Pet Insurance Worth? Weighing the Pros and Cons for Your Pet

Pet insurance is a type of insurance policy that helps pet owners cover the costs of veterinary care for their dogs, cats, birds, and other pets. It works similarly to health insurance for humans. Pet insurance plans cover all or a portion of your pet’s medical treatments, medications, surgeries, hospital stays, and more.

The concept of pet insurance first emerged in the 1980s in Sweden when the top insurer, Folksam, began offering plans to pets. The idea then spread to the UK in the late 1980s. In North America, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) launched the first pet insurance policy in the US in 1982.

Pet insurance policies work by having pet owners pay a monthly premium. Then, if your pet gets sick or injured, you submit a claim to be reimbursed for vet expenses. Policies have deductibles, copays, annual or lifetime coverage limits, exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and other standard components of insurance plans. Some insurers cover only accidents and illnesses, while others include preventive care and wellness coverage.

The main benefits of pet insurance are protecting yourself from large unexpected vet bills, covering costly procedures and surgeries your pet may need, and providing peace of mind. However, it can be tricky to choose the right policy with so many providers, options, exclusions, and factors impacting pricing. We’ll explore the key considerations around pet insurance plans next.

Common Types of Pet Insurance

There are three main types of pet insurance to choose from:

Accident Only

Accident-only pet insurance is the most affordable option. It covers veterinary treatment due to injuries from accidents, such as:

  • Broken bones
  • Bite wounds
  • Ingestion of foreign objects
  • Hit by car

Accident policies generally do not cover illnesses, hereditary conditions, dental disease, or preventative care. They provide basic coverage for unexpected emergencies resulting from an accident.

Accident and Illness

Accident and illness pet insurance covers both accidental injuries and common illnesses, such as:

  • Ear infections
  • Allergies
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Upset stomach
  • Skin problems

This type of policy provides more extensive coverage but comes at a higher monthly premium. There is usually a waiting period of 10-30 days before illness coverage begins. Pre-existing conditions are also often excluded.


Comprehensive pet insurance provides the most complete coverage. It includes:

  • Accidental injuries
  • Common illnesses
  • Hereditary and congenital conditions
  • Cancer
  • Dental disease
  • Behavioral issues
  • Prescription medications
  • And more

Comprehensive plans reimburse a larger percentage of the cost of care. Some policies have no upper annual or lifetime limits. This is the most expensive type of pet insurance but provides peace of mind for pet owners.

Benefits of Pet Insurance

Pet insurance can provide pet owners with valuable protection against unexpected veterinary costs. Here are some of the key benefits of having pet insurance:

Covers Unexpected Vet Costs

One of the main advantages of pet insurance is that it can cover the costs of unplanned vet visits and procedures. This includes expenses like emergency surgeries, hospitalization, x-rays, cancer treatment, and other critical care. For example, an emergency surgery could easily cost $5,000 or more. Having insurance removes the financial barrier of obtaining urgent veterinary care.

Provides Peace of Mind

Pet insurance gives owners peace of mind knowing they have financial assistance for any medical issues their pet may encounter. This takes away the stress and worry of coming up with large sums of money on short notice to pay for care. Owners don’t have to make difficult decisions about treatment based on cost.

Allows for Better Care Options

Insured pets often receive more advanced treatment options and higher quality of care. Some pet owners may even opt for procedures like MRIs, CT scans, orthopedic surgery, and stem cell therapy which they couldn’t otherwise afford. Having coverage means pet parents can make healthcare decisions based on their pet’s needs rather than budget constraints.

Overall, pet insurance delivers essential financial protection that allows pet owners to access quality veterinary care when it’s urgently needed. The insurance coverage gives peace of mind and opens up better treatment options.

Factors that Affect Cost

The cost of pet insurance can vary significantly depending on several key factors:

  • Type of policy – Policies that provide more comprehensive coverage or lower deductibles/co-pays will cost more. Basic accident-only plans are cheaper than major medical plans.

  • Age of pet – Premiums are lower for younger pets and increase as they get older, especially after age 7-10 when chronic conditions become more likely. Getting coverage when pets are young helps lock in lower rates.

  • Breed – Some breeds are predisposed to certain genetic conditions and may cost more to insure. Common examples include English Bulldogs, Great Danes, and Bernese Mountain Dogs. Hybrid designer breeds can also sometimes cost more.

  • Location – Insurance rates are partially determined by the typical cost of vet care in your geographic area. Coverage will be more expensive in regions with higher cost-of-living and vet charges. Urban areas also tend to have higher premiums than rural.

Other minor factors like a pet’s gender or if they are spayed/neutered can also impact pricing. But the four main factors above tend to have the biggest influence on the cost of pet insurance premiums for an individual pet. It pays to shop around and compare quotes from multiple providers.

How to Choose a Provider

When selecting a pet insurance provider, do your research to find the best option for you and your pet’s needs. Here are some tips:

Read Reviews

  • Check pet insurance review sites to see what other customers are saying. Look for overall ratings and compare providers based on coverage options, claims processing, and customer service.

  • Read reviews on the provider’s website as well. Keep in mind they will likely showcase more positive testimonials, but this can still offer insight into customer experiences.

Check Coverage Details

  • Look at the fine print to understand exactly what is and isn’t covered. Make sure the policy matches your needs in terms of reimbursement percentage, annual limits, deductibles, and exclusions.

  • Pay particular attention to non-reimbursable items like exams, preventative care, pre-existing conditions, and hereditary conditions. These vary widely between providers.

Look for Well-Established Providers

  • Choosing a pet insurance company that has been around for a while can offer more security. They are more likely to continue operations long-term.

  • Ask about their financial stability. Organizations with AM Best ratings of “A” or higher are considered financially sound.

Consider Add-Ons

  • Many providers offer supplemental coverage for additional fees, like emergency boarding, lost pet advertising, reward programs, and wellness plans. Decide if these extra features are worth it.

  • Make sure to factor in the costs of add-ons as you compare monthly premiums between providers.

Making a Claim

The process for claiming pet insurance is relatively straightforward. Here’s an overview of what’s typically involved:

  • Gather the required documentation. This usually includes the itemized bill from your vet, medical records related to the claim, and a completed claim form. Some providers may require additional information like a veterinarian examination report.

  • Submit the claim. Most pet insurance companies allow you to submit claims online, by email, fax, or mail. Follow your provider’s specified process.

  • Wait for claim processing. Turnaround times can vary greatly by company. Some may reimburse claims within a week, while others may take 4-6 weeks. Faster processing often comes with a higher premium. 

Receive reimbursement. Most providers issue reimbursements by check or direct deposit. You may have options like:

  •   Get reimbursed 80% of the vet bill amount after you pay your deductible.
  •   Submit bills as you go and get reimbursed later.
  •   Use your benefit amount at the vet and have your insurer pay the vet directly.

What’s covered by pet insurance varies, but most plans cover accidents, injuries, illnesses, cancer treatments, hospitalization, surgeries, prescription medications and diagnostic tests. Some also cover wellness benefits like annual exams and vaccinations. Hereditary and congenital conditions are typically excluded, as are pre-existing conditions.

Pre-existing Conditions

Pre-existing conditions (PECs) refer to any illness or injury that a pet already had before a pet insurance policy went into effect. This is an important factor for pet owners to understand, as most pet insurance providers will not cover expenses related to pre-existing conditions. 

Definition of a Pre-existing Condition

A pre-existing condition is defined as any injury, illness, or abnormality that first occurred or showed symptoms before the waiting period of the pet insurance policy ended. Some examples include:

  • Hip dysplasia that showed symptoms at 6 months old, but coverage started at 1 year old
  • A torn ACL that happened before enrollment
  • Chronic kidney disease that was diagnosed prior to getting pet insurance  

Even if a condition is not yet officially diagnosed, if there are documented symptoms prior to enrollment, it will likely be considered pre-existing.

Waiting Periods 

Most pet insurance providers have a waiting period before coverage for illnesses kicks in – often around 15 days. Any conditions that occur during this initial period will be considered pre-existing. 

Accident and injury coverage usually starts right away with no waiting period. However, any issues that can’t clearly be tied to a specific accident date will be subject to the waiting period.

Limitations in coverage

Expenses related to pre-existing conditions are not covered under a pet insurance policy. This includes:

  • Ongoing treatment and medication for the pre-existing condition
  • Complications or secondary conditions arising from the pre-existing illness
  • Diagnostic tests to evaluate the pre-existing condition

Some pet insurance providers may cover a pre-existing condition after a set exclusion period, such as 12 months. However ongoing treatment and related expenses will still have limited or no coverage after that time.

Ultimately, pet owners need to be aware of what conditions their pet already has before enrollment to understand the limitations of their coverage when making a claim later on. Disclosing pre-existing conditions upfront can help avoid surprises or denials down the road.

Alternatives to Pet Insurance

Rather than purchasing pet insurance, some pet owners choose to self-insure or use other financial tools to cover pet healthcare costs. Here are some popular alternatives to traditional pet insurance:


  • Self-insuring means putting money aside in a savings account specifically for unexpected pet medical bills. This allows you to control how much you save each month.
  • You won’t have the benefit of an insurance provider negotiating costs with veterinarians or reimbursing you. So you’ll need to cover the full cost of care upfront when your pet needs treatment.
  • With self-insuring, you avoid paying premiums but take on all the financial risk yourself. You’ll need discipline to consistently save in case of emergencies.

Pet Savings Accounts

  • Some banks offer pet savings accounts, which operate similarly to a regular savings account earmarked for your pet’s expenses. 
  • These accounts provide a tax-advantaged way to save and pay for healthcare, medications, grooming, boarding, pet food, and other qualified expenses.
  • Interest accrues tax-free and account holders can make tax-deductible contributions up to a set amount each year.

Credit Cards

  • For some pet owners, putting vet costs on a credit card is an alternative to pet insurance.
  • This allows you to finance necessary treatments and pay off the balance over time. However, interest charges can add up quickly.
  • Cards with a 0% intro APR may minimize interest fees if you can pay off the balance within the intro period. But you’ll need good credit to qualify.
  • Consider rewards cards that offer cashback or points on pet purchases. But avoid racking up debt you can’t repay.
  • Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
  • Pet insurance can seem like an unnecessary extra expense, especially for pet owners on a tight budget. However, it offers valuable protection against unexpected veterinary costs. 

Pros of Pet Insurance

  • Covers big vet bills: One major illness or injury can easily cost thousands in vet fees. Policies cover 70-90% of costs after the deductible.
  • Peace of mind: You can get the care your pet needs without worrying about finances. This takes a huge weight off your shoulders.
  • No rejection for pre-existing conditions: As long as you maintain coverage, pets won’t be denied treatment for chronic conditions if symptoms appear after enrollment.
  • Customizable plans: Policies can be tailored to your budget and needs. Pick an annual limit, deductible, and reimbursement percentage that fits.
  • Cons of Pet Insurance
  • Monthly premiums: This is an ongoing expense that can feel frustrating if you don’t end up using the policy. Premiums usually range from $30-70 per month depending on the type of pet, policy limits, deductible, and reimbursement rate.
  • Reimbursement model: You pay vet bills upfront and submit claims for reimbursement. The process can take 2-4 weeks.
  •  Pre-existing conditions often excluded: Illnesses or injuries noted in your pet’s medical history before enrollment are usually exempt from coverage.
  • Not accepted everywhere: Some veterinarians don’t accept insurance, limiting in-network options.

Cost Analysis

On average, pet insurance costs $30-70 per month. Over 1-2 decades of pet ownership, this can add up. However, a single major medical incident could easily exceed $5,000 in vet bills. For most pet owners, insurance offers protection and peace of mind that make it well worth the price.


Pet insurance can be a wise investment for pet owners who want to protect themselves from large, unexpected veterinary costs. Key factors to consider include coverage options, exclusions, reimbursement rates, and premium costs from providers when choosing a plan that fits your needs and budget.

The main benefits of pet insurance are reducing out-of-pocket costs for vet expenses, covering new injuries and illnesses that emerge after enrollment, and providing peace of mind. However, pet insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions, has deductibles and reimbursement limits, and may exclude hereditary conditions or alternative therapies. 

When selecting a provider, look for companies with a solid reputation, high customer satisfaction ratings, reasonable premiums, and coverage that matches your priorities. Work with your vet to understand average costs in your area when evaluating plans.

For pet owners on a tight budget, alternatives like pet savings accounts and credit cards can help fund veterinary expenses as well. But these require self-discipline to save in advance. 

Overall, pet insurance can provide valuable financial protection against unpredictable or expensive vet care. For pets prone to medical issues or emergencies, it often proves worthwhile. Consider your risk tolerance and consult with your vet when deciding if pet insurance fits your circumstances.

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