Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Key Points

  • Pet insurance is a great way to cover unexpected and potentially costly veterinary bills.

  • Most companies offer monthly or yearly policies, which are affordable or more costly depending on the type of pet you own, their age, health history, and breed.

  • Before choosing a plan, get acquainted with as many pet insurance terms as possible, some of the most important ones being reimbursement rate, deductible, and annual or per-incident coverage limits.

  • Read the fine print of your policy to ensure that as many health conditions as possible are covered. Most plans cover accidents and sudden illnesses, but with wellness add-ons, you should also be able to cover your pet for routine care.

  • Prevention is worth a pound of cure, so try to keep your pet as healthy as possible in the long run so that you don't have to exceed your annual coverage or go through the pain of having them hospitalized.

Regarding your pet, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Health problems are a frequent occurrence in the lifespan of most dogs, and unfortunately, treatments are never cheap. Though buying insurance for your pet may be costly, there are some instances in which it might just be worth it.

Pet Insurance Options

There are numerous pet insurance plans to consider depending on your pet's medical history, age, size, breed, and various other factors. Embrace, Nationwide, Trupanion, and Healthy Paws are the four most popular pet insurance providers. All of these companies have a large assortment of plans to fit the needs of different kinds of pets.

Most insurance companies allow you to customize your plan depending on your needs. Still, you should set up an appointment for a call to be on the safe side of things — before getting your policy.

What Makes Pet Insurance Different?

Even if you have experience choosing health insurance plans, a few things set pet insurance apart from most other types of plans. First, most pet insurance plans require you to pay your veterinarian bills and then submit them for reimbursement after the fact.

Some firms began the switch to covering payments without having to ask for reimbursement, and other providers might follow their lead. Additionally, most policies don't cover pre-existing conditions or breed-specific issues. If they do, your coverage costs more.

The cost of this service depends on the type of pet you own, along with other factors such as age, breed, whether they're spayed or neutered, general health history, and more. Insurance for cats is more affordable than insurance for dogs.

The best way to look at pet insurance is to consider it a safety net if something goes wrong or your pet suffers from an unexpected illness. For this reason, most providers cover accidents, their associated risks, and severe allergies that aren't diagnosed before starting your policy.

Lab dog at the vet with a cast on his leg

Pet Insurance Terminology

When it comes to pet insurance, you make your payments depending on the contract you've signed. This means that you have to pay a monthly cost, which is the model that most people tend to choose, or the insurance for the whole year. There's a limit to every yearly coverage, and if you go beyond that, all of your future veterinary bills are covered by you.

Before you select a provider, it's a good idea to become used to several standard terms in animal and life insurance for people. Besides the most important ones, you should find out what terms such as actuary, adverse selection, claim, coinsurance, eligible conditions, exclusions, lifetime limit, and premium mean.


The deductible is critical to be informed about since it's the amount you must pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in. In most cases, you must cover the vet bills yourself, and the pet insurance company reimburses you later.

Research how long you should wait before the firm returns your money. For some providers, this period is up to fourteen days, while others may take their time examining the claim so that it might happen after a few months. Closely read your policy to understand the value of your deductible per incident or year.

Annual Coverage Limit

This feature depends on your dog's health and age, with some companies being able to offer unlimited annual coverage limits for puppies and kittens, for example, but refusing to do the same for geriatric patients.

There's a maximum sum you should expect to be reimbursed over 12 months, varying largely from one insurance provider to the next. It also depends on the value of your insurance per se. If you prefer having a better policy so that your annual coverage limit is higher, you should expect to pay more monthly.

Reimbursement Rate

The reimbursement rate is the amount that you should expect your pet insurance company to cover in the event of an accident or unexpected illness. It all depends on your plan and what you're paying monthly or yearly. Most insurance firms offer reimbursement rates ranging from 70 percent to 90 percent.

Still, a few exceptions may cover the whole cost of the veterinary bill. While considering the reimbursement rate, you should also look at the per-incident limit, not just the annual coverage these providers offer. If your pet develops a sudden condition, your pet insurance might be able to cover only up to a certain amount. Therefore, you must cover the rest if your veterinary bill is higher.

The Price of Veterinary Care

The expense of caring for a pet is variable depending on a wide range of aspects. However, most clinics have packages for first-time pet owners, which help you to afford essential care such as vaccines. 

Dr. Louis Kwantes, an Alberta-based veterinarian, states, "We have a package price at our clinic, which includes pre-examination, IV fluids, blood work, and pain control." This service is available mainly across North America but also depends on the animal hospital you contact for preventive or therapeutic care.

Routine checkups are usually affordable. Spaying and neutering cost a little more, depending on the pet type and gender. Vaccines are more affordable than detailed testing, such as allergy, heartworm, and geriatric screening.

Unexpected vet costs are the most expensive, but unless you have an emergency fund of at least several thousand dollars, you should consider getting pet insurance. For example, an extended hospitalization or surgery can get really expensive.

Coverage Details

Reading the fine print of any policy you're considering is the best advice you should act upon. Do as much research as possible before choosing a pet insurance company. If the service has received bad reviews, especially regarding reimbursements, you're better off with a different provider. Remember that exclusions are specified in your contract, so don't expect everything to be covered just because you pay your insurance bills on time every month.

The most common things pet insurance companies don't cover are wellness, routine vet visits, and pre-existing conditions. If your dog is born with a genetically transmitted disease, you shouldn't expect it to be covered, so it makes sense to have money put aside to treat this condition.

Chronic illnesses such as diabetes or autoimmune diseases fall under the same category. When choosing a plan, be as honest as possible, as you risk failing to be reimbursed if the pet insurance company finds out that you've lied in your application.

There are multiple pet insurance types you should look into when shopping. While most pet insurance benefits cover only accidents and sudden illnesses, there are so-called wellness add-ons that you can pay for and offer coverage for routine care, wellness exams, vaccines, and treatment or tests for diseases, including hospitalizations.

Shar Pei dog getting bandage after injury on his leg by a vet

When It Makes Sense To Have Your Pet Insured

Everyone deserves a pet to keep them company, regardless of their financial situation. Unfortunately, that isn't a reality since many individuals cannot afford to care for an animal, whether a giant dog breed or a hamster. Ideally, you have considered the pros and cons before adopting your pet, mainly what you should expect your veterinary bill to look like.

The first situation where it makes complete sense to use pet insurance is if you don't have a large emergency fund. Even before the adoption process is complete, you should have set aside some money for your pet in case something happens, whether that be an accident or routine vet care.

Suppose your pet is healthy and somewhat young. In that case, it also makes sense for you to choose an insurance company to cover these expenses and stick to them for as long as possible. Of course, the plan's cost increases as your pet ages, but being with the same provider for years gives the firm a sense of security, especially if you've always made your payments on time.

Pet Insurance Alternatives

The two alternatives you have at your disposal if you can't afford pet insurance right now or don't want to get a policy for any other reason are self-funding and financial assistance. Self-funding is possible if you're doing very well and your budget allows you to cover potentially expensive veterinary bills.

You can also put your money into a high-yielding savings account to help you with your vet expenses. If you set aside just $30 a month, the chances of you saving enough to cover a very costly vet bill within a year are pretty low.

The other option is financial assistance. Vets offer some services and discounts based on every pet owner's situation. Still, they also run a business, so they have to account for expenses related to management, power, consumables, medications, and the workers in a clinic.

Therefore, while you might be tempted to believe that your vet will help you out if your pet comes down with a sudden illness, this isn't the case in most situations. They may try to lower the total cost of the procedures, but they cannot treat your pet for free.

To circumvent this potential issue, look for a low-budget clinic right after you've adopted your pet or at least one that works with a payment plan so that you don't risk going into debt if something happens. If you live near a veterinary college, getting your pet treated in one of its clinics might be cheaper — as the treatment could be a case study for the students.

If everything else fails and you must pay your vet bill, a crowdfunding campaign is another option. Some charitable organizations are capable of offering assistance, albeit minimal.

Other Ways To Keep Your Pet Healthy on a Budget

While some health problems are unavoidable, many pet owners take precautions to avoid future illnesses, injuries, and expenses. Consider spaying or neutering your pet, which can prevent dozens of future complications, including cancer. Contact nearby shelters and ASPCA chapters for low-cost or free procedures for their services and recommendations.

Joint disease affects at least 20 percent of dogs at some point in their lifetime, which can lead to expensive treatments and surgeries in severe cases. A joint support supplement is a preventative measure against osteoarthritis and a source of pain and inflammation relief.

Ensure your pup gets all the vitamins and nutrients needed to support an active lifestyle. Daily multivitamins for dogs formulated by veterinarians ensure that your pet is well-nourished through all stages of development.

When vaccinating your pup, ask your vet which vaccines might not be necessary. Try to avoid fleas and ticks at all costs. These parasites spread diseases that range from mildly irritating to deadly, and there are many affordable ways to keep infestations at bay before they can do any long-term damage.

Try a skin and coat supplement like this one that defends against pests and helps relieve the pain and itchiness related to allergies. Pet owners shouldn't worry about paying huge medical bills to keep their pups happy and healthy. Always remember to do your research across the major pet insurance providers before making final decisions. And take the necessary precautions to make sure that your pet doesn't have to suffer through an avoidable illness or injury.

Knowledge Is Power

Take the time to compare as many pet insurance plans and providers as possible. Not only does this allow you to select the best option for your current situation, but it also ensures that you won't be forced to foot the entire veterinary bill yourself if something happens. Always put your vet expenses on your credit card so that when the pet insurance company reimburses you, you build a good credit score and get cash back to make an emergency fund.

Although pet insurance alternatives exist, they're often unreliable. Being a pet owner comes with plenty of benefits, but the financial commitment is a reality that every responsible pet guardian should account for. Pet insurance helps you handle unexpected costs, but you should become as informed as possible before signing a contract.

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