Whether you already have a furry friend or are looking to expand your family, you may be weighing the costs of pet insurance. Pet insurance is similar to our health insurance in requiring deductibles and monthly premiums but doesn’t typically cover pre-existing conditions. Prices vary depending on the type of plan, animal species, breed, and age when estimating the monthly expenditure on your loved one.
While shopping for coverage for your pets, also remember to prioritize your own needs. Mira provides affordable health coverage for as little as $45 per month, so you don’t have to choose between paying for your care or forgoing your furry friend’s needs. While you shop for your pet, consider your preventative health screening or prescription needs. Mira is here to help.
How Much Pet Insurance Costs
The cost of pet health insurance is dependent on species, breed, age, and even type of insurance policy. Two types of pet insurance policies typically exist, accident and illness protection or accident-only protection. You will also likely have to meet an annual deductible before your coverage kicks in, and some policies do not have maximum out-of-pocket spending. Below is a breakdown of the average pet insurance premiums for cats and dogs in 2020.
|Animal||Accident and Illness||Accident Only|
Dr. Linda Simon provides an important consideration when weighing potential costs. She says, “A broken leg in a young dog can cost up to $5,000 to repair, while the surgery to remove a foreign body (such as a sock or bone) may set you back $3,000-$4,000. If this is not a cost that you can cover out of pocket, you need to make sure you have pet insurance. Shop around as different companies will offer different plans, and costs vary widely. Generally, you get what you pay for.”
Pet Insurance Options
The initial year of pet ownership can be expensive, buying new toys, beds, food, and other home accommodations in addition to initial exams. If you are looking to adopt, check with your adoption agency to see if they have any special deals with local veterinary clinics or insurance agencies. Some adoption agencies provide coverage for initial vaccines, wellness exams, and spaying/neutering to encourage pet owners to engage in preventative care. They may even cover the cost of pet insurance for the first 30 days of your ownership, in some cases.
According to NAPHIA, the North American pet insurance industry is comprised of about 20 companies. Here is a breakdown of average monthly costs by common pet health insurance companies, ranked by lowest to highest sample monthly costs for dogs. While some may appear cheaper, this does not outline the services and conditions covered under their plans.
|Company||Dogs - Sample Monthly Costs||Cats - Sample Monthly Costs|
|PetFirst Pet Insurance||$23.19||$12.35|
|Embrace Pet Insurance||$24.16||$11.65|
Source: US News
Dr. Simon suggests choosing a ‘lifetime’ policy. In other words, if your dog develops an ongoing medical issue, all costs are covered for the duration of its life. Assess what limit is offered; this is the maximum amount the company will pay for any condition. A limitation of $2,000 is unlikely to get you far.
To put it into perspective, Dr. Simon says long-term health issues such as hormonal disorders like Cushing’s disease will cost several hundreds of dollars at each check-up. This is thanks to the blood tests and prescription re-fills that don’t come cheap. Similarly, treating joint diseases such as arthritis will cost thousands over the year as we pay for the medicine, check-ups, hydrotherapy, and other expenses involved in its management.
Services Pet Insurance Covers
According to Dr. Gary Richter, Veterinary Health Expert with Rover, pet insurance is a lot like human health insurance. Different policies will cover things based on cost, presumed risks, pre-existing conditions, etc. Most insurance policies cover illness and injury and not preventative care. There are exceptions to this, but that is the trend. He would always recommend people get insurance for their pet as soon as possible because you never know when something might happen. Signing up earlier prevents a pre-existing condition from popping up and limiting coverage.
Richter notes that insurance companies have begun expanding their coverage options to promote competition. Many policies now frequently include "alternative" therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicine, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, etc. They will generally cover most treatment as long as a veterinarian recommends it.
How Costs Differ When It Comes to Pet Insurance
Dr. Stacy Choczynski Johnson, DVM for Pumpkin Pet Insurance, says, “pet parents tend to authorize more care allowing for more comprehensive diagnostics and therapeutics for their pets. A 2021 Zoetis Outcomes Research study showed that the annual spend at the veterinary clinic for pets with specific insurance had a 72 percent higher calculated annual spend than pets without insurance. This study is based on Pumpkin Pet Insurance, where clients are reimbursed at 90 percent for covered conditions after their annual deductible. I presume that pet parents are open to this annual spend because their out-of-pocket spend is relatively low.
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Do Pets Need Pet Insurance
According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), over 3.45 million pets were insured by the end of 2020, with an average annual growth rate of 23.4 percent over the past five years. During another 2019-2020 survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), nearly 85 million families own at least one pet. That number has grown to over 90.5 million in 2022 according to Rainwalk Pet Insurance. In other words, only about 4 percent of household pets are insured - assuming each family has one pet.
Like your health insurance, you assume there is a potential future risk of severe ailment or injury. The same goes for your pets, and especially for very young or more elderly animals. Animals tend to get into and eat small items or those that can become easily lodged in their airways or digestive tract. Your animal may also be very high-energy and accident-prone. Even animals can tear a ligament or break a bone. Your pet’s environment and behaviors can be good indicators of whether you should acquire a health insurance policy.
Breeds such as the German Shepherd, French Bulldog, and English Bulldog are generally less healthy than their peers. These pedigrees are more likely to suffer from ongoing medical issues such as arthritis and skin disease, the cost of which can mount over the years, says Dr. Linda Simon, veterinary surgeon, and consultant at FiveBarks. Certain breeds of cats and other animals also have more illness-prone species. Consult with your veterinarian about the coverage they suggest for your breed.
When to Get Pet Insurance
Several veterinary doctors provided their take on forgoing health insurance. Doctor Michelle Burch, DVM from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, does not recommend any animals forgoing pet insurance currently unless you have a few thousand dollars in a saving account for your pet. Although, terminally ill patients and pets that are undergoing hospice care might consider forgoing insurance. Consumers may not see the value in their policies if their pet is already very sick, suggests Dr. Stacy Choczynski Johnson, DVM for Pumpkin Pet Insurance.
Users Share Their Experience with Pet Insurance
We spoke with reader Lori Marsh about her experience as an uninsured pet owner. Lori has been in the pet industry for over 20 years as a Pet Industry Copywriter. Lori shares her knowledge to shed light on insurance benefits to assist others mulling over whether to invest in the coverage.
“I've had my (first) cat for 11 years now, and she's always been healthy. She's moved across the country a few times and never had a single problem. Until one day when things got bad. In her old age, I noticed some spotting when she was lying down. I didn't think too hard about it because money was tight, and I didn't want to go to the vet just to be told it was her age.
If I had insurance, I would have gone.
A few months pass, and once in a while, I would catch a tiny spot or two. Nothing too consistent. I still just figured old age, and maybe it was cat menopause. I woke up one morning to take my partner to a Dr. appointment and went to move my kitty. There was a puddle of blood under her rump this time. We rushed her to the vet. It was the most terrifying thing in my life, and my heart stopped because I now expected the worst.
She had to have serious surgery for a condition that none of the vets at the office had ever seen a case like her's. She was lucky, and I was lucky. Everything turned out okay in the end, except for when the bill came. When we rushed her to the vet, I called my mom and was lucky enough for her help in covering the bill. If I had pet insurance, I genuinely believe this entire story would have been different. It would have taken a lot of pressure off me and allowed me to better care for my cat.
While it might sound like a waste of money month to month, it really isn't. It's an investment in your pet's health, not a cost.”
While having pet insurance may save you money in some instances, there could be times when you are paying a monthly premium in addition to out-of-pocket spending for treatments your insurance provider doesn’t cover.
For example, if you adopt an animal and bring it to the vet before acquiring insurance and find an abnormality such as ringworm, you may end up with a heavy bill. Certain fungi or worms common in young or stray animals may require you to pay hundreds of dollars for testing, treatment, home sanitation, and follow-up visits. Despite this condition having already existed before adoption, this condition existed before acquiring insurance, in which case, your insurance provider likely won’t cover the expense.
If you plan to adopt a new pet, talk with the adoption agency or breeder about the services they cover before adoption. Enrolling in an insurance policy when you first pick up your pet couldn’t hurt when ensuring your new animal is vaccinated and passes baseline tests. Understand your chosen company’s cancellation policy if their plan does not end up being a suitable coverage option, or you feel better off without it. You should also consult with your local veterinarian about their recommendations.
Dr. Richter says, “pet insurance is 100% worth the cost because having pet insurance allows pet owners to make medical decisions based on the health and welfare of their pet rather than what they can afford. No one should have to make life or death decisions based on cost. I often tell pet owners that insurance is the one gamble in life you hope to lose. If a family member (human or animal) has a major medical issue, however, there is no greater feeling than knowing you are "covered.”
Dr. Linda Simon of FiveBarks puts into perspective the potential harsh realities you may face otherwise. She says, “when an owner cannot afford treatment and does not have insurance, difficulties lie ahead. Some vets offer payment plans or allow payment on credit, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Sadly, many dogs are denied treatment and even humanely euthanized when an owner cannot afford their treatment. This can be a heartbreaking decision to make, but it is preferable overseeing an animal suffer if treatment is not affordable.”
Another word of advice from Richter is, “pet owners do need to remember that insurance companies are for-profit businesses, and they do have to make money. People shopping for pet insurance should do their due diligence when educating themselves about coverage limits, deductibles, exclusions, etc. As with all insurance, it is critical to know what you are getting and what you are not getting when you sign up.”
Pet Health Insurance Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
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Does pet health insurance cover exotic breeds or farm animals?
Exotic pets include birds, rodents, reptiles, and other breeds. Very few companies offer exotic pet health insurance, and Nationwide is said to be one of them. Livestock insurance typically covers farm animals and even herds. Nationwide, USDA and American Family Insurance are just a few of the many companies that provide livestock and farm animal insurance.
What are the top-rated pet health insurance companies?
For the latest ranking, Forbes recently published “The Best Pet Insurance Companies of July 2021.” The companies listed align with those in the cost breakdown earlier on.
What are other ways to ensure a healthy lifestyle for my pet, aside from insurance?
Understand what constitutes a “healthy” weight for your pet by speaking with your veterinarian. This way, you can monitor at home and stay mindful of potentially harmful ingredients in your pet’s food. In addition, it is essential to provide a space for adequate exercise relative to the size and activity level of your pet. It is also always a good idea to incorporate an annual wellness exam into your routine to ensure your pet remains parasite-free and up-to-date on vaccinations.
There may be circumstances in which you feel like you don’t need to pay for pet insurance. Perhaps your animal has been in good health for several years, with minimal medical intervention. While acquiring a plan is ultimately your decision, consider whether you would be able to afford a surprise surgery and the follow-up care out-of-pocket. You may find pet health insurance to be an added peace of mind.
While you shop for coverage for your pet, consider Mira for yourself! Mira provides affordable health coverage for doctor and urgent care visits, preventative lab screenings, discounted prescriptions, and so much more! Try Mira today.
Ashley Brooks works in Healthcare Consulting and graduates with her MPH in September of 2022 from George Washington University, but graduated with her B.S. in Health Science from James Madison University in 2019. Ashley has been with Mira since June of 2021 and shares the passion for creating affordable healthcare coverage for all!