4 min read
Should You Invest in Pet Health Insurance?
By Darlene Stott
Published: 04/11/2017, edited: 09/07/2022
Save on pet insurance for your pet
You don't have to choose between your pet and your wallet when it comes to expensive vet visits. Prepare ahead of time for unexpected vet bills by finding the pawfect pet insurance.
Your pets are more than just companion animals — they're your best friends and even members of your family. And when they get sick, you want to help them. But medical care for your pets can be expensive, often mimicking your own healthcare costs, which can leave you struggling to manage the costs of taking care of your pet.
With over 390 million pets being cared for by loving families across the U.S., it’s surprising that only 3.1 million of them were covered by a pet health insurance policy in 2020. That’s just 3% of pets!
You've probably taken your pet to the vet once or twice a year and flinched at the medical bill when it was handed to you. That couple hundred or so for a routine visit, or for a contracted cold or parasites, is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of major surgery for a joint problem, traumatic injury, or a heart valve defect. Yet, these conditions happen to our animals too, and can be even more financially stressful.
Pet health insurance is just like insurance for the human members of your family. It can be there when you need it most for your dogs and cats. But with all the money you may already spend on your pet, you may be left wondering if pet health insurance is really worth the cost.
Just like human health insurance, there are so many choices that can significantly alter the amount you pay. It can be daunting, especially when you're looking at another monthly expense.
To make this decision easier, here are a few factors to consider when deciding if pet health insurance is right for you and your pet.
Choosing the right pet health insurance
Just like any other kind of insurance, pet health insurance comes in many forms. Each pet health insurance company you get a quote from will have different options, but most will have some type of full-coverage plan, varying levels of partial-coverage plans, and often an accident coverage plan.
Some pet insurance companies offer a base plan and allow you to add on more layers of coverage. You normally get to choose your annual deductible and yearly reimbursement, which will change your monthly premium. To find the right plan for your pet, take your time comparing coverage, deductibles, claims, pricing, and reviews.
Not all plans are equal, however, regardless of the dollar amounts Pre-existing conditions are generally never covered under any plan, and only some plans will cover dental, accidents, behavioral issues, hereditary conditions, and even regular checkups.
Knowing how your pet's age affects your insurance rates
The age of your pet will drastically change your rates. Younger pets are much easier and cheaper to insure. Rates for middle-aged pets often double or triple in price, while elderly pet coverage can cost up to 5 times more than coverage for young dogs. Some pet insurance companies won't insure dogs older than 10 years.
There are more perks to insuring your pet while they're young, besides the cheaper rate. Since younger animals don't yet exhibit signs of illness or serious medical conditions, they'll be covered if such conditions occur after they're insured.
Another consideration is that some pet health insurance companies will keep your rates lower as your animal ages, so you may be paying less for your 10-year-old dog if you've had them insured for many years than you would if you just started to insure them.
Assessing your pet's risk
When making a decision about this monthly investment, you may want to consider your pet's health risks. While accidents can occur at any time without warning, there are conditions that can heighten your pet’s chances of illness or injury.
Purebred animals are at a greater risk of hereditary health conditions
Conditions such as hip dysplasia and patellar luxation could require treatments costing anywhere from $1,200 to $15,000. Working dogs are at a greater risk of joint problems and other injuries. Outdoor cats carry a higher risk of injury than the protected indoor feline. And taking your dog to the dog park can make them vulnerable to many types of infections, parasites, and viruses.
In this day and age, animals live longer lives, thanks to better pet foods and veterinary care. This means that they're more at risk for age-related issues, such as arthritis, dementia, and organ dysfunctions — all of which can carry quite the price tag when it comes to ongoing care.
You may be asking, “What if I have a mixed breed, healthy, indoor, young pet that doesn't have a high risk of developing these issues?” In this case, you may want to find pet health insurance that covers your pet's routine vet visits, or get accident coverage, just in case.
Considering your ability to pay for high vet bills out-of-pocket
Lastly, you need to decide if making that monthly payment is easier for your bank account than if you had to pay for a serious injury or medical problem all at once.
If you know your dog is at risk for a condition that could cost several thousands of dollars to treat, paying a small amount monthly may be easier financially. Pet health insurance can also offset annual veterinary expenses if you find a provider that covers routine checkups.
It can be a lot to think about, but ultimately, pet health insurance can reduce the risk of financial stress due to serious injury or illness. To find the best choice for your pet's health, consider your pet's needs and your financial abilities. If you're unsure or confused about something, don't be afraid to ask questions.
For quick access on how to find the best pet insurance for your pets, check out our pet insurance comparison tool on our Wellness page.