You might be thinking about adding a four-legged friend to the family while on vacation. And you’ll be in good company: 70% of U.S. households have pets, according to the American Pet Products Association’s 2021-2022 National Pet Owner Survey.
As cute as pets are, they represent a financial commitment. Americans spent $ 103.6 billion on their pets in 2020 alone, according to the APPA.
Some expenses, such as food and shelter, are predictable. But if your new puppy or kitten gets sick or injured, an unexpected medical bill can derail your budget. For a growing number of Americans, pet insurance offers peace of mind.
The cost of veterinary care
Medical problems are almost inevitable for pets, and costs are likely to rise, says Kristen Lynch, executive director of the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, or NAPHIA.
“The fact that there is continued innovation in medical care for companion animals – just like for humans – means that the cost of these innovations will continue to rise. “
Dog owners spend an average of $ 242 on routine visits and $ 458 on surgical visits each year, according to the APPA. The cost to cat owners is slightly lower, at $ 178 for routine visits and $ 201 for surgical visits.
“I would say at least half of the customers I come in contact with have money issues,” said Dr. TB Thompson, a Phoenix-based veterinarian at Natural Pets headquarters, in an email. “When pets have complicated and life-threatening medical conditions, the costs add up quickly. “
How Pet Insurance Can Reduce Surprise Bills
Pet insurance won’t reimburse you for every penny you spend at the vet, but it can help you avoid getting slapped with an expensive bill.
A policy will typically pay 70 to 90% of your costs after paying a deductible, which can range from $ 0 to $ 1,000 or more.
“Consider purchasing pet insurance unless you can easily afford the treatment of a pet emergency that costs $ 2,500 and more,” says Thompson.
There are several types of pet insurance plans. The most robust comprehensive plans cover the cost of care due to accidents, illnesses and surgeries, as well as vaccinations and diagnostic tests. Accident and sickness coverage helps pay for emergency care, surgeries, hospitalizations, and prescription drugs, while accident-only insurance policies help cover expenses after an accident. Some insurers also offer wellness plans, which cover certain tests, examinations, vaccinations and preventive treatments.
Get the best pet insurance deal
While pet insurance may prevent you from using your savings to pay a vet bill, it is an additional cost.
The average cost of an accident and health insurance policy is $ 594 per year for dogs and $ 342 for cats, according to NAPHIA. For an accident-only policy, you could pay $ 218 for dogs and $ 134 for cats.
Bonuses are based on a series of factors, including:
- Where you live. The cost of veterinary care varies by region.
- Species. Dogs are more expensive to insure than cats, for example. Coverage for other types of animals is scarce.
- Elevate. Some breeds are predisposed to medical conditions, which can increase the cost of coverage.
- Age. As pets get older, they’re more likely to get sick or hurt themselves, Lynch says. Keep this in mind if you are considering adopting an older pet from a shelter during the holiday season.
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Explore all your options
As a new pet owner, many of these factors are beyond your control. But there are a few things you can do to get a lower premium.
- Look at the fine print. Consider choosing a higher deductible and lower reimbursement level.
- Check the discounts. Some companies offer discounts for insuring multiple pets or for military service.
- Compare the prices. In the United States, there are about 20 pet insurers competing for your business, so let them be. Compare quotes from three insurers for the same amount of coverage and choose the best pet insurance company for your budget.
In Lynch’s opinion, pet insurance is better than nothing.
“People avoid taking their animals to the vet because they’re afraid of what those costs will be,” she says. “I like to think that pet insurance gives us the ability to say ‘yes’ to those decisions at a time when we’re emotional, stressed, and strapped for cash for other things.”
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About the Author: Katia Iervasi is an insurance writer for NerdWallet.