If you’re thinking of adding a furry friend to the family, you are in good company: 70% of US households have pets, according to the American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Survey 2021-2022. But as cute as pets are, they are a financial obligation. In 2020 alone, Americans spent $ 103.6 billion on their pets, APPA says.
Some expenses, such as food and shelter, are predictable. But if your new pup or kitten gets sick or injured, an unexpected medical bill can hit your budget. For a growing number of Americans, pet insurance offers security.
The cost of veterinary care
Medical problems are almost inevitable in pets, and costs are likely to rise, says Kristen Lynch, executive director of the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA).
“The fact that there is continued innovation in pet medical care, just as there is in humans, means that the cost of those innovations will continue to increase,” she says.
According to the APPA, dog owners spend an average of $ 242 on routine visits and $ 458 on surgical visits each year. The cost for cat owners is slightly lower at $ 178 for routine visits and $ 201 for surgical visits.
“I would say that at least half of the customers I come in contact with have money problems,” said Dr. TB Thompson, a Phoenix-based veterinarian at Natural Pets HQ, in an email. “When pets run into complex, life-threatening medical difficulties, the costs add up quickly.”
How pet insurance can reduce surprise bills
Pet insurance won’t reimburse you for all veterinary expenses, but it can keep you from getting hit with a big bill.
A policy typically pays 70% to 90% of your expenses after you’ve paid a deductible, which can range from $ 0 to $ 1,000 or more.
“Consider purchasing pet insurance unless you can easily finance treatment for a pet emergency that costs $ 2,500 and up,” says Thompson.
There are several types of pet insurance. Comprehensive plans, the most robust ones, help cover care costs due to accidents, illness and surgery, as well as vaccinations and diagnostic tests. Accident and illness insurance helps pay for emergency care, surgeries, hospital stays, and prescription drugs, while accident insurance helps cover costs after an accident. Some insurers also offer wellness plans that take care of certain tests, exams, vaccinations, and preventive treatments.
Find the best pet insurance deal
From Lynch’s perspective, some pet insurance policies are better than none.
âPeople avoid going to the vet with their pets because they’re afraid of the cost,â she says. “I like to think that animal insurance gives us the opportunity to say ‘yes’ to these decisions when we are emotionally, stressed and financially tense.”
While pet insurance can prevent you from using your savings to pay a veterinarian bill, there are additional costs.
The average cost of accident and health insurance is $ 594 per year for dogs and $ 342 for cats, according to NAPHIA. Accident insurance costs $ 218 for dogs and $ 134 for cats.
The rewards are based on a number of factors including:
- Where you live. The cost of veterinary care varies by region.
- Species. For example, dogs are more expensive to insure than cats. Cover for other animal species is rare.
- Breed. Some breeds are prone to illness, which can increase the cost of coverage.
- Age. As pets age, they are more likely to get sick or injured, Lynch says. Keep that in mind if you’re looking to adopt an older pet from a shelter this holiday season.
As a new pet owner, many of these factors are beyond your control. But there are a couple of things you can do to get a lower premium:
- Check out the fine print: Consider choosing a higher deductible and a lower reimbursement level.
- Check discounts: Some companies offer discounts for multiple pet insurance or military service.
- Shopping spree: In the US, there are about 20 animal insurers competing for your business, so don’t do it. Compare quotes from three insurers for the same amount insured and choose the best pet insurance company for your budget.