Is Pet Insurance Worth It? How Does Pet Insurance Work And Should I Get It?

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A big misconception about pet insurance is that it’s too expensive. We spend hundreds of dollars on ourselves and our families each month for health insurance, yet we don’t get coverage for our furry “children.” In reality, paying $50 per month* for pet insurance could end up saving your pet’s life. 

Instead of being hit with an $8,000 vet bill because your dog needs cancer treatment, you can have a vast majority of it covered through pet insurance. The worst scenario is learning that your dog has cancer but having to turn down treatment because you can’t afford the bills.

No one wants to face this decision, and signing up for pet insurance can take care of most of the cost. Pet insurance allows you to make the best choices, instead of the least expensive ones, when an emergency arises.

Pet insurance can also prevent a tragedy commonly referred to as “economic euthanasia.” This is when a pet owner can’t afford treatment and has to ask the vet to put down the pet rather than care for him due to financial limitations.

For this reason, it’s vital to consider buying pet health insurance to protect your canine (and your wallet) from some of the most unfortunate incidents in a pet’s life.

Article Overview

What Is Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance is the pet equivalent to human health insurance. Having your dog or cat protected by a good health insurance plan can put your mind at ease by knowing that large, unexpected medical bills will be covered.

There are three types of pet insurance plans: accident-only, accident and illness, and wellness. Depending on your preference, you may opt for one or two of these plans. Be aware, though, that not all pet insurance companies offer wellness plans.Types of Pet Insurance with Examples

1) Accident-Only Coverage

You can’t predict an accident, but you can plan ahead for potential incidents that could cost you a fortune. Some pet insurance companies offer accident-only coverage, including torn ligaments, broken bones, bite wounds, and other pressing health needs. So basically, anything associated with a sudden physical injury is covered by an accident-only plan.

Accident-only plans are usually more affordable than accident and illness plans. They can be good options for pets who have pre-existing illnesses for which they can’t obtain coverage.

2) Accident And Illness Coverage

Accident and illness policies are the most comprehensive pet insurance plans because they cover items listed in the accident-only plan as well as illnesses like cancer, arthritis, urinary tract infections, allergies, and more.

Many pet insurance companies limit their illness coverage as pets age, which is why it’s essential to get insurance while your pet is young to reduce pre-existing condition exemptions and your monthly cost.

3) Wellness Coverage

Is pet insurance worth it for wellness/preventative coverage? Wellness coverage is always optional because, depending on your preferences, you can pay for wellness expenses on your own or include it as an add-on with your pet insurance premium to avoid paying out of pocket all at once for routine vet visits.

A pet wellness plan may cover fees associated with:

  • Annual exams
  • Spay/neuter procedures
  • Routine blood panels
  • Heartworm testing and treatment
  • Fecal testing
  • Urinalyses
  • Routine vaccinations (e.g., rabies, distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, Bordetella)
  • Teeth cleanings
  • Flea and tick treatments

Keep in mind; a single routine annual vet exam can cost upwards of $300 depending on your vet, where you live, and the types of procedures, vaccinations, and tests your pet requires. Wellness plans are becoming increasingly popular to manage these expenses. This is why more companies are offering them, including an add-on to some pet health insurance plans. But not every company covers every item you might expect in a preventative care package, so be sure to read the fine print before you sign up. It might also be wise to discuss your policy coverage with your vet’s billing department before you opt-in to annual check-up items to make sure they are covered.

Read our article on the best pet wellness plans to learn how you can cover all your bases.

Pet Insurance & Types Of Plans Explained

How Does Pet Insurance Work?

Dog laying on pile of moneyAre pet insurance plans worth it? Unlike human health insurance, most pet health insurance plans reimburse you for the cost of veterinary care. After paying the initial price of your pet’s vet visit, you’ll request a duplicate itemized receipt. You’ll then send the itemized receipt to your pet’s insurance company along with a completed claim form. You’ll typically receive a reimbursement check or direct deposit within a week to a month.

Some companies guarantee a specific payout turnaround time as an added benefit. Your reimbursement amount depends on your insurance policy details and exclusions, the type and cost of each procedure, your policy’s allowance per procedure, and your plan’s deductible.

Can You Provide An Example?

Let’s say you faithfully saved $50 a month* for five years, and your vet bill savings account sits at $3,000 — that’s roughly the equivalent of five years of pet insurance premiums. Unfortunately, your $3,000 in savings won’t stretch beyond initial testing, diagnosis, and a few treatments for most pet illnesses.

With a pet insurance plan, that monthly investment of $50 ensures that your finances are safe, and your pet has coverage for minor and major accidents and illnesses, such as cancer, unexpected injuries, chronic conditions, and, in some cases, even routine visits. So if your cost is $10,000 for emergency treatment, pet insurance would cover far above the $3,000 you saved.

Insurance ensures that you receive a significant portion of what you spend at the vet. Like human health insurance, vet insurance reimbursements can vary based on a variety of factors, such as coverage levels, pre-existing conditions, etc.

Can I Visit Any Vet?

Does pet insurance require me to visit an in-network vet? The majority of pet insurance companies let you choose the vet you want. However, there are some insurers (like Companion Protect) that charge more for out-of-network vets or have added benefits for in-network vet visits. Further, some wellness providers are not actually pet insurance companies and may also have in-network requirements for preventative care (i.e., Banfield).

Why Do I Need Pet Insurance?

Vet with dog on xray tableWe think there are three primary reasons to consider obtaining pet insurance for your furry friend.

1) You’ll Never Have To Decide Between Your Wallet & Your Pet

Choosing whether or not to have emergency surgery is one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever make as a pet owner. With pet insurance, you can remove the financial aspect out of your consideration and base your medical decisions purely on what’s best for your pet.

2) Accidents Happen

It doesn’t matter how well you take care of your pet; accidents happen. Whether it’s a toenail that gets caught in the couch cushion or a torn cruciate ligament from jumping off the bed, your dog could have an accident that leads to massive vet bills. A pet accident or illness can cost thousands of dollars in vet bills, but having a good emergency pet insurance plan ensures that you’re able to recoup a vast percentage of the costs.

3) Manage Your Annual Vet Budget

As with all things in your household, you probably have some sort of budget outlined for all the vet expenses you’ll incur in the coming year (even if it’s only a rough idea). Pet insurance helps you make sure your vet costs don’t get out of line should an emergency illness or injury occur.

Also, many providers allow you to tailor your pet insurance policy to fit your budget and needs. If you sign up when your pet is young, you have more options, ranging from major accidents and illnesses to vaccinations and general checkups. Check out our pet insurance reviews to see all of the available options.

What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Pet Insurance Comparison Chart FeaturesWant to know if pet insurance will cover what you need? This table helps you see which company will give you the biggest bang for your buck and protect your dog when serious (and expensive) medical issues arise.

The table includes all of the top pet insurance companies to give you a quick look at how their policies compare against one another.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Telehealth?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many pet parents are utilizing telehealth and online vet services for their pet’s needs. You may see some pet insurance providers start offering coverage for these services.

Companies like Petplan cover up to $1,000 in virtual vet visits over video chat, call, or text. You can learn more about Petplan’s offerings in our full review of Petplan.

How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?

Quote Form WidgetVet costs are on the rise; consider protecting your wallet with pet insurance coverage. Pet insurance prices vary by provider and plan. They’re also unique to your pet’s breed, age, geographical location, pre-existing conditions, and other variables. So, how do you know which is the most affordable?

Well, you don’t until you run quotes with a few companies. We’ve made this easy for you by creating a free quote widget that will pull prices from our top companies when you fill out one short form with your pet’s details.

We suggest you get quotes from at least three companies to find the best value (best coverage for the price). Just because the pet insurance company is a household name or has the best price doesn’t mean it’s the best for your pet. Learn more about the costs of pet insurance.

Compare Pet Insurance Providers Side-By-Side

Compare Pet Insurance Providers Side-By-SideReady to start comparing provider pricing? Visit our pet insurance quotes article to see quote samples from all the pet insurance companies we review. This side-by-side comparison gives you a better idea of what your deductible and reimbursement costs might be for each provider. But, keep in mind that it will vary based on the breed, location, age, etc., of your pet.

What Are The Benefits Of Pet Insurance?

Below are just a few benefits of pet insurance and why we think it’s worth considering.

Gives You Freedom To Choose Your Own Vet

Despite what you may have heard, most pet insurance companies allow you to choose your vet. One pet insurance company, Companion Protect, covers less when you use an out-of-network veterinarian.

Can Sign Up Your Pet At Any Age

While most companies allow you to sign up for health insurance at any age, it’s more beneficial to sign them up as young as possible. This is because pre-existing conditions can negate related coverage, and the younger your pet, the less likely they will have health concerns at enrollment.

However, some pet insurance companies do have age restrictions (for newborns or seniors). This means coverage may be limited or unavailable depending on the pet’s age, leaving you with fewer options to consider in your purchase decision.

Offers You Peace Of Mind

Having pet insurance won’t keep accidents and illnesses from occurring, but it will allow you to choose treatment more promptly for your dog if an emergency arises. Instead of worrying about your finances, you can place your concerns on the health and improvement of your dog.

Allows You To Budget For Your Pet

You can pay for your pet insurance policy monthly, quarterly, or annually. Choose which method is best for you and feel more comfortable with your finances. By having your insurance premium included in your budget, you are better able to proactively weigh this expense versus others rather than scrambling to find the money when an emergency hits.

May Help Extend The Life Of Your Pet

Because pet insurance helps you save money on unexpected vet bills, it can also allow you to authorize medical treatment for health conditions you may not usually approve. In other words, funding an expensive surgery for your dog’s cancer diagnosis could extend his life. In contrast, without pet insurance, you may not opt for costly life-saving surgery.

How Do I Choose The Right Dog Insurance?

Before you purchase your dog’s insurance plan, be sure to familiarize yourself with what each plan offers. Compare the coverage provided under each plan with individual health concerns for your dog and his breed.

Medical billEven if you have a healthy puppy today, knowing what illnesses are prevalent in your dog’s breed will help you select the right plan. Talk with your vet about what you should plan for as your pet ages. For example, some breeds are more susceptible to hip and joint problems and cancer. Although no one wants to anticipate the worst, it’s the best plan of action when shopping for your dog’s insurance policy. Choose the best plan based on the right cost AND coverage benefits, not price alone.

  1. Narrow down your choices with a review of our top three provider recommendations and category winners for specific needs.
  2. Contact at least three companies and obtain quotes based on the information you provide about your pet’s breed, age, health, and needs. (Use our quote form to get pricing from our top picks.) If you have more than one pet, ask about a multi-pet discount.
  3. Have your vet send in each of your pet’s records to the company that you’re considering. A company that’s genuinely interested in your business will review your pet’s records and clearly outline any excluded conditions from your pet’s insurance plan (such as pre-existing conditions). It’s important to understand the coverage details before you buy any insurance plan.
  4. Weigh the cost of monthly premiums against the types of coverage offered: accident, illness, and wellness, as well as any add-ons.
  5. Review plan deductibles and payout percentages that may impact your real out-of-pocket costs.
  6. The sooner you sign your pet up for health insurance, the lower the premiums. Consider purchasing a plan for your puppy before they get too much older and possibly develop pre-existing conditions.

Note: No pet insurance company covers pre-existing conditions, but different companies may have different criteria and waiting periods for what they consider a pre-existing condition. If you’re unsure, ask. It’s better to know upfront.

†You should expect annual increases on your premiums from most pet insurance companies. These rates and increases will vary based on your location, changes in vet costs, and more.

What Are The Top Pet Insurance Companies In 2021?

Two dogs in grass (caption: Pet Insurance Reviews)We continually update our pet insurance reviews, so be sure to check in regularly for new information. We maintain a constant watch on this sector and audit our companies’ reviews on a regular (quarterly and annual) basis.

Why Trust Our Reviews?

Our reviews are conducted in an unbiased fashion by independent researchers who do rigorous analysis and gather consumer feedback from across the internet. Check out our review process for details.

Best Insurance For Cats & Other Animals

Is pet insurance worth it for cats? We think so! If you’re looking for cat insurance, you’re in luck. Our ratings for cat insurance are the same as dog insurance. Cat insurance works the same way as dog insurance and is excellent protection against massive emergency vet bills.

Our reviews can help you decide the best company to cover your feline. We encourage you to get a personalized quote from top companies to help you get specific pricing for your cat.

The nice thing about cat insurance is that you can typically cover your cat for around $30 (or less) per month.* Investing $30 per month toward cat insurance will ensure that your feline has protection in the event of an emergency, and you won’t have to think twice about whether you can afford the bill or not.

Looking for other pets? We cover those topics in our articles on insurance for exotic pets and horse insurance.

What Criteria Do I Need To Consider?

These are the most important factors to consider when choosing an insurance company. They’re also the criteria we use to evaluate the companies included in our reviews.

A.M. Best Ratings

Star iconHow stable is the company? Can I trust them to pay when an emergency happens? A.M. Best has reported on the insurance industry’s financial stability for over 100 years to give consumers insight into the financial strength and durability of insurers. They report on more than 16,000 insurance companies in over 100 countries.

An insurance company’s A.M. Best rating is similar to an individual’s credit score, except with a letter grade instead of a number. Ratings range from A++ (superior) to D (poor).

Better Business Bureau Ratings

Thumbs up icon

What does the public think of the company, and are there any complaints to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) about how the company operates? If so, how is the company handling these complaints?

Most pet insurance companies tend to score high with the BBB — a very promising sign for us as consumers.

Claim Repayment Reputation

Money exchange icon

Are claims easy to submit? Does the company pay claims promptly and cover all claims as outlined in the policy? What type of reimbursement method is available (e.g., check, direct deposit, Venmo, etc.)? Can the company pay the vet directly and eliminate the claim repayment process completely?

If these things matter to you, it’s worth it to find out ahead of time because they vary by company.

Contract Coverage

Checkmark icon

It’s important to thoroughly read through the fine print of every insurance contract before signing to ensure it covers everything you’re expecting.

When it comes to contracts, it’s critical that you understand coverage specifics, especially what’s not included (in the exclusions) before you sign on the dotted line. This way, there are no surprises when an urgent situation presents itself. It might take a little upfront work but will save you in the long-run.

Contact the pet insurance company if you have any questions of concerns about the contract. If they truly want your business, they’ll take the time to make sure you fully understand the contract before you sign it.

Customer Service

Chat bubble icon

Look for current customer feedback. How do customers feel about the way companies treat them when problems or questions arise. Are they able to reach someone quickly who can help? Are there lots of different communication methods available to contact a customer service representative? Is that person friendly and helpful?

Frequency Of Vet Visits

Bandage icon

If your pet is accident-prone or not the healthiest, you’ll want to make sure you find a policy that pays claims with an annual deductible vs a per-incident deductible. This means that if you have three separate accidents in one year, all claims will be applied to one annual deductible. After that’s met, the company will pay in full for all covered portions of the vet bill.

In contrast, per-incident policies restart the dollar count on the deductible for every new claim.


Calculator icon

How expensive is the policy on a monthly, annual, and lifetime basis? How does this monthly cost compare to that of other companies with comparable coverage? How much do annual premiums increase over the life of the pet? What do I expect to get back in the case of emergency treatment (reimbursement percentage amount), and how much am I willing to pay out-of-pocket before insurance comes into play (i.e., deductible)?

Are there any one-time fees or transaction fees? Additional fees can be the reason a company may be more expensive than another. Overall, you’ll want to determine if a particular pet insurance company is worth the cost for your family and if there is a more reasonably priced company with similar coverage available.

Plan Customization

Checklist icon

Pet insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s good to have options to adjust your reimbursement percentage, deductible, and annual payout limit to an amount you’re comfortable with, so the monthly premium fits within your budget. Some companies have set amounts, which can cause them to be out of your budget or not entirely meet your concerns.

2021 Pet Insurance Statistics & Facts

Below are some pet insurance trends that fascinate us, and we think they may surprise you too.

  1. 81% of U.S. pet parents consider their pets to be equal members of the family.4
  2. 75% of pet parents don’t have pet insurance and 39% of them have regretted it.8
  3. Americans spent $29.3 billion on pet health care in 2019 vs $18.3 billion in 2018, $17.1 billion in 2017, and $16 billion in 2016.1
  4. The average annual cost for a U.S. dog insurance policy (accident and illness) was $594.15 in 2020. This works out to an average monthly premium of $49.51.
    • The average annual cost for a U.S. cat insurance policy (accident and illness) was $341.81 in 2020. This works out to an average monthly premium of $28.48.2
  5. Dog insurance is about 76% more expensive, on average, than accident and illness policies for cats.
  6. Pet parents spend a yearly average on the following vet visits:3
    1. Routine vet visits: $257 for dogs, $182 for cats, $102 for birds, and $549 for horses
    2. Surgical vet visits: $474 for dogs, $245 for cats, and $45 for birds
    3. Emergency vet visits: $349 for dogs, $154 for cats, $107 for birds, and $471 for horses
    4. Sick vet visits: $204 for dogs, $244 for cats, and $138 for birds
  7. 3.1 million pets were insured in 2020 in the U.S. with an average annual growth rate of 23.2% for the previous 5 years (82.9% insured dogs vs 17.1% cats).2
  8. The majority of insured pets in the U.S. reside in California (19.2%), New York (8.7%), and Florida (5.8%).2
  9. The #1 issue reported by dog owners is stomach issues (which according to Healthy Paws can cost more than $29,000 over their lifetime), followed by skin conditions and pain.5
  10. The average cost of unexpected veterinary care for dogs and cats is between $800 and $1,500.6
  11. 36% of all pet parent age groups have been in debt for a pet, and 42% of millennial pet owners have been in pet-related debt.8
  12. Millennials are more likely to have pet insurance (34%), while 18% of Gen Xers and 9% of Baby Boomers have it.8
  13. If a $1,000 pet-related emergency were to come up tomorrow:
    1. 37% would use a credit card
    2. 28% would use cash
    3. 18% would use savings
    4. 13% would take out a personal loan8
  14. Cancer treatment for dogs can be between $6,000 and $10,000.7
  15. Every 6 seconds, a pet parent faces a veterinary bill of $3,000 or more.9

The video below shares more stats about pet insurance and why you should consider getting it for your dog.

Pet Insurance Stats For 2021 (Infographic)

Reasons To Get Pet Insurance Inofgraphic

Real Reimbursement Stories

Some of our readers who have pet insurance for their pups shared real reimbursement stories with us. You’ll find them in each provider’s individual review (here’s a list of all pet insurance companies we review) to get an idea of what’s covered (and what’s not) given specific conditions and circumstances.

Pet Insurance Terminology

Dog with glasses on (Caption: Pet Insurance Terminology)We know that insurance can be a confusing topic. Here’s a breakdown of any terms you might encounter, so you have a better understanding of the lingo.

  • Chemotherapy and Radiation Treatment Allowance: The schedule of benefits will also list the maximum reimbursement limit for chemotherapy and radiation treatment as they apply to specific conditions. These two amounts are generally split into two allowances, with the allowance for radiation being much higher than that for chemotherapy.
  • Code: The word “code” is listed on your schedule of benefits with most pet insurance companies. Underneath this term, you’ll see a number listed. This is the “code” the company uses to identify the diagnosis given to your pet.
  • Co-Payment: The co-pay is the amount of out-of-pocket expense you must cover per incident after your deductible. The co-payment is usually listed as a percentage. For example, 80/20 means that the insurance company will cover 80% of the remaining balance after you pay your deductible, and you must pay the remaining 20%.
  • Deductible: The deductible is the amount of money you must pay out-of-pocket before you’re eligible to receive reimbursement from your pet’s insurance plan. For most companies, this deductible must be paid annually rather than per incident. Be sure to understand your agreement, as the annual vs per-incident deductible is a big deal.
  • Elective Procedures: Elective surgeries and procedures can be scheduled in advance. Examples of elective procedures include spaying, neutering, declawing, dewclaw removal, ear cropping, and more.
  • Endorsements: Depending upon the insurance company you choose, you may have the opportunity to purchase an “endorsement.” Usually, this comes in the form of a cancer endorsement. This is like an add-on to your purchased insurance plan and extends the amount of coverage your pet receives for the specific illness listed – in this case, cancer.
  • Exclusions: Exclusions are items that are not covered by your policy. This can include pre-existing conditions, certain musculoskeletal disorders, congenital disorders, hereditary disorders, intentional injuries caused by you or your family, and elective or cosmetic procedures. Again, be sure to request a quote and review all exclusions in detail before signing up.
  • General Anesthesia Allowance: On the schedule of benefits, companies also outline the maximum limit for general anesthesia costs as they apply to specific conditions.
  • Incidents: The term incident refers to the condition that’s causing you to visit the veterinarian. Chronic conditions, such as skin allergies, are considered single incidents even if you make multiple vet visits for that condition.
  • Pre-Existing Conditions: Every major company in this category excludes pre-existing conditions from their coverage. This means that any ongoing condition your dog or cat was diagnosed with before being covered by their policy will not be covered in future claims. For example, if your dog has already been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, any costs associated with this condition will not be covered by most insurance.
  • Prescription Medication Coverage: Prescription drugs are often covered by pet insurance, but some may only offer it as an additional (optional) coverage for an extra fee. Read the policy you’re considering before you sign up to make sure it covers what you need. Medications for pre-existing conditions may be excluded, so be sure to ask about your pet’s specific needs, especially for chronic conditions.
  • Preventative/Routine/Wellness Care: Anything that pet parents and vets medically do that helps prevent disease. Examples of preventative care include vaccinations, heartworm preventative, flea control, annual vet checkups, and teeth cleanings.
  • Primary Diagnosis or Condition: This term appears on your schedule of benefits and refers to the financial limit that the company places on a primary diagnosis or condition, which includes injections, hospitalization, exams, surgery, and treatment.
  • Primary Diagnostic Testing Maximums: This term also appears on your schedule of benefits and refers to the cost limit the company places on primary diagnostic testing. This allowance is generally made per bodily system. In many cases, this benefit limit does not extend to specialized diagnostic tests.
  • Schedule of Benefits: The schedule of benefits is a document that the company provides to you when you sign up for your policy. This document outlines covered conditions under your plan and the monetary allowance for each diagnosis.
  • Secondary Diagnosis or Condition: If your pet receives treatment for a second condition resulting from the primary diagnosis, then it will be covered under the benefits listed as a secondary diagnosis or condition. This secondary condition will receive financial reimbursement in addition to the primary diagnosis or condition.
  • Secondary Insurance: Some may choose to purchase a second pet insurance policy to help cover the costs not covered by the primary insurer. It’s important to understand that the secondary insurer may not fully pay the outstanding amount from the primary insurance; coverage depends on your policy’s details.

Are There Situations For Which Pet Insurance Is Not Worth It?

That’s a personal decision you’ll have to make. Insurance can always be worth it given a particular set of circumstances. Keep in mind that the whole point of any insurance policy is to provide peace of mind for unexpected incidents that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

If you have an older dog, for example, your premium will be higher and, given how much time you have left with your pup, you may question whether obtaining pet insurance is worth it. But aging pets are also more susceptible to developing health concerns.

Ready To Get Pet Insurance?

It’s easy to become confused with all the insurance lingo, pricing plans, coverage, etc. That’s why we’re here to help. We’re pet insurance experts, so feel free to ask any questions below. If you’re ready, head on over to our pet insurance reviews to see the current rankings of our top recommendations and why we think they’re the best in the business.

Do you have enough information to choose the right pet insurance plan for you?

Sources: [1] American Pet Products, [2] NAPHIA, [3] Pet Life Today, [4] Psychology Today, [5] Healthy Paws, [6] CNBC, [7] PetCareRX, [8] LendingTree, [9] Petplan