Pros and cons of pet insurance

Pet insurance can save you money in pet emergencies

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You love your pet, but the accompanying veterinary bills can be intimidating. A rising number of people are considering pet insurance to cover the expensive care of their furry friends – according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), 4.8 million pets were insured in the U.S. in 2022.

Pet insurance offers financial peace of mind by allowing pet owners to get the care their animals need without breaking the bank. However, the age and breed of your pet can affect policy costs and reimbursement.

Explore reputable insurers to see if pet insurance is right for your family, then select a plan to suit your pet’s needs and your budget.

Key insights

Pet insurance helps provide financial protection for unexpected veterinary costs. The right plan can save money by reimbursing a portion of eligible vet bills.

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Older animals and certain breeds with genetic predispositions may not be covered by pet insurance.

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Look carefully at coverage details, deductibles, reimbursement levels and monthly premiums to find one that fits your family’s needs.

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What is pet insurance?

Pet health insurance is a policy that helps cover the expenses of veterinary care for your dog, cat or other pet. You pay a monthly premium, and the insurance company covers a portion of your veterinary costs according to your policy. Most pet insurance reimburses you after you've paid the vet bill.

Different levels of coverage are available. More comprehensive plans can cover accidents, illnesses, surgeries, hospitalizations, diagnostic tests, medications as well as routine wellness exams. More basic plans may only cover accidents. Some add-on options include coverage for alternative therapies, behavioral issues and even dental care.

Premiums range in cost and depend on the coverage level, deductible amount and reimbursement percentage.

Pet insurance also takes into account your pet's breed and age. All plans have limits like deductibles you must pay before coverage kicks in, as well as copays and annual or lifetime payout maximums. Preexisting conditions are typically excluded.

When Priyanka from California adopted her new puppy, she opted for pet insurance. “We took insurance when our pup was eight months old,” she said. “We added the preventive care since it covered part of the neuter surgery costs and vaccine costs.”

They saved money, but there were a few concerning gaps in coverage. “What we didn’t like,” Priyanka said, was that “vet fees are covered at an additional cost. In our area, the vet fees are half the bill so I wish we had covered this.”

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Pros of pet insurance

Pet insurance can help cover the cost of expensive veterinary care for your furry friends. For a monthly premium, plans offer financial protection against unexpected medical bills. Insuring your pet means less stress about expenses if your pet becomes injured or sick.

Pet insurance plans charge a monthly premium, on average about $53 a month for dogs and $32 for cats, according to NAPHIA. A manageable monthly fee can help you budget your pet’s wellness care as well as navigate emergencies and costly procedures without breaking the bank.

With insurance, you can say yes to recommended treatments, diagnostic tests, surgery and medication without being overwhelmed by out-of-pocket costs. Having a pet insurance plan allows your pet to receive the comprehensive health care they need without cost being the deciding factor.

In summary, the top pros of pet insurance include the following:


  • Financial security
  • Comprehensive coverage
  • Peace of mind
  • Encourages regular vet visits
  • Customizable pet plans
  • Choice of veterinarian

Cons of pet insurance

Though pet insurance can help cover vet costs, it's not a cure-all. There are some downsides to consider, such as limits on payouts and pet age restrictions. Most policies set an annual or lifetime maximum amount they will pay out and have waiting periods before coverage kicks in. This means no conditions are covered for a set period of time after you first buy a pet insurance plan.

Pet insurance does not generally cover preexisting conditions.

Read the fine print on pet insurance plans carefully, as there may be copays, deductibles and certain situations that are excluded from coverage. The top cons for most pet insurance companies are as follows:


  • Cost adds up over time
  • Cover limits and exclusions
  • Waiting periods
  • Annual limits
  • Reimbursement model
  • Possible increase in premiums

Is pet insurance worth it?

Deciding whether or not pet insurance is a worthwhile purchase depends on your personal situation, your pet’s needs and how much risk you want to take on. Pet insurance can be a lifesaver if your animal ever needs emergency treatment, and vet bills can easily run into thousands of dollars, sending you into pet debt if you don’t have insurance.

“Over the years, pet insurance has paid me more than I have paid them,” said Dr. Shannon Barrett, a licensed veterinarian in South Carolina. She runs a blog called Product Doctor that offers insights and reviews on various pet products. “It gives me the freedom to take my dog to a specialist if needed,” she said.

It is good to note that not everyone will benefit from pet insurance, though. Premium costs can add up over time if your pet never ends up needing emergency services or expensive procedures. For some pet owners, insurance premiums are simply too expensive compared to the potential benefit. Additionally, pet insurance may not be a fit if your pet has a preexisting condition.

Pet insurance can manage risk and offer peace of mind while also providing your furry companions with the best care possible. Depending on your financial situation and your pet’s needs, pet insurance may be a great option despite the premiums.

» COMPARE: Best pet insurance for older dogs

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    What does pet insurance typically cover?

    Pet insurance typically covers expenses related to accidents, injuries and illnesses. These include surgeries, hospitalizations, diagnostic tests and medications. Depending on the plan, wellness care may be covered as well, including regular checkups and vaccinations.

    How does pet insurance work with my regular vet?

    Once you purchase pet insurance, you can go to your normal vet. Pay your vet bills upfront and then submit a claim to the pet insurance company for reimbursement. Reimbursement times vary depending on the insurance company.

    Can I get pet insurance if my pet has a preexisting condition?

    No, pet insurance does not cover preexisting conditions that were diagnosed before enrollment in a policy. Pet insurance only covers new injuries or illnesses that develop after you purchase a plan.

    How does the age or breed of my pet impact insurance rates?

    The age and breed of your pet can affect pet insurance costs. Older pets and certain breeds that are more prone to health issues tend to have higher monthly premiums. There may also be age limits that apply to enrolling your pet in an insurance plan.

    Bottom line

    For many pet owners, the monthly cost of insurance is worth the ability to access quality medical care for their pet. Pet insurance can provide financial protection against unexpected expenses if your pet gets injured or sick.

    “Many insurers offer a range of plans and coverage options, allowing pet owners to choose a plan that best fits their budget and their pet's needs,” Dr. Barrett said. “These plans range from emergency care to full coverage.” With the right plan, you don’t have to make decisions about your pet’s care based solely on what you can afford out-of-pocket.

    Article sources
    ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
    1. Insurance Information Institute, “Facts + Statistics: Pet Ownership and Insurance.” Accessed March 18, 2024.
    2. North American Pet Health Insurance Association, “Average Premiums.”  Accessed March 18, 2024.
    3. Product Doctor, “Product Doctor.” Accessed March 19, 2024.
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