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- Pet insurance can come in handy when your pet has an unexpected medical problem.
- Standard pet insurance only covers accidents and illness – no basic preventative care like routine check-ups.
- Pet insurance is cheapest when you buy it when your pet is young and healthy.
Pet ownership costs can add up quickly. If you own a dog or cat, their health and wellness costs can be $1,100 to $1,400 or more per year. Beyond these base costs, unexpected vet bills can spiral out of control.
One way to cover these costs is with pet liability insurance. Here’s what a standard policy covers and how to decide if the monthly fee is worth it.
For and against
What is pet insurance?
Pet insurance is a financial agreement between a pet owner and an insurance company. You make monthly premium payments and the insurance company covers certain vet bills. Standard pet insurance does not cover routine check-ups and health check-ups.
Depending on the policy, you may have to pay a deductible and/or co-payment before the insurance applies. Also, there are often policy limits on how much the insurance company pays in total.
You will usually be expected to prepay the vet bill and send a copy of the bill to the insurance company for reimbursement. Some policies offer full reimbursement of covered medical expenses, while others cover a percentage of the bill or a specific dollar amount for specific conditions or procedures. Most set an annual or lifetime limit.
How much does pet insurance cost?
As with other types of insurance, companies set pet insurance premiums based on the unique risk factors associated with your pet. On average, dog owners tend to pay more than cat owners. And broader coverage translates into a more expensive policy.
“Pet insurance is very similar to human health insurance in that different policies help people find pet sitters and dog walkers for different things based on cost, perceived risk, pre-existing conditions, etc.
Here’s a look at the average monthly pet insurance cost in 2021, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association.
The cost of common animal care procedures
Pet grooming costs vary widely based on where you live and vet costs in your area. Here are some cost estimates for common vet bills:
- spay or neuter: This one-time procedure can cost anywhere from $50 to $500 for dogs and $100 to $400 for cats.
- dental problems: Keeping your puppy or kitten’s teeth clean can cost anywhere from $300 to $500 a year.
- Foreign body in the stomach: The average cost of removing a foreign object is about $3,200 for dogs and $3,000 for cats.
- Broken Bone: The cost for dogs and cats is about the same at $2,300.
Of course, the costs you face will vary depending on your pet. But chances are you’ll encounter more than one of these major expenses over the course of your pet’s life.
Is pet insurance worth it?
Whether pet insurance is worth it or not depends on your individual situation. Here are a few reasons to buy a policy and a few reasons to skip it.
“Pet insurance can be worthwhile, but it often isn’t,” says Jay Zigmont, a CFP® expert and founder of Childfree Wealth. “To qualify for pet insurance, your pet must be healthy (and usually very young). If your vet has already identified a problem, the insurance likely won’t cover it.”
Before you take out pet insurance, take a close look at your financial situation. If you have a robust emergency fund, you can draw on these funds to cover pet-related emergencies. But if you don’t have a safety net, the financial security that pet insurance provides can be life-changing during a vet visit.
“No one should have to make life-and-death decisions based on cost,” says Richter. “I often tell pet owners that insurance is the only gamble in life you hope to lose. However, when a family member (human or animal) has a serious medical problem, there is no better feeling than knowing you are covered.”
When you decide pet insurance is right for you, it’s important to act quickly. Since most insurance companies don’t cover pre-existing conditions, it’s best to get a policy while your four-legged friend is young and healthy.