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To get pet insurance, or not to get pet insurance? It’s one of the trickier choices today’s pet parents face. For some, it’s a great deal that offers peace of mind and a predictable budget. But for others, it can be a financial burden with a limited reward. We break it down to help you decide.
How To Decide If You Want Pet Insurance
There are a lot of very good reasons to consider pet insurance—but there are also some bad ones.
Good reasons to get pet insurance:
- You want to be able to say yes to covered life-saving treatment for your pet in the event you can’t afford care
- You like the peace of mind of knowing you can pursue covered treatment for your pet without cost being a strong factor
- You anticipate a lot of vet bills, whether that’s because you have a breed prone to health issues or a furry mischief maker
- You’d rather pay small guaranteed sums than face a large, unexpected financial shock in the future
Bad reasons to get pet insurance:
- You want a surefire way to save money on veterinary expenses
- Your pet has just been diagnosed with a health condition and you want to offset the cost of treatment for it
- You have a senior pet who’s starting to run into a lot of health issues
Let’s break it down, starting with the situations where pet insurance can help.
What Pet Insurance Can Do
Pet insurance is, to put it simply, health insurance for pets. You’ll pay a monthly premium, and your vet bills will then be at least partly reimbursed, usually after you’ve paid out a certain amount on your own—the deductible. (For more on the basics, check out “What Does Pet Insurance Cover, and How Does It Work?”)
The number one reason many pet parents get pet insurance is because it could save your pet’s life if the cost of life-saving treatment exceeds what you can afford to pay out of pocket in the moment.
For example, if your pet gets cancer, as half of dogs over the age of ten do, life-saving treatment could easily cost upwards of $10,000. Depending on your policy, pet insurance could cover most of that expense.
Other vet expenses pet insurance might cover:
- Cruciate ligament repair—$1,000 to $3,000 per knee
- Foreign object in stomach—$3,000+
- Cat urinary tract infection/blockage—$1,000+
- Broken bone—$2,250+
But pet insurance isn’t just for life-saving scenarios. It can also enable pet parents to seek out different kinds of care—like operations that improve a pet’s quality of life, or vet-recommended behavioral therapies—without cost being the deciding factor. For some, pet insurance is a peace-of-mind purchase; it’s emotionally and psychologically reassuring to feel they can prioritize their pet’s health.
For others, though, the best reason to get pet insurance is because it’s how you like to manage your money. If you’re more comfortable paying a guaranteed small amount every month than dealing with big surprise charges, pet insurance can be a wise purchase, especially since most plans let you customize your reimbursement rate and deductible to find a good fit.
Having pet insurance doesn’t guarantee you’ll save money—but it does add a lot more regularity and dependability to your pet spending and budget.
What Pet Insurance Can’t Do
Though pet insurance is on the rise, that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for every pet parent everywhere. Its limitations can be dealbreakers for specific pets and specific financial situations.
The first thing to consider is your premiums, which might be anywhere from $10 to $100 or more per month depending on a few different factors. Age and location are important, and some breeds are more expensive to insure than others. Your premiums will also depend on what kind of coverage you choose and what kind of reimbursement rate you want.
The easiest way to get a fix on your probable rate is to get insurance quotes across a range of providers.
Keep in mind, though, that your monthly rate will likely go up as your pet ages and the cost of veterinary care rises. Premiums that once felt like a bargain for a puppy or kitten might feel more burdensome as time goes on—and you might be tempted to quit your policy just when you need it most.
You’ll also want to consider pre-existing conditions. Virtually no pet insurance company will cover treatment for conditions that your pet has shown symptoms of prior to your policy’s start date. If you have a pet with a long medical history, ask yourself if pet insurance will still be worth it to you if you don’t have coverage in those areas.
Pet insurance also doesn’t typically cover routine vet trips and preventive or wellness care. It’s made for accidents and emergencies, which means you’ll still pay for your pet’s annual exam and bloodwork. Some providers offer wellness add-ons with stipends to cover regular care—but that costs extra.
Who Should Consider Pet Insurance
Pet insurance can be more helpful for some pet families than others. Here’s who is especially likely to benefit.
Pet parents with young pets
Pet insurance is cheapest for young pets, which is nice, because puppies and kittens are pros at getting themselves into hot water. It’s also the best time in your pet’s life to get pet insurance, since virtually no pet insurance company will cover pre-existing conditions. The younger your pet is when you get insurance, the more health conditions will be covered for their whole life.
Pet parents with accident-prone pets
Do you have a furry troublemaker who lives to cause mischief—a dog who’s always snacking on socks or a cat who’s never met a plant they wouldn’t like to sample? If you have an inkling you’ll be seeing a lot of the vet, pet insurance can be a smart move.
Breeds prone to hereditary issues
Though virtually no pet insurance company will cover treatment for a health issue your pet is already showing symptoms of, many will cover treatment for hereditary issues—as long as they haven’t presented in your pet’s medical record. If your pet belongs to a breed that’s known for having problems like hip dysplasia or intervertebral disc disease, pet insurance might enable you to weather the cost of future treatment more easily.
Pet parents who don’t want cost to be a deciding factor in their pet’s future healthcare
It’s incredibly tough to find yourself in a situation where you have to decide between your financial stability and the life of your pet. Pet insurance can reduce the times you need to make that call. It makes it easier to focus on what’s best for your pet without fear for your wallet.
Pet parents who want to prioritize regular expenditures and avoid big surprise charges
Pets are unpredictable at the best of times. If you would rather pay small amounts regularly to reduce the chances of a large surprise charge, pet insurance can help.
Who Might Not Want Pet Insurance
Pet insurance isn’t for everyone, and there are some pet parents who might be better off with a pet savings account or budgeting plan.
Pet parents with uninsured senior pets
Senior pets need a lot of expensive vet care. But signing an older pet up for a new policy might not be as helpful as you’d think. Senior pets have both the highest premiums and the most pre-existing conditions. It doesn’t mean pet insurance can’t help—but it’s a good idea to do some research into what kind of premiums you’d face and how pre-existing conditions work before you decide.
Pets with a lot of existing health problems
A lot of pet parents start looking into pet insurance after a big diagnosis—but since anything already on your pet’s medical record is a pre-existing condition, that might not help you save money in the short term. That said, just because your pet has one health problem doesn’t mean they won’t get another in the future, and pet insurance may be able to help with those.
Pet parents who feel equipped to weather big unexpected expenses
If you’re confident you’ll always have enough in the bank to comfortably cover even the most hair-raising vet bill, pet insurance might not have much appeal.
Pet Insurance or Savings Account?
If pet insurance isn’t a good fit for you, consider a pet savings account or a budgeting app that lets you set aside a little bit of money for your pet every month.
It’s a nice way to pay for your pet’s routine vet visits and healthcare needs—something pet insurance doesn’t typically cover, unless you pay extra for a wellness plan.
The biggest benefit of a pet savings account, though, is that if you don’t wind up using that emergency fund, you get it all back at the end of your pet’s life. That doesn’t happen with pet insurance.
But a savings account also has some drawbacks. It can take a long time to accumulate a fund big enough to offset the worst possible vet expenses you might encounter—and your pet might have an accident or get sick before you make it to your goal.
For example, if you put in $100 per month, it will take you more than eight years to reach $10,000. Pet insurance, by contrast, could pay out $10,000 in just the first year of your pet’s life (depending on your policy’s annual limit and wait periods).
It’s also easy to accidentally drain a pet savings account when other emergencies arise. That leaves your pet fund vulnerable to life’s other calamities.
Your choice depends on your financial situation
If you’re able to grow your pet savings account fast and feel confident it won’t get used for other purposes, then a pet savings account might be the way to go. But if you’re not sure you can build up pet savings quickly enough—or keep it allocated for your pet—pet insurance may be the better option.
Still on the fence? Try starting with the basics: “What Does Pet Insurance Cover, and How Does It Work?”
Or if you’re ready to dive in and check out some options, visit “The Best Pet Insurance: A Pet Parent’s Guide.”