Vet bills can add up over the life of a pet between routine wellness visits, accidents, and illnesses that require surgeries or ongoing medical care. Chronic conditions can require pet owners to pay for medications and treatment. Are you financially prepared to care for your four-legged family member? Pet insurance works similarly to human health insurance, helping to defray the cost of care.
“Your pet is a part of the family,” says Kristen Lynch, executive director of the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA). “Owners want to be able to provide pets with the care they provide other family members.”
You’re probably wondering how much pet insurance costs. There are a number of factors that determine the price of pet health premiums, deductibles, limits, and exclusions. Our Best Pet Insurance Companies of 2022 rating reveals a range of pricing depending on the plan.
Haven Freitas / U.S. News & World Report
A sample pet insurance policy from one of the companies in our rating can range from about $11 to $70, depending on the animal’s species, breed, age, pre-existing conditions, and where you live.
The cost of coverage also depends on the level of care you choose, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). There are generally three tiers of coverage:
- Basic coverage: Covers accidental injuries and illnesses (excluding cancer).
- Comprehensive coverage: Adds office visits, diagnostic tests, X-rays, lab fees, and prescriptions to a basic plan.
- Pet wellness care: Reimburses for preventive care, including vaccinations.
Pet insurance works a lot like human health insurance with annual premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and caps, says Janet Ruiz, director of strategic communications at the III. Older animals generally cost more to cover than younger ones, and dogs cost more to insure than cats.
Among the top pet health insurance companies we ranked, Lemonade has the cheapest pet insurance for both cats and dogs. A sample monthly premium for cat insurance is just $11 while a sample monthly premium for a dog is $19.44, based on our data.
When considering how much it costs to buy pet insurance, an important question to ask is: How much might it cost in vet visits and pet medical bills over the lifetime of an animal if you choose to pay all costs out of pocket?
“You’re really protecting your financial and pet’s health, and you’re protecting your ability to make decisions during stressful, emotional times,” says Kristen Lynch of the NAPHIA. “With pet insurance, you are not having to make choices like, ‘Do I have the animal put down because I can’t afford the procedure?’”
Pet Insurance Cost Comparison
* Any rates listed are for illustrative purposes only. You should contact the insurance company or insurance agent directly for applicable quotes. * Monthly costs are for a 1-year-old female mixed-breed dog and a male domestic shorthair cat less than a year old, respectively, in excellent health residing in Texas, with a $500 annual deductible, $5,000 annual benefit limit, and 90% reimbursement rate. * Trupanion's deductible is per incident throughout lifetime, whereas other companies use an annual deductible. Trupanion also has no benefit limit. ** Healthy Paws has no benefit limit. *** Nationwide differs from our standard archetype by having a $250 deductible and $10,000 annual benefit limit.
How Much Is Pet Insurance for Dogs?
According to NAPHIA’s 2021 State of the Industry Report, the average pet health insurance premium for an accident and illness policy for dogs is $594.15 per year or $49.51 per month. Cost depends on the coverage you buy, with some plans providing lifetime limits and others setting annual limits per medical condition. “You could have a $2,500 limit per condition, and each year that amount refreshes,” Lynch explains.
Policies with riders and endorsements – add-ons like spaying and neutering – can cost more, as can pet insurance with a wellness benefit to cover routine veterinarian appointments for vaccinations or annual exams.
How Much Is Pet Insurance for Cats?
Cat owners pay an average of $341.81 per year or $28.48 per month, based on NAPHIA data for 2021. Cat insurance costs less because their care tends to be less expensive. For example, a typical surgical vet visit for a dog is $458 while a cat owner will pay $201. Dog owners will spend an estimated $242 per year on routine vet visits while yearly cat well-checks add up to an average of $178, according to the 2020-2021 National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Association.
The III explains that the cost of coverage is based on the age of your pet, their health and health history, and the level of care included in the insurance policy. Just like human health insurance, the lower the premiums, the higher your out-of-pocket expenses.
There are several types of insurance coverage:
- Annual deductible: Plans that pay for all covered services once you hit the deductible, like your own health insurance plan.
- Per-incident deductible: Similar to a co-pay, pre-incident deductibles require you to pay a certain amount for each claimed incident before coverage kicks in.
- Per-condition deductible: Once you meet the deductible for a condition such as hip dysplasia, that condition will be covered for the life of the pet. For each new condition, you must pay the deductible before coverage kicks in.
For pet owners who have an established vet or know where they’ll take their animal for care, Ruiz suggests finding out the cost of treatments and determining if the pet insurance will cover the care and provider. “If you know [what] the treatment costs are [on] average, do you want to get a percentage back, or do you want to know how much your expenses will be capped for each condition,” she says.
Pre-existing conditions can be a big factor in whether your pet insurance will cost more per month or have limits that require you to pay out-of-pocket expenses for care. Some insurers might not cover breeds that are prone to hereditary conditions like hip dysplasia, she notes.
When determining if you should purchase pet insurance, first consider how the pet insurance deductible works and whether certain claims will be excluded. Then, decide which extra services are important to you and don’t forget about accident coverage.
“People think about pet insurance for illnesses like cancer, but there are accidents and you might want them to be covered,” Ruiz says. “People take their pets with them on vacations and car rides, so they are exposed to all of the same types of accidents that family members are exposed to.”
Are There Discounts for Pet Insurance?
As for discounts on pet insurance, some plans we ranked offer discounts on policies for service dogs and discounts of up to 10% if you insure more than one pet. In addition, some companies offer discounts for veterans and active members of the military.
There are also some membership-based services that provide veterinary discount plans, according to III. While not insurance policies, owners can pay into these plans and earn reduced rates for vet visits, procedures, and pet products. III notes that these types of discount health plans are not regulated like pet health insurance plans.
Customizable Factors for Pet Insurance Pricing
New Account Fee
|Spot »||Annual||$100.00, $250.00, $500.00, $750.00, $1,000.00||70%, 80%, 90%||$2.00||N/A|
|Lemonade »||Annual||$100.00, $250.00, $500.00||70%, 80%, 90%||$1.00||N/A|
|Trupanion »||Lifetime Incident||$0.00 - $1,000.00||90%||N/A||$35.00|
|Embrace »||Annual||$200.00, $300.00, $500.00, $750.00, $1,000.00||70%, 80%, 90%||$1.00||$25.00|
|Healthy Paws »||Annual||$100.00, $250.00, $500.00||70%, 80%, 90%||N/A||$25.00**|
* Billing fee shows the amount of transaction fee that companies charge pet owners per payment. It can be reduced or waived if paid annually, depending on the company ** Residents of 15 states are not subject to the one-time administrative fee: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, West Virginia *** PetFirst offer $10 off if the new customer purchased their product from their website, bringing the one-time fee to $2.
Most pet insurance does not cover wellness and preventive vet check-ups. However, they can cover accidents, illnesses, and injuries, and vet visits related to covered issues. Some pet plans we rated offer riders for wellness visits, but this is generally not the norm for pet insurance companies in our rating.
Based on the companies in our rating, typical coverages include the following:
- Hospitalization and surgery
- Emergency visits
- Cancer treatments
- Hereditary and congenital conditions
- Breed-specific conditions
- Diagnosis tests and prescriptions
- Hip dysplasia
- Dental illness and disease (excludes cleaning)
Most of the time pet insurance doesn’t cover virtual pet visits, microchipping, end-of-life care, or stem cell therapy.
Lynch suggests reviewing pet insurance sample plans before committing to a policy. “Most policies clearly state what is covered and make an effort to write in plain language so people can understand it," she says. If you're still confused after reading through a sample plan, call the company's customer service department.
Do Pet Insurance Companies Offer Discounts?
Pet insurance companies offer a variety of discounts, such as discounts for insuring multiple pets or service dogs. There are also some discounts available for veterans and active-duty military members.
Pet Insurance Discount Comparison
* A 5% affiliation discount may apply to individuals who belong to select military, law enforcement, and service animal training organizations that have a relationship with Nationwide. ** A discount is offered to pet owners who work at animal-care facilities such as shelters.
Do All Breeds Cost the Same to Insure?
All breeds do not cost the same to insure. Some cost more than others because of hereditary conditions, such as hip dysplasia, diabetes, or cruciate ligament injuries. Mixed-breed pets are less prone to genetic conditions and cost less to insure than purebreds.
Can You Get Pet Insurance for Birds, Reptiles, or Other Exotic Pets?
You can get pet insurance for birds, reptiles, and other exotic pets. Nationwide is the only company in our Best Pet Insurance Companies of 2022 rating to offer this coverage. All other plans in our rating are for cats and dogs.
Is Pet Insurance More Expensive for Cats or for Dogs?
Pet insurance is more expensive for dogs than cats. This is because the average cost of surgeries, vet visits, and medical care for dogs is higher. For example, a typical surgical vet visit for a dog is $458 while a cat owner will pay $201, according to the 2020-2021 National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Association.
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