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Do I Really Need Pet Insurance? A Look at the Pros and Cons

Owning a pet isn’t cheap. Especially when we’re talking about vet bills. According to a survey conducted by the American Kennel Club, dog owners can expect to pay an average of $446 for annual vet care. And that’s not counting any potential emergency vet visits, which can leave you with a daunting bill on your hands. 

No one wants to be in the position of basing their furry friend’s medical treatment on finances. But does the risk of an unforeseen financial burden make it worth shelling out the extra bucks for monthly insurance premiums?

Is pet insurance worth it? 

Let’s take a closer look.

How does pet insurance work?

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Pet insurance can help minimize the cost of keeping your cat or dog healthy. Depending on your budget and preferences, you can choose from an array of coverage levels. Policies can charge monthly or yearly premiums.

Unlike human health insurance, however, pet insurance works on a system of reimbursement. When your pet receives vet care, you’ll still be expected to pay the bill in full. Once you’re all squared up, you’ll submit a claim to the insurance company and they’ll reimburse anywhere from 20-100% of the costs. 

Similar to human health insurance, many pet insurance plans have a deductible that can range from $0-$2500. You’ll have to cover this amount before insurance providers will foot the bill. 

When shopping around for pet insurance, be sure to gather quotes from several companies, keeping in mind that rates are determined by your pet’s breed and age as well as your location.

How much does pet insurance cost?

Ah, the million-dollar question—how much money are we talking?

According to Consumer Reports, the average cost of pet insurance for dogs is $22 per month, and the cost for cats comes to about $16 per month. The actual amount you’ll have to shell out might be higher or lower, depending on your pet’s breed, age, and the coverage option you’ve selected.

What does pet insurance cover?

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There are a few options when it comes to the type of coverage you want for your pet. 

  • Accident insurance: this is the cheapest policy your money can buy.
  • Accident and illness insurance: in addition to coverage of accidental injuries, this type of plan will cover unexpected illnesses like cancer and arthritis.
  • Wellness coverage: this covers routine care, flea medication, and vaccinations.

But what about specifics? What exactly can you expect your pet insurance to cover? 

According to Petplan, here are some things that are generally covered:

  • Diagnostic tests: This includes tests such as MRIs, X-rays, and blood analysis.
  • Chronic conditions: This includes illnesses like diabetes, asthma, arthritis, and cancer.
  • Rehab: If your pooch ever requires rehabilitation, the costs should be covered.
  • Prescription meds: keep in mind this doesn’t include over-the-counter drugs, like flea preventatives.
  • Alternative therapies: Most insurers cover alternative treatments such as acupuncture and chiropractic visits, however, some companies require you to buy an add-on policy to cover these services. 

How about things that aren’t typically covered by pet insurance?

  • Spay and neutering: Most insurance providers consider these procedures to be elective surgeries, so they’re not typically covered.
  • Dental care: Routine cleanings are considered preventative and aren’t usually covered.
    Other dental treatments such as tooth extractions or treating gingivitis may be covered.
  • Pre-existing conditions: If your pet had an illness or injury before the start of your policy, insurance will not cover its treatment. When you purchase a new pet insurance plan, you may need to bring your pet in for a vet visit to rule out any pre-existing conditions.
  • Wellness visits: Unless you opt for a wellness plan, routine examinations and care won’t be covered. This means you’ll still need to pay out of pocket for things like yearly checkups, vaccinations, and teeth cleaning.

Cosmetic procedures: If it’s just for looks, it won’t be covered. Which means you can expect to pay full price for procedures like ear cropping and tail docking.

Pros of purchasing pet insurance

If, after all of that, you’re still unsure if pet insurance is right for you, we’ve got some benefits for you to consider.

1. Your pet can receive the best preventative care

If you opt for a policy that includes wellness care, you may be more inclined to bring Fido to the vet for regular visits. Wellness plans can include things like your pet’s yearly examination, vaccinations, heartworm testing, and dental cleaning.

2. Pet insurance rates are reasonable

In the grand scheme of things, pet insurance premiums are fairly affordable. If you purchase a policy while your pet is still young and healthy, you can enjoy some peace of mind without forking over boo koo bucks. 

3. You choose your own vet

With pet insurance, you never need to worry about your vet being “out of network” or “accepting” your plan. You can see the vet of your choice—just get a copy of your vet’s invoice, submit your claim for reimbursement, and you’re all set!

Cons of purchasing pet insurance

What about the negative side of pet insurance? Here are some factors that might make you hesitate to sign up for a policy.

1. You’ll still need to save money for vet bills 

As we’ve pointed out, even with pet insurance, you’ll still need to pay for vet bills out of pocket. Even if you have coverage, it’s smart to have an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses while you wait for reimbursement. 

2. Your premiums could be high

While pet insurance is usually affordable, premiums can skyrocket if your pet is older or has a pre-existing condition. You could wind up paying more than it’s worth.

3. Not everything is covered

Things like routine wellness visits and pre-existing conditions won’t be covered by pet insurance, and no matter what policy you choose, you’ll still have to pay a percentage of your pet’s medical bills. Some plans even limit the amount of expenses you can claim annually. 

4. You could end up wasting money if your pet only needs wellness care

If your pet is consistently healthy and only needs routine vet care, your savings won’t be something to write home about. If your dog never needs emergency care or surgery, you could end up paying more for insurance premiums than you bargained for.

Ultimately, you need to weigh the costs of pet insurance premiums against your personal circumstances. While your policy may never pay for itself, having a safety net might be worth it to you. In the event of an emergency, you’ll be happy to have it!