Is Pet Insurance Worth It

Is Pet Insurance Worth It? In recent years, pet insurance has emerged as a valuable financial safeguard for pet owners across the United States. This once-niche insurance product has seen a significant surge in popularity, with the North American Pet Health Insurance Association reporting nearly 4 million cats and dogs insured in the U.S. as of 2022, a remarkable increase from 2017. But the question that often lingers is, “Is pet insurance worth it?”

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the details of pet insurance to help you make an informed decision about whether it’s a wise investment for your beloved furry companions.

The Cost of Pet Insurance

One of the primary considerations when assessing the value of pet insurance is its cost. According to our analysis at Forbes Advisor, the average monthly premium for pet insurance in 2023 is approximately $44 for dogs and $30 for cats. These rates are based on a policy with $5,000 in annual coverage, a $250 deductible, and an 80% reimbursement level.

Why Consider Pet Insurance? Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Pet insurance can provide invaluable financial protection against unexpected, high-cost veterinary bills. Imagine your pet faces a severe illness, injury, or accident, which could potentially result in medical expenses totaling thousands of dollars. Without pet insurance, you’d be responsible for covering these costs out of your own pocket. To ascertain whether pet insurance is worthwhile, you should weigh the monthly premium against the potential vet expenses you might encounter.

Let’s consider an example:

Suppose you’ve been paying for pet insurance for your dog for three years at an annual cost of approximately $684. That adds up to $2,052 in total premiums. Now, if your dog ingests a foreign object, leading to a $4,000 veterinary bill, and your insurance policy has a $500 deductible and a 90% reimbursement level, your out-of-pocket expense for this incident would be $850 ($500 deductible + 10% of $3,500).

Adding up the premiums paid over three years and the cost of the vet visit, your total expenditure with pet insurance would be $2,902. Without pet insurance, you would have incurred the full $4,000 vet bill. Thus, by having pet insurance, you’ve saved approximately $1,100.

Walter Haugland, vice president of marketing at Pets Best, emphasizes the unpredictable nature of pet emergencies, stating, “Four out of five pets will have an unexpected emergency. You don’t know if that’s going to come three months or three years after you get your pet. It’s almost impossible to plan for the unexpected. So, that’s where pet insurance comes in.”

Why Veterinarians Advocate for Pet Insurance

Veterinarians unanimously agree that pet insurance can be a game-changer for pet owners. Let’s delve into the insights of three experienced vets who provide invaluable perspectives on the importance of pet insurance.

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1. Dr. Sandra Norman – Noah’s Animal Hospitals, Indiana

Dr. Sandra Norman, a staff veterinarian at Noah’s Animal Hospitals in Indiana, emphasizes the potential financial strain of unexpected medical emergencies for pets. In her words, “If an emergency arises and treatment or surgery is required, it can reach into the thousands of dollars to resolve the situation. Many families may not have these kinds of resources available and may have to make the very painful decision to euthanize their beloved pet.” Dr. Norman’s insight underscores that your ability to afford unexpected care, especially in an emergency, can go a long way in determining if pet insurance is worth it.

2. Dr. Philippa Pavia – Bond Vet, New York

Dr. Philippa Pavia, VP of medical strategy at Bond Vet in New York, provides a thought-provoking perspective. She encourages pet parents to imagine a scenario where their much-loved pet requires expensive emergency care or a surgical procedure. She poses essential questions: “Would paying for that procedure be a significant source of financial stress? Is a smaller monthly amount feasible for your family, and preferable to saving separately for that possible—but not guaranteed—future need?” Dr. Pavia highlights that, for some, the peace of mind and the knowledge that the money is readily available is worth every penny, making pet insurance a wise choice.

3. Dr. Sarah Gorman – Small Door Veterinary, New York

Dr. Sarah Gorman, the managing veterinarian at Small Door Veterinary in New York, underscores that pet insurance isn’t just about life-threatening situations. It can be beneficial even in less critical scenarios. She explains, “Insurance helps cover the unanticipated costs of pet ownership and can be a huge relief for owners, as they typically cover 80-90% of the costs, depending on the plan.” It’s important to note that most pet insurance companies cover medical issues, as long as they are not pre-existing conditions. Dr. Gorman strongly recommends that pet owners explore insurance options early in their pet’s life, before any issues arise.

Factors to Consider – Is Pet Insurance Worth It

1. Vet Bill Expenses

When evaluating the need for pet insurance, consider how much you are willing to pay out-of-pocket for vet bills. While you might have an initial budget in mind, life-and-death situations can lead you to extend your budget to lengths you never imagined.

2. Peace of Mind

Pet insurance can provide peace of mind and flexibility in making the best care decisions for your pet without the financial burden. In times of crisis, you might be willing to go to great lengths to ensure the well-being of your furry friend.

Average Treatment Costs for Pets

Understanding the potential veterinary expenses is crucial to determine if pet insurance is worth it. Here are some examples of average treatment costs for pets, courtesy of Pets Best:

  • Broken bones
  • Toxic ingestion
  • Dental illnesses like gingivitis
  • Chronic conditions like diabetes
  • Breed-specific conditions like hip dysplasia
  • Emergency care
  • Surgery
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Hospitalization and surgery
  • Prescription medications

It’s noteworthy that pet treatment costs are on the rise, with data from Pets Best showing a 16% year-over-year increase in treating broken bones for dogs and a 6% year-over-year increase for cats.

Certain breeds are more susceptible to hereditary conditions, which can significantly increase the cost of care. For instance, large dogs like border collies, Labrador retrievers, Great Danes, and German shepherds are prone to conditions like hip dysplasia, which could cost between $3,500 and $7,000 or more, depending on the severity.

Understanding Pet Insurance Costs

The average annual cost of pet insurance varies based on factors like your pet’s breed, age, gender, and location. Here’s a general idea:

  • Pet’s breed: Some pets are more predisposed to specific health issues, which can influence the cost of insurance. Larger dogs typically have higher premiums.
  • Pet’s age: Older pets are more prone to accidents and illnesses, so their insurance may be more expensive.
  • Pet’s gender: Female pets may be considered lower risk, leading to lower premiums.
  • Location: Veterinary costs vary by region, and areas with higher costs may result in higher premiums.

What Pet Insurance Covers

Pet insurance typically covers a range of health-related expenses for your pet, including but not limited to:

  • Broken bones
  • Toxic ingestion
  • Dental illnesses like gingivitis
  • Chronic conditions like diabetes
  • Breed-specific conditions like hip dysplasia
  • Emergency care
  • Surgery
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Hospitalization and surgery
  • Prescription medications
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Unlike human health insurance, pet insurance plans are generally reimbursement-based. This means that you pay for your pet’s vet bills upfront and then submit a claim to the insurance company for reimbursement. Pet insurance also doesn’t have provider networks, allowing you to choose any licensed veterinarian for your pet’s care.

What Pet Insurance Does Not Cover

While pet insurance can provide valuable coverage, there are exclusions to be aware of:

  • Experimental treatment: Experimental or investigational treatments that deviate from the standard of care accepted by the veterinary medical board in your state are typically not covered.
  • Food and dietary expenses: Your pet’s dietary expenses are usually not covered by pet insurance, although some plans may cover prescription food and supplements.
  • Grooming services: Services such as baths, nail trims, and shampoos are typically not covered.
  • Non-veterinary expenses: Expenses such as licensing, compliance with government regulations, record access, and waste disposal services are generally not included.
  • Pre-existing conditions: Most pet insurance policies do not cover illnesses or injuries that your pet had before the coverage began. However, some plans may reconsider these conditions if your pet remains symptom-free for a specified period.

Deductibles, Reimbursement, and Coverage Caps

When choosing a pet insurance policy, you’ll need to decide on the deductible, reimbursement level, and coverage cap. These factors can significantly impact the cost and extent of your pet’s coverage.

  • Deductibles: You can select an annual deductible or a per-condition deductible. With an annual deductible, you pay the deductible amount once per policy term, while a per-condition deductible requires a deductible payment for each distinct condition or incident.
  • Reimbursement: Reimbursement levels determine the portion of vet expenses your insurer will cover after the deductible is met. Common reimbursement levels are around 70%, 80%, or 90%, but some companies offer 100% reimbursement.
  • Coverage Caps: Some policies come with an annual coverage cap, limiting the total amount the insurer will pay each year. Certain companies, however, offer unlimited annual coverage.

The Popularity of Pet Insurance

Pet insurance has experienced a surge in popularity, with the number of insured pets in the U.S. increasing by 28% from 2020 to 2021. Dogs are more commonly insured, representing 82% of insured pets, compared to 18% for cats. This uptick in interest might be partly attributed to the pandemic, with more than three-quarters of pet owners reporting that they acquired a pet during the pandemic, according to a Forbes Advisor survey.

How to Choose the Right Pet Insurance

Now that we understand the significance of pet insurance, let’s explore how to choose the right policy and provider.

1. Consider Coverage, Cost, and Exclusions

When shopping for pet insurance, consider the level of coverage provided, the cost of premiums and deductibles, and any exclusions or limitations. Dr. Pavia advises, “Reading reviews from other pet owners and consulting with your veterinarian can also be helpful in making an informed decision.” Some pet insurance plans offer more limited coverage, such as accidents only, while others provide comprehensive coverage, including dental issues. For example, dental procedures can be quite costly and are not covered by most insurance plans unless there is a traumatic injury to the mouth. Therefore, it’s crucial to read the coverage carefully to understand what is included and what is not.

2. Cost Doesn’t Always Equal Quality

Don’t assume that the most expensive insurance is the best. In this competitive and growing market, newer companies often offer more affordable rates. Dr. Gorman wisely advises that cost isn’t always directly correlated with quality.

What to Be Aware of When Shopping for Pet Insurance

While pet insurance can be a boon for many pet owners, it’s essential to be aware of potential pitfalls and differences compared to human health insurance.

1. Understand Payment Procedures

It’s vital to understand how payments work. Some pet insurance plans require you to pay upfront and then seek reimbursement, while others pay the veterinarian directly. Dr. Norman recommends, “Check to see if the premium is paid monthly, semi-annually, or annually.”

2. Breed and Medical Condition Considerations

The type of pet you have and their breed can impact insurance decisions. Dr. Pavia notes, “The decision to insure a pet may differ based on the type of animal and breed. Some breeds of dogs are more prone to certain health issues, which may make insurance more attractive but also more expensive on a monthly basis for those pet owners.” Additionally, a pet’s medical history can affect insurance coverage. “Pet insurance is typically not helpful for pets that had a significant medical history of illness, as most insurance companies will not cover anything related to that body system,” says Dr. Gorman.

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Alternatives to Pet Insurance

If you’re not inclined to purchase pet insurance, there are alternative methods to finance your pet’s veterinary care:

  • Savings Account: You can set aside money in a savings account to cover vet bills. While it eliminates the need for an annual premium, it can deplete your savings if your pet faces a major accident or illness.
  • Credit Card: You can use a credit card to pay for your pet’s vet bills. However, be mindful of the high interest rates associated with credit cards.
  • Financing: Obtaining a personal loan from a bank or lending institution is an option for covering vet bills.
  • Payment Plans: Some veterinarians may offer payment plans, allowing you to spread the cost over weekly or monthly installments.
  • Fundraising: Crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe and pet-dedicated sites like Waggle can help raise funds for your pet’s vet bills.
  • Other Alternatives: You can inquire with your veterinarian about accepting CareCredit, a credit card designed for healthcare expenses, or explore other pet financial aid options.

Is Pet Insurance Worth It – FAQ

Does my dog really need insurance?

Pet insurance is not a necessity, but it can provide valuable financial protection. If you’re concerned about covering large vet bills, pet insurance can help reduce your out-of-pocket expenses and offer peace of mind.

What is a disadvantage of pet insurance?

One potential disadvantage of pet insurance is that if you don’t make a claim, you may feel like you’re spending money on premiums without a tangible benefit. However, when your pet requires expensive medical care, you’ll likely appreciate the coverage.

Are there alternatives to pet insurance?

Yes, there are alternatives to pet insurance, including setting up a savings account, using a credit card for vet bills, financing through a personal loan, negotiating payment plans with your veterinarian, fundraising through crowdfunding platforms, and exploring other pet financial aid options.

How do I choose the right pet insurance plan?

When selecting a pet insurance plan, consider factors such as your pet’s breed, age, and potential health risks. Compare different policies, assess deductible and reimbursement options, and ensure the coverage aligns with your pet’s needs and your budget.

Can pet insurance cover pre-existing conditions?

Most pet insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions, which include illnesses or injuries your pet had before the coverage started. However, some plans may reconsider these conditions if your pet remains symptom-free for a specified period.

How has the popularity of pet insurance changed recently?

Pet insurance has been on the rise, with a 28% increase in the total number of insured pets in the U.S. from 2020 to 2021. Dogs are more commonly insured than cats, with a notable uptick in pet ownership during the pandemic.

Is pet insurance worth it for older pets?

Pet insurance can still be beneficial for older pets, but premiums may be higher due to increased health risks. It’s essential to evaluate the potential benefits against the costs and your pet’s specific health needs.

Can I choose any veterinarian with pet insurance?

Yes, pet insurance typically allows you to choose any licensed veterinarian for your pet’s care. Unlike human health insurance, pet insurance plans are not tied to specific provider networks.

Can pet insurance cover routine care expenses like vaccinations and check-ups?

Some pet insurance plans offer add-ons for routine care coverage, including expenses like vaccinations and check-ups. These additional coverages can vary by provider, so it’s important to review the policy details.

Is there a waiting period for pet insurance coverage?

Yes, most pet insurance policies have waiting periods before coverage becomes effective. The length of the waiting period can vary by provider and may apply to different types of coverage (e.g., accidents, illnesses).

How often can I make claims with pet insurance?

Pet insurance policies typically allow you to make claims as often as needed, as long as the claims fall within the policy’s coverage and reimbursement limits.


In summary, pet insurance is a valuable safeguard that can provide financial protection and peace of mind when it comes to your pet’s health. It can help offset significant vet bills, offering a safety net for unexpected emergencies. However, the decision to invest in pet insurance should be made based on your budget, your pet’s specific needs, and your willingness to ensure their well-being.

Before making a decision, compare different pet insurance plans, assess your pet’s health risks, and consider your financial capacity. Ultimately, pet insurance can be a worthwhile investment to ensure your furry friend receives the best care, even in unexpected circumstances.


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