Last Updated: January 12, 2023
Pets are part of the family. As such, they should get the health care they need and deserve. But medical expenses can put a dent in your budget.
We believe no one should choose between their pet’s life and their financial stability. Don’t you agree?
Luckily, pet insurance plans provide a safety net against unexpected veterinary treatment costs. As a result, such policies are becoming more popular among pawrents. In fact, pet ownership statistics show the number of insured animals in the US reached 3.1 million at the end of 2020.
But is pet insurance worth it?
We’ll look at the average costs of having a fluffy companion, the standard policy coverage, and mean prices. So read on and decide what’s best for you and your four-legged friend!
Lifetime Cost of a Dog
Most first-time owners vastly underestimate the lifetime cost of a dog. When asked, many assume a figure between $1,000 and $5,000. However, the actual price is in the $5,000- $20,000 range.
Of course, the true value of a human-dog bond is priceless. But you should be prepared and map out the expenses related to owning a dog. Otherwise, you may end up choosing between taking care of your new best friend and keeping the lights on.
With this in mind, let’s look at the details. First, your new pooch will carry two kinds of expenses: annual and one-time.
Annual and recurring expenses are things like:
- Dog health insurance: $15 to $200 per month
- Food: $150 to $600
- Vitamins: $0 to $60 (depending on what kind of food you feed your dog)
- Routine care and vaccines: $80 to $250
- Heartworm and flea prevention: $76 to $367
- License: $20
- Treats, chews, and toys: $50 to $300
- Self-grooming or professional services: $10 to $18
Summing it all up, your average annual expenses will be between $500 and $2,000. But not all pups are the same, and some carry bigger annual expenses than others.
For example, Dalmatians eat more than Maltese Poodles. On the other hand, Siberian Huskies are healthier than French Bulldogs. Therefore, health care and the cost of pet insurance will be lower for Huskies.
Under one-time expenses, you will find things like:
- Adoption fee/cost: $0 to $2000 (or higher depending on breed and pre-adoption training )
- First medical exam: $70
- Spaying or neutering: $190
- Food and water bowls: $10 to $50
- Collar, leash, and tag: at least $20
- Bed and/or crate: $20 to $300
- Transportation crate: $60 (or more for larger breeds)
Totaled up, the initial one-time expenses range from $370 to $2,500. Once again, some breeds are more expensive than others.
For instance, while a Labrador Retriever as a family friend will cost you between $800 and $1,200, a Rottweiler can set you back an astonishing $8,000. Also, you can easily find a collar for something like a Jack-Russel or Chihuahua for $10. Still, a collar for a Doberman or Malinoa has to be solid and sturdy while remaining comfortable. This can cost from $30 onward. Additionally, size does matter: a crate for a Shih-Tzu is around $60 while a crate for a Newfoundland goes beyond $200.
But apart from the breed, many other things can increase the lifetime cost of a dog.
One of them is training. For example, a German Shepherd can cost you anywhere between $800 and $3,000 depending on pedigree. But if you want a pre-trained personal protection German Shepherd, the price can range from $20,000 to $100,000.
Lifetime Cost of a Cat
Going straight to the point, the average lifetime cost of a cat is between $5,000 and $23,000, where the most significant determinant is the pet’s lifespan.
On average, cats live 15 years, but some can reach the age of 20. This mostly depends on whether your cat lives indoors or outdoors.
Specifically, outdoor cats have a higher probability of injury and disease. This results in a shorter lifespan of five years, on average. So, if you plan on keeping your cat outdoors, you can try to minimize your vet bills by vaccinating it against disease and buying pet insurance.
Like with dogs, cats also have one-time first-year expenses and annual/reoccurring expenses.
Annual/recurring expenses include:
- Food: $120 to $300
- Routine care and vaccines: $100 to $600
- Flea and tick prevention: $20 to $200
- Litter: $70 to $150
- Toys and scratching post: $20 to $75
- Pet insurance cost: $6 to $20 per month
- Pet sitter: $15 to $20 per day (if you travel)
This brings you to a total of $350-$1,600 per year.
Of course, you have to keep in mind cats’ tendencies to knock things off the table because they can’t distinguish between their toys and your expensive vase. Additionally, if they deem their scratching post unworthy of their attention, they could take this discontent on your couch. And while we do know the prices of pet insurance plans, we’re not sure whether there’s a policy to protect your house from the disapproval of your cat.
Apart from the aforementioned expensive vase, one-time expenses can include:
- Adoption fee/cost: $0 to $800 (depending on breed)
- First medical exam: $130
- Food and water bowls: $5 to $30
- Spaying or neutering: $140
- Litter box: $10 to $200
- Cat bed: $20 to $100
- Carrying crate: $20 to $75
This comes up to a total of $340 to $900 just to bring the meow into your home.
But same as for dogs, not all cats cost the same. For example, the most expensive breed is the Ashera cat, whose price ranges from $22,000-$125,000. On the other hand, the popular British Shorthair costs just around $1,000.
And do you know that most households that own a miniature tiger have more than one? On average, cat pawrents own 2.1 cats. This means more fluffiness to go around! But also — pet health insurance cost discounts.
If you’re a multi-pet owner, take a look at our reviews for companies like: Pet Assure, PetFirst, AKC Pet Insurance, FIGO Pet Insurance, Pets Best, and HealthyPaws. All of them offer multiple-pet discounts from 5% upward.
Pet Insurance: Cost & Coverage
When it comes to insurance, you don’t really know what you are paying for until you need it.
So if you ask pet owners, “should I get pet insurance?” the answers will be mixed. Some will tell you how all they’ve done is pay premiums but never actually need it, and others will tell you a story about how it saved them and their pet.
Nevertheless, if you want to be on the safe side and insure your pet, you’re probably wondering how much the pet health insurance costs. Luckily, there’s a policy for every budget. To find the best company for you, browse our reviews of the best pet insurance providers.
Pet insurance for dogs
The average vet bill for a dog is around $250. Yet, this can be much higher if the vet finds an unexpected illness during the exam. And the cost of a surgical visit is around $450, on average.
To help manage the expenses and be better prepared for emergencies, many owners chose to enroll their pup in a health insurance plan.
How much it costs and what does it cover?
The average cost of pet insurance for dogs is around $500 annually for accident and illness coverage. And the accident-only policy comes to $180 on average. But before you choose the cheaper option, consider that some 70% of all claims are for illnesses.
Also, bear in mind that the pet insurance price varies due to factors like:
As mentioned above, some breeds are healthier than others. For example, bigger breeds are more prone to hip and elbow dysplasia and arthritis. Small breeds, on the other hand, are prone to hypoglycemia and patellar luxation.
Age is another factor when it comes to determining dog insurance cost. As your dog ages, the premium will increase at the end of each policy year, with some companies even refusing to insure older dogs. This is because older dogs are more likely to get sick and injured. However, some companies won’t decrease your dog’s coverage or increase the price as your dog ages.
Data shows that insurance claims for male dogs are more common than for females. Thus, the average cost of dog insurance for males is generally higher.
Cost for veterinary care and even routine care are pricier in metropolitan areas. Meanwhile, suburban or rural regions offer less advanced services but cheaper premiums.
Notably, some companies will allow you to personalize your plan so you can select the deductible, reimbursement percentage, and annual maximums. This will significantly impact the price and will enable you to choose a policy fit for your budget. Bear in mind, however, that most providers won’t insure pre-existing conditions, and just a few would include congenital and hereditary conditions.
What are the benefits?
Still wondering, “is pet insurance worth it”? Here are a few benefits of taking out a policy on your fluffy companion:
- Avoiding economic euthanasia: For some pet owners, the financial burden is unbearable, and they choose to euthanize their pets instead of pay for their treatment. With pet insurance, you won’t face such a heartbreaking decision.
- Saving money: In the case of an injury or illness, you won’t have to pay the vet bills.
- Increased treatment options: These include surgeries, X-rays, and chemotherapy you may not otherwise be able to afford.
- Finding your missing dog: Of course, the insurance provider won’t go out looking for your dog, but many policies include a reward for finding a lost/stolen pet.
Who is it suitable for?
Having pet insurance is a good option for all dog owners.
Think of it more as a safety net rather than a necessity. If you buy pet insurance, you can give no second thought to vet visits and not fear emergency procedures. Plus, there is a policy to fit everyone’s needs and budget, so you can surely benefit from having one.
Pet insurance for cats
The average vet bill for a cat is generally cheaper than that for a dog. Namely, a routine vet checkup can cost around $45 to $55, while emergency surgery is in the ballpark of $330.
Seeing how vet prices for cats are lower, you may ask yourself, “Should I get pet insurance for my cat? Is it worth it?”.
Generally, the benefits outweigh the costs. But let’s take a deeper look!
How much it costs and what does it cover?
Similarly to dogs, factors that influence the cost of cat insurance are:
The Maine Coon, British Shorthair, Bengal, American Wirehair, and Ragamuffin are considered the top five healthiest cat breeds. These breeds are most likely to stay healthy for the majority of their lives. So the cat insurance cost for them will come with lower premiums.
Like with dogs, insurance companies will increase the premium for older cats, with some refusing a policy altogether. This is again because older cats are more prone to injury and illness.
Also similar to dogs is the fact that the price will vary according to your location. Suburban areas offer lower pet insurance costs, while major cities and metropolitan regions come with higher premiums.
Coverage is always a big factor. Accident and illness plans for cats cost close to $350 per year, while accident-only plans cost around $120 per year. Most insurances will cover every illness and injury for your cat, but there are exclusions like pre-existing conditions.
Interestingly, while the insurance prices constantly increase for dogs, the average pet insurance rate for cats fluctuates. Over the past five years, premium prices for cats have dropped by 7.2% and climbed back up by 25%.
What are the benefits?
So, is pet insurance worth it for a cat?
In most cases, yes, there are more pros than cons. The benefits of pet insurance for cats include:
- Saving money from injury treatment: This is especially important for outdoor cats exposed to risk factors such as traffic and toxic substances.
- Allowing you to focus on your cat’s health instead of costs: You won’t need to choose between keeping your cat healthy and sticking to your budget.
- Increasing the treatment options: Hospital stays and costly procedures like chemotherapy and surgeries are all covered.
- An incentive for other people to find and return your cat if it gets lost: Many insurance providers offer such a policy.
- Keeping the vet costs for cats down: Regular check-ups may not be so expensive, but eventually, they build up. With insurance, that won’t be a concern.
Who is it suitable for?
Cat insurance is beneficial for all owners, especially those who keep their cats outdoors, as there is a higher risk of injuries and diseases.
And while most indoor cats are generally healthy and might not get sick, do you want to risk it?
Bottom Line: Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
This is an ongoing debate among pet owners. Some are ecstatic they had one, and it helped save their pet. Meanwhile, others complain that they only pay for premiums with no benefit of having pet insurance because they haven’t made any claims.
What’s for sure is that all insurance is a safety net against serious dents in your budget. Ultimately, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Isn’t that right?
Money can be a restrain, indeed. But luckily, there are highly customizable policies that can fit any budget. And if you’re like me, and have spent a little bit too much on doggy bandanas, just go the extra mile and invest in a pet insurance plan.
To get the most out of it, however, enroll your pet as early as possible. This way, you’ll get a lower premium and avoid listing any conditions as pre-existing. Of course, despite having insurance, it’s always wise to have emergency savings for things your plan doesn’t cover.
The sooner, the better. This is especially true if you cannot afford out-of-pocket expenses. Companies offer pet insurance plans on pets as young as eight weeks. They can cover all conditions, so nothing is labeled as pre-existing.
Pet insurance is a safety net against vet costs, unexpected treatments, and ultimately, it prevents economic euthanasia. While it may seem like an unnecessary expense, it’s worth it for most owners whose pets are considered life companions and family.
Yes. Unlike human health insurance, there aren’t networks. All licensed veterinarians, including emergency, specialty, and university hospitals, will accept almost any insurance provider.
The cost of pet insurance can range from $15 to $200 per month. Premiums depend on several factors like breed, age, and zip code. For example, older pets and some breeds are more prone to disease than others, while in metropolitan areas, the price of veterinary care is higher.
Having a wellness plan could save you money, even if you don’t need the full package of wellness services. This is the same as asking, “is pet insurance worth it?”. The truth will vary depending on the recommended preventative care for your pet and how frequently they need treatment. Keep in mind that specific breeds have specific health requirements and are prone to certain conditions.