Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Written by Angie Menjivar
Updated: October 7, 2022
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When you’re recording your pet sleeping soundly, adding to the video collection of … your pet sleeping soundly … (we know!), you’re not wondering “is pet insurance worth it?” The immense love you have for your fur babes can’t be quantified. You don’t want to consider events that may affect your pet’s health—whether they be accidents or illnesses.

As much as you’d like to close your eyes and wish them away, health conditions and accidents happen. Especially as your pet gets older. You can invest in all the best pet food, set up a pet camera to keep an eye on them when you’re away from home, and give them all the snuggles and kisses they deserve—but all this love doesn’t cover vet bills.

Pet insurance is a practical expense that can give you peace of mind while giving your pet the medical care needed following accidents and medical diagnoses. Below, we explore some of the average costs for treatments, what you can expect to pay when you purchase pet insurance, and whether it’s worth it. Insurance isn’t always easy to understand, so we break down what to look for too!

Average Costs for Treatment

When considering whether pet insurance is worth it, you should first understand what out-of-pocket costs are for some common treatments. This gives you an idea of whether you’d be willing to take the financial hit should any accidents occur (or conditions develop), or if you are better off making a monthly investment for coverage.

Consider an accident that results in a broken bone for your pet. On average, that vet bill would be about $2,700 for a dog and $2,300 for a cat. Dental disease, which you can work to prevent with dental treats and regular brushing, can cost about $600 for dogs and $800 for cats. For more serious conditions like cancer, you can expect vet bills to be around $4,000 for both dogs and cats.

Some treatment costs vary wildly between canines and felines. For instance, a urinary tract infection may cost, on average, about $400 for a dog but may cost over $1,000 for a cat. Over the years, veterinary costs have been slowly increasing, which is also an important consideration as your pet ages.

The breed of your pet can also help you forecast average costs for treatment. Some health conditions are hereditary. If you know your dog is prone to developing specific conditions, you can consider the cost of care as your dog ages. Pet insurance companies don’t usually cover pre-existing health conditions. So, if you are able to get your pet insured before the development of a hereditary condition, you can plan ahead and receive reimbursement or get costs paid directly to your vet.

Golden retriever with injured and taped paw on exam table

On average, it costs $2,700 to mend a dog’s broken bone.


Average Costs for Insurance

Average costs for insurance vary depending on the pet insurance company and your pet’s details. On average, the yearly cost for dogs is just under $700 for dogs and a little over $300 for cats. These costs are an example considering a maximum of $5,000 annual coverage with a deductible between $200 and $300, and a 90% reimbursement.

Each pet policy differs so while this serves as an example, it’s not applicable to all pets or all scenarios. Ultimately, what your policy ends up costing depends on several different factors relating to your pet, including:

Your Pet’s Breed

Since some pets are more susceptible to the development of hereditary diseases, your premiums may be higher. Insurance companies must account for potential payouts and reimbursements to ensure they are covering themselves when it comes to premiums.

Six different purebred dogs on a white background

Specific breeds with a genetic predisposition to certain illnesses may cost more to insure.


Your Pet’s Gender

Often, female pets are considered a lower risk as compared to male pets. Because of this, premiums may be lower for female pets.

Your Pet’s Age

Of course, as your pet ages, health conditions may worsen. Whether it be accidents or the development of illnesses, pet insurance must account for the potential cost of treatment when preparing a quote for you.

Your Location

Where you live and obtain veterinary care for your pet is also a factor. Depending on where you’re located, vet costs may be higher or lower.

What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Pet insurance coverage vary across different companies. Coverage also varies depending on your pet’s details and if there are any pre-existing conditions. Typically, wellness costs aren’t covered by pet insurance unless you specifically request they be added to your pet’s coverage.

If you do choose to tack on wellness care (also known as routine care), then your policy would cover regular vet checkups along with standard expenses like vaccinations, micro-chipping, and flea/tick prevention.

Most pet owners opt for illness and accident coverage, as these are the two unforeseeable events that may occur over the life of your favorite companion. Usually, though not always, these types of pet insurance plans cover dental illnesses, emergency care, surgery, toxic ingestion, broken bones, hospitalization, chronic conditions, and any prescription medications.

Pet insurance companies also offer accident-only coverage, which only covers accidents. An example of an accident may be if your pet ingests something toxic or if a bone is broken. Illnesses wouldn’t be covered under an accident-only plan; therefore, any health conditions that develop would need to be paid out of pocket.

Portrait of a dog and a cat together on a white background

Pet insurance can save you from having to decide against recommended treatments due to financial concerns.


Reimbursement, Deductible, and Coverage

If you select a pet insurance policy, there are three main factors you can decide on to tailor the policy to your needs. These three factors affect your total premium. The first is reimbursement. This is the amount your pet insurance company pays after you have met the annual deductible.

The deductible is the amount you are responsible to pay out of pocket every year before your pet’s insurance coverage kicks in. For example, if you have a $250 deductible with 90% reimbursement and your dog or cat requires $,1000 worth of treatment, you will first pay the $250 out of pocket, and your insurance will review the rest of the veterinary bill to determine which treatments are covered.

Once that review is complete, the pet insurance company reimburses 90% of $750 (assuming all care is covered). While this is one of the most popular forms of coverage, your pet insurance policy may offer a different type of deductible: a per-condition deductible.

If you select the per-condition deductible, you are responsible for paying the deductible each time your pet is treated for a new condition or a new incident. This can be a helpful option for chronic conditions. Once you meet the deductible for a chronic condition, your pet is covered throughout the life of the policy.

The final aspect of a pet insurance policy is the coverage cap. Some pet insurance policies place an annual cap on what they are willing to pay. Others may offer unlimited coverage each year, so long as the deductible is met. Each of these aspects is crucial to ensure you’re selecting the best pet insurance policy for you and your favorite animal.

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Since you’re asking our opinion, yes. Pet insurance policies are designed to ensure the insurers get sufficient returns on their payouts. However, you may end up paying a year or two on a policy before you’re hit with a huge vet bill that exceeds the cost of your premium.

The health of your pet can be a gamble (especially when it comes to accidents), which is why having insurance in place puts you in a better position. You can budget for the premium cost instead of scrambling to find a way to pay for sudden and unexpected vet bills. Unfortunately, some pet owners are faced with bills so high they’re forced to forego treatment.

I’ll share a personal example of why pet insurance is worth it. When my cat was just over a year old, she ingested a foreign object that got stuck in her small intestine. I rushed her to the vet, where I was told she required emergency surgery. The total out-of-pocket cost was $5,000. I used savings, borrowed, and received donations to pay for her care. The emergency overnight animal hospital cost even more—so much, that I had to negotiate and remove some recommended treatments from the vet bill.

After that event, I got her set up with a pet insurance policy. She’s six years old now and last year, I spent another $5,000 on vet bills. She had trouble acclimating to a new environment, became ill, and required several medications and a hospital stay. I received a 90% reimbursement for all treatment costs. I didn’t have to pick and choose from recommended treatments.

Although pet insurance may not be for everyone, it sure is the kind of thing that makes a huge difference when you end up needing it. The monthly cost is reasonable, and I can easily include it in my monthly budget. Without it, last year’s vet bills would have been completely out of pocket. This is just one example. Ultimately, only you can decide what’s best for your budget and your pet’s care.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying Pet Insurance

If you’re still not sure if pet insurance is a good idea, ask yourself how much you’re willing to pay out of pocket for vet bills over the course of a year. Then, compare that cost with what insurance would cost you, including your premium, annual deductible, and percentage of cost that is not reimbursable.

Compare those two totals and decide which may be the most affordable option. Next, consider the worst-case scenario. Nobody wants to think about this but it’s a necessary consideration when you’re caring for pets. Should an emergency occur, or an unexpected illness be diagnosed, how would you cover veterinary costs?

There are financing options, borrowing from friends or family, fundraising, or using savings. What is the maximum out-of-pocket cost you could realistically handle? There are many circumstances that can throw you off your budget—affording proper medical care for your pets doesn’t have to be one.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Ruth Romero

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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is a disadvantage of pet insurance?

The primary disadvantage of pet insurance is that you may be paying for coverages you don’t make use of. It could take years before you even need to use your pet insurance policy. When you purchase a pet insurance policy, it’s preventive—and typically “just in case.” For pets with hereditary conditions, it’s more likely you’ll get better use out of the insurance policy and if your pet is apparently healthy, you’re only purchasing the policy to ensure they are covered should they have an accident, or develop an illness, or both.

Does my dog really need insurance?

It’s definitely worth considering. Not everyone is financially healthy enough to easily pay out-of-pocket veterinary costs. And even if you are, you could still save thousands by investing in a great pet insurance policy. Injuries and illnesses can’t be predicted but the sooner you insure your pet, the better off you both are should the unexpected occur.

Is pet insurance a benefit?

With some employers, yes. You may be employed by a company that offers to help with addressing the costs of pet medical costs. This is usually outlined as a voluntary benefit you can choose to enroll your pets into. Often, though not always, you may receive a discounted rate through your employer as well.

Why is it important to get pet insurance?

Pet insurance, like any insurance, is so you are protected from the unexpected. When you know you can count on a specific deductible, you know what kind of coverage you have, and the type of reimbursement you will receive, you are far more likely to obtain all possible treatments for your pet. When you don’t have pet insurance and your pet gets injured or becomes ill, you may try to avoid veterinary care—or you may have to forego treatment for your pet due to unaffordability. To prevent having to face these difficult, heart-breaking decisions, you can insure your pet and visit your vet for any concern with ease, knowing what treatments are covered.

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