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Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

  • Pet insurance is worth the money if you choose a policy that fits your budget and you use the benefits.
  • Selecting the right type of plan is key to making pet insurance worth the expense.
  • For families on a tight budget, a basic pet insurance plan can be well worth it since the monthly premium will be lower than a comprehensive plan, and it offers protection from large, unexpected vet bills.
  • In many cases, pet insurance can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars over the lifespan of your pet.
  • Signing up early will ensure the animal is covered before pre-existing conditions arise.
  • Try using an online comparison tool to easily compare multiple policies at once and find the best one for your needs.

Understanding the different types of pet insurance plans is key to deciding whether pet insurance is worth it or not. Depending on your pet’s needs, breed, and the type of plan you choose, the expense can be well worth it.

In this guide, we will break down each type of pet insurance coverage and explore examples of when they make sense, and when they don’t.

We’ll also walk you through several examples that explore the cost of pet insurance versus paying for coverage without pet insurance.

Other topics we will cover:

  • Weighing the pros and cons of pet insurance
  • Understanding how pet insurance works
  • What is covered under different types of policies

This way, you can determine if the cost of pet insurance is worth it or not and find the best pet insurance for your needs.

Should I get pet insurance?

Is pet insurance worth it? Do I actually need it? - These are the questions of the hour.

Like most insurance, pet insurance is a great way to protect yourself against unexpected events and financial risk. However, choosing the wrong type of plan can make it expensive.

Whether you should get health insurance for your pet depends on a variety of factors, such as how much you have in savings to pay for vet bills and the likelihood of your pet needing care.

Considering the benefits and drawbacks of pet insurance policies is a good place to begin when deciding if you should get pet insurance.

Benefits of pet insurance
  • Lower out-of-pocket costs:?With a policy, you stand to pay significantly less for vet visits.
  • Ability to see any veterinarian: Unlike human health insurance, pet policies typically don’t have in-network and out-of-network providers, leaving you free to choose your veterinarian.
  • A wealth of options:?When choosing an insurance plan, you can select from a wide range of coverage levels to suit your pet’s needs and your budget.
  • Prompt care:?Since your pet’s health insurance will help pay for necessary care, you won’t have to put off seeing the vet. Your pet can get the care it needs earlier when conditions may be easier to treat.
  • Access to extra benefits:?Some pet insurance companies provide extra pet-related benefits for pet parents and their pets. These range from 24/7 vet helplines that give you advice to assistance paying with advertising and rewards for finding missing pets.
Potential drawbacks of pet insurance
  • Pre-existing conditions:?If your dog or cat already has health issues, pet health insurance usually won’t cover them.
  • Excluded conditions:?The insurer may not pay for care related to certain conditions. For example, many policies don’t cover hip dysplasia, a joint problem common in large dog breeds.
  • Pet exclusion:?An insurance company may establish minimum and maximum ages for eligible pets and/or refuse to cover certain breeds.
  • Limited coverage:?You may still be responsible for 100% of the cost of routine care and/or certain illnesses.
  • Up-front costs:?Pet insurance providers usually don’t pay for veterinary services directly. Instead, they require you to pay and then reimburse you for covered services.
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Lemonade Pet Insurance

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4.8
Maximum annual coverage
$5,000 - $100,000
Reimbursement choices
70%, 80%, 90%
Deductible choices
$100, $250, $500

Pets Best Insurance

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4.6
Maximum annual coverage
$5,000 - Unlimited
Reimbursement choices
70%, 80%, 90%
Deductible choices
$50, $100, $200, $250, $500, $1,000

MetLife Pet Insurance

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4.7
Maximum annual coverage
$1,000-$10,000
Reimbursement choices
70%, 80%, 90%
Deductible choices
$50, $100, $250, $500

How does pet insurance work?

Although most pet insurance policies offer different types of coverage, most work through reimbursement.

In other words, you’ll pay the vet bills yourself and submit a claim to the insurer. Some policies, however, offer the convenience of paying the vet directly, where the insurer settles the bill directly with the vet. The time it takes to be reimbursed varies per provider, but you should expect it to take a few weeks.

In exchange for coverage, the insurance company charges you a fee called a monthly premium. Generally, you’re also responsible for paying a percentage of the cost of each visit, called a co-payment.

A deductible will also factor into your total pet insurance cost.

There are two main types of deductibles:

Generally, per-incident deductibles are less than annual deductibles, but they can become more expensive in the long run.

Example of how pet insurance works

Imagine your pet sees the vet three times in one year, racking up the following bills:

If your policy has an annual deductible of $200 and a 20% co-pay, here’s what you would pay for each visit:

With a per-condition plan, you’d pay a deductible each time because your pet had three different issues. With a $100 deductible and a 20% co-pay, your costs would be:

What does pet insurance cover?

Depending on the type of policy you have in place, your pet insurance coverage will vary.

There are three types of coverage available:

We’ll break down what each type covers below.

Accident and illness (A&I) coverage

This type of pet insurance covers vet bills for sickness and injuries.

With A&I coverage, you can get assistance paying for the cost of treatment. For example, if your dog swallows a foreign object or gets hit by a car, A&I coverage will assist with vet bills by covering the cost of treatment.

In addition, the pet health insurance will pay for illnesses, such as bladder and eye infections and major chronic health issues like allergies, cancer and diabetes. Most policies will also provide reimbursement for end-of-life care like euthanasia deemed medically necessary.

In our opinion this is the best type of insurance to have as it covers many unexpected event. However, if your pet’s breed is not prone to illness, then this may not be worth the expense for you. Instead, you may want to opt for accident coverage only.

Accident-only (AO) coverage

These pet insurance plans only pay for veterinary expenses related to accidental injuries.

Pet insurance companies will pay only for treatments resulting from accidental injuries, such as setting broken bones or treating pets when they ingest something toxic. Plans generally won’t pay for illnesses and chronic medical conditions.

Wellness coverage

Wellness plans cover routine care such as checkups, teeth cleanings and vaccinations.

As previously mentioned, most pet insurance doesn’t include wellness coverage, but many insurers offer wellness as an add-on to other coverage rather than as a standalone policy.

In our opinion, opting for wellness coverage is usually not worth the expense.

What does pet insurance not cover?

Exclusions are common features of pet insurance.

Insurers typically won’t provide you with reimbursement for the following:

This list above isn’t exhaustive and some exceptions may apply. It’s always important to check with your provider to ensure you have a clear understanding of what they cover and any exclusions.

Compare coverage from different providers

Compare Coverage
Accident & Illness Coverage
Available
Available
Accident-Only Coverage
Available
Not Available
Surgery
Covered
Covered
Hereditary and Congenital Conditions
Covered
Covered
Chronic Conditions
Covered
Covered
Dental Disease
Covered
Covered
Allergies
Covered
Covered
Cancer Treatment
Covered
Covered
Physical Therapy
Covered
Covered
Alternative Therapies
Covered
Covered
Behavioral issues
Covered
Covered
Breed Specific Issues
Covered
Covered
Emergency Vet Visits
Covered
Covered
Telehealth Visits
Covered
Covered
24/7 Vet Chat
Covered
Covered
Specialist Visits
Covered
Covered
Exam Fees
Covered
Covered
Blood Tests
Covered
Covered
Laboratory Testing
Covered
Covered
X-Rays & CT Scans
Covered
Covered
Wellness Coverage
Add On
Add On
Prescription Medication
Covered
Covered
Prescription Food
Covered
Add On
Microchipping
Covered
Add On
Boarding
Not covered
Not covered
Euthanasia
Covered
Covered
Max Enrollment Age
No Max
14 years
Accident Waiting Period
14 days
2 days
Illness Waiting Period
14 days
14 days
Orthopedic Waiting Period
14 days
6 months

Consider the cost of pet insurance

The average cost of a comprehensive pet insurance plan is $56 per month for dogs and $47 per month for cats. However, the final cost of pet insurance premiums depends on multiple factors.

Below are some of the most common factors that influence the cost of pet insurance:

Refer to this table for average premiums for different types of pet insurance.

Type A&I monthly A&I annually AO monthly AO annually
Dog insurance $53.34 $640.04 $16.70 $200.58
Cat insurance $32.25 $387.01 $10.18 $122.19

This data is based on statistics provided by the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA).

Understand the cost of treatment without pet insurance

The average cost of emergency veterinary care can be anywhere from $800 to $1,500 or more. Overall treatment costs will vary based on your pet’s condition and what kind of treatment is needed.

Here’s a breakdown of costs for common emergencies and illnesses.

Condition Cats Dogs
Cancer $3,282 $4,137
Diabetes $4,000 $4,000
Eye problems $227 $319
Ingesting a foreign object $2,955 $3,262
Broken bone $2,371 $2,257
Arthritis $724 $490
Dental problems $768 $519
Bladder problems $1,053 $424

This information is based on Pets Best claims data from January 2017 - May 2020.

Is pet insurance worth the cost?

While there are affordable pet insurance options available, it’s important to consider the value against the cost.

In the event of a major and unexpected accident or injury to your pet, those years you spent paying premiums may very well be worth it. However, when it comes to minor health issues, you may want to consider setting up an emergency fund and putting that monthly premium fee into it.

In the end, whether pet insurance is worth having is a personal choice that will be affected by your financial realities.

Let’s dig a little deeper and examine wellness coverage, accident-only coverage, and A&I coverage to see if they’re worth it.

Is wellness coverage worth it?

In most cases, we think wellness plans are not worth the expense.

Generally, the annual cost of wellness plans will be less than the total costs for all routine services. However, wellness plans can include many exclusions. Therefore, it’s important to review what is included to see if it’s actually worth the cost.

Most pets need to see the vet once per year for routine checkups and vaccinations. The average cost for a routine visit is $50 to $250 plus $60 to $100 for vaccinations, according to data from Pets Best.

You may also accrue additional wellness costs like $300 to $500 for teeth cleaning, a crucial part of dental insurance, and $80 to $200 for routine blood tests.

Is accident-only coverage worth it?

Accident coverage is definitely worth the expense.

Your pet may go its entire life without ever having an accident, so there’s a risk you may never use AO coverage. At the same time, average premiums of less than $20 per month may make coverage worth it simply for your peace of mind.

Is accident and illness coverage worth it?

A&I plans do cost more per month but they’ll pay for more things, increasing the likelihood you’ll use your policy. If your pet develops a chronic condition, you’ll likely find this type of pet insurance to be well worth the money.

It’s important to evaluate the likelihood of illness for your pet. If you have a breed prone to illnesses (like a pug), then this type of plan may be worth the expense.

Alternatives to pet insurance

Pet insurance isn’t the only way to cover medical costs for your furry friends.

Here are some alternatives to taking out a pet insurance policy:

1

Savings account

Depositing a small portion of each paycheck into a savings account gives you an emergency fund for visits while allowing you to earn interest.

See More See Less
2

Vet financing

Many vets offer payment plans, provided you pass a credit check and are willing to pay interest.

See More See Less
3

Crowdfunding

When faced with a major medical bill for your pet, you can seek small donations from friends, family and pet lovers you’ve never met by setting up a crowdfunding campaign.

See More See Less
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FAQs: Is pet insurance worth it?

Do I need pet insurance for indoor pets?

Although indoor pets are less likely to be bitten by animals or hit by a vehicle, poisoning from unsafe foods, plants and household chemicals is still a major concern. Plus, indoor dogs and cats still require preventive care and are at risk for illnesses, making insurance likely worth it.

Is pet insurance worth it for older pets?

It will cost you more to insure an older pet, but you’re more likely to need coverage as your pet ages. Unless your pet already has pre-existing health issues, a policy is likely to still be worth it.

To learn more about your pet’s lifespan so can decide if it’s worth it, check out our guides on how long dogs live and how long cats live.

Do all vets take pet insurance?

Since most policies require you to pay the vet up front, you typically can use any plan at any vet.

What’s the best pet insurance?

There’s no single best pet insurance for all pets. The best option for you will depend on your budget and your pet’s age, overall health, breed and habits. To find the best policy for you and your pet, try using an online comparison tool to compare quotes and coverage types.

About the Author

Hayley Harrison
Hayley Harrison Personal Finance

Hayley Harrison is an active personal finance contributor for LA Times Compare. She is passionate about helping consumers make informed financial decisions and achieve their financial goals by simplifying complex topics relating to insurance and personal finance.

Hayley brings first-hand knowledge of the finance industry thanks to her previous experience as a branch manager for a mid-sized regional bank and as a licensed accident and health insurance agent.

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