick medications, and potentially life-saving emergency care. Advances in veterinary care mean that companion animals live longer, healthier lives. However, these advances come with a price tag—which is where pet insurance can be a real help.
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What Are The Benefits of Pet Insurance?
The most significant benefit of pet insurance—like most other forms of insurance—is that it can help to ease the financial strain that can arise when medical care is needed. There are many options to choose from when it comes to coverage, and the benefits of the pet insurance type should reflect your values and your needs.
Pet care can be expensive. Even routine veterinary visits can result in bills amounting to hundreds of dollars, especially as your pet gets older. Your household financial situation should be part of the discussion when it comes to deciding if pet insurance is right for you.
What would you do if your puppy needed emergency surgery? Could you manage the costs out of pocket? Would you put it on a credit card—and if so, how quickly could you pay off the balance? As your cat gets older, she might need daily medications; are these costs you can afford?
When faced with an eight-week-old puppy who is ready for a new home, you might not be thinking about chronic diseases that can arise or the cancer rates seen in certain breeds. But, it’s important to think about all of the expenses that come with having a pet—and how that pet fits into your family (and your family’s budget).
This can help you to make the right decisions when it comes to selecting a pet insurance plan that will work best for your pet and your budget.
What Are The Options For Pet Insurance?
Generally speaking, there are three main types of pet coverage: accident only, accident and illness, and wellness coverage. Pet insurance plans will typically offer varying levels of coverage that will include one or more of these types of coverage.
This coverage is just what it sounds like. It’s coverage that will reimburse some or all of the cost (less the deductible) of treatment if your pet needs medical care in response to an accident. Emergency care can be pretty expensive. This might be the proper coverage for families struggling to find the finances to pay for emergency surgery to remove an intestinal blockage caused by a dog eating something he shouldn’t have.
Accident and Illness
This coverage adds reimbursement for illnesses that can arise but read your policy carefully, especially if your pet is a purebred or pedigreed dog or cat. Some pet insurance companies will exclude coverage for certain hereditary illnesses that tend to surface more frequently in certain breeds.
One example is canine hip dysplasia, which occurs more often in Great Danes, Labs, and Golden Retrievers than in other breeds. For cats, certain breeds that have been cultivated to exhibit selected characteristics are now more prone to breathing problems or kidney issues, which could be excluded from coverage. If you have a purebred or pedigreed dog or cat, get a variety of quotes for pet insurance, and make sure that you ask about and understand what might be excluded from illness coverage.
Common medications and preventative treatments can cost a lot of money. Rabies, kennel cough, and other annual and biannual vaccinations, flea, tick, and heartworm preventative, routine bloodwork—these things add up. This type of coverage can help with the more routine bills that come with owning a pet.
An annual visit to the vet can cost hundreds of dollars, even when your pet is perfectly healthy. Once your pet is considered a “senior,” your vet might recommend twice-a-year checkups to catch age-related issues, like arthritis or thyroid diseases, early. Wellness coverage can help manage these bills.
Policies can vary. Some pet insurance providers divide the above coverages into two policy types: accident-only and comprehensive, with the comprehensive plan including illness and wellness coverage. If you are interested in getting quotes for pet insurance, make sure that you are making comparisons between similar types and levels of coverage.
Consider factors like the annual or monthly premium costs, the deductibles you’ll need to meet, and the number of co-pays as some of the variables. As mentioned above, ask lots of questions about exclusions, particularly those that are breed-specific. Pre-existing conditions are almost always excluded from coverage, so you’ll pay the best rates if you get coverage for your pet when they are young.
What Types of Pets Can I Get Coverage For?
You can find policies for just about any type of pet, from dogs and cats to birds and reptiles, or even exotic pets like potbellied pigs.
Not all pet insurance providers cover all types of pets, so you may need to find a specialty provider for more exotic animals—or larger ones such as horses.
Show dogs and cats, championship horses, and other animals that compete and are considered highly valuable may also need additional insurance called life and theft coverage. This is not insurance for pet health. It is coverage that is designed to protect the financial investment owners have made in these animals, who face specific additional risks when the animals are transported for shows and competitions—and against theft.
How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?
The real answer is that it can vary dramatically, depending on the type of coverage you select, what type of pet you have, how old the pet is, and whether or not it’s a pedigreed animal or a Heinz-57 mixed mutt.
Marketwatch’s analysis shows a range from a low of $10 to $100 monthly for premiums— a very wide range! On average, you can anticipate paying a monthly premium in the range of $15-$30 for a cat and between $30-$50 a month for a dog for an accident and illness policy.
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The Bottom Line
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