The cost of owning a pet is not cheap. Routine veterinary care, including medication, cost an average of $410 for dogs and $300 for cats in 2021, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Treating serious illnesses or injuries can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars more. It’s no wonder, then, that the demand for pet insurance in the United States has steadily increased over the past few years. This guide will walk you through the basics of how pet insurance works and help you decide if insuring your pet is worth it.
The Best Pet Insurance Providers of 2022
What is pet insurance?
Pet insurance is designed to offset veterinary treatment costs. In exchange for paying a monthly premium, you will be reimbursed for a portion of the cost of procedures and treatments covered by your plan. Some policies only cover accidents, while others also include illness. Wellness plans for routine care are also available.
How does pet insurance work?
Generally speaking, pet insurance works on a reimbursement basis. You pay the full cost of treatment upfront and then contact the insurer for compensation. Some insurers base compensation amounts on a given percentage, usually 70% to 90% of the cost of the procedure. Other insurers use a benefit schedule that reimburses a fixed amount per procedure.
As with other types of insurance, pet policies typically include a deductible, the amount of money you must spend on care before your insurer will cover a claim. It can range from $50 to $1,000, depending on the insurer and the type of policy.
In most cases, the deductible is an annual amount, which means that it must be met each year before coverage takes effect. Trupanion, one of the companies in our ranking of the best pet insurance companies, handles deductibles a little differently. It imposes a lifetime limit per medical condition, not an annual limit. This means that once you have reached this limit for a particular type of treatment, you will no longer pay for it provided you maintain your policy.
Pet insurance does not require you to take your pet to a participating or “in-network” veterinarian to be reimbursed. You can take your pet to any licensed veterinarian and you do not need prior approval to seek treatment.
What does pet insurance cover?
Before buying a pet insurance policy, it is advisable to contact the insurer and find out what is or is not covered by the policy, especially breed-specific, hereditary or chronic illnesses, and s there are waiting times for new registrants. You should also ask if your pet needs a medical exam or if you need to provide your pet’s medical records.
Each pet insurance company is a little different when it comes to the types of policies offered and what is covered and what is not covered. In general, the following items are usually included:
- Accidents and injuries, including cuts and fractures
- Illnesses such as ear infection or bladder infection
- Hereditary or breed-specific conditions like hip dysplasia
- Hospitalization and surgery
Some plans may also cover alternative therapies like acupuncture, prosthetics and mobility devices, euthanasia, and behavioral therapies.
What does pet insurance not cover?
Even the most comprehensive pet policy won’t cover everything. The following items are generally excluded from coverage:
- Pre-existing conditions
- Castration and sterilization
- Toilet, bath or board
- Treatment of parasites like fleas, heartworms, ticks and roundworms
- Elective surgery and procedures such as tail docking and anal gratification expression
- Reproductive and Pregnancy Services
What Does a Pet Wellness Plan Cover?
Some pet insurers also offer supplemental wellness plans that will reimburse you for routine care not covered by an accident/sickness insurance policy. Premiums vary, ranging from $14 to $52 per month according to our research. Unlike pet accident/sickness plans, wellness coverage generally has no deductible.
Treatments and procedures covered by wellness plans typically include the following:
- Routine examinations
- Dental cleanings
- Fecal and blood tests
- Prevention of heartworms, fleas and ticks
How much does pet insurance cost?
The cost of insuring a pet depends on several factors, including the species, breed, age and gender of the animal. Premiums also vary depending on the amount of coverage and deductible you choose, as well as the cost of veterinary care where you live. In general, dogs cost more to insure than cats. Depending on the insurer, you may be eligible for discounts, including those for insuring multiple pets or for being in the military.
Below is a breakdown of sample monthly bonuses, based on our analysis.
Pet Insurance Cost Comparison
* All prices shown are indicative only. You should contact the insurance company or insurance agent directly for applicable quotes. *Monthly costs are for a one-year-old mixed-breed female dog and a domestic short-haired cat less than one year old, respectively, in excellent health residing in Texas, for an annual deductible of $500, profit limit annual fee of $5,000 and a 90% refund. rate. * Healthy Paws has no benefit limit ** Trupanion’s deductible is per incident for life, whereas other companies use an annual deductible. Trupanion also has no benefit limit. ***Customizable factors for Nationwide are $250 deductible and $10,000 annual profit limit as our original archetype does not apply.
How much does veterinary care cost?
Most adult dogs and cats don’t need to go to the vet more than once or twice a year for routine checkups and vaccinations. Puppies and kittens require more frequent visits during their first year for vaccinations, neutering and exams. Regardless of your pet’s age or how often they visit, costs can add up even for healthy pets.
Here’s a breakdown of some common veterinary treatments and what you can expect to pay:
- Physical examination: $45 to $55
- Routine examination: $50 to $220
- Vaccines, by injection: $18 to $28
- Fecal exam: $25 to $45
- Microchip: $25 to $60
- Heartworm test: $45 to $50
- Dental cleaning: $70-$400
- Sterilization/Casteration: $160 to $220
- Blood test, allergies: $200 to $300
- X-ray: $75 to $250
- Ultrasound: $300 to $600
- Hospitalization: $600 to $3,500
- Emergency surgery: $1,500 to $5,000
Is pet insurance available for a senior dog or cat?
Some insurance companies place age restrictions on coverage, which means you may not be able to purchase a new insurance policy for an older pet. Here’s how the insurers on our list of the best pet insurance companies rank:
Is pet insurance worth it?
Knowing that you will be reimbursed for veterinary care can give you peace of mind, especially if you don’t think you can pay out of pocket for an unforeseen accident or illness. But if your beloved pet is living a long life with few health issues, you might find the price of that peace of mind just isn’t worth it. Before making a decision, it’s a good idea to consider your budget as well as any breed-specific issues your pet might be facing.
For more information on pet insurance, see the following guides:
360 Associate Reviews
For more information on other types of insurance, see the following guides:
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