How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?

Amber Souza, LVT
Written by:
Published: May 9, 2022
How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?

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Roughly 90.5 million households in the United States have at least one pet in the family. As much as we love our pets, many pet parents aren’t totally prepared for the expense of a furry family member—especially if there’s an accident or your pet is diagnosed with a long-term illness. To make it worse, veterinarian expenses continue to rise.

We’ve all been there: your pet is sick, you get an estimate for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and you’re stuck thinking, “How am I going to pay for this?” 

If you’re looking for a way to control vet expenses, pet insurance is a great option. It can help cover the unforeseen veterinary costs that would normally cause a financial burden on many households. You can find plans that will help cover your pet in everything from accidents and diseases to routine vet visits and even dental care.

But before you buy, it's a good idea to thoroughly research a pet insurance plan so you can understand how much it costs compared to what it covers. Here’s what you need to know about the costs of pet insurance.

Pet Insurance Average Costs

There are several elements of cost when it comes to pet insurance:

  • Premiums: These are the monthly or annual costs that you pay to keep the policy active.

  • Deductible: This is the amount you must pay the vet before the insurance policy kicks in.

  • Reimbursement percentage or copay: This is the percentage you have to pay for covered expenses even after the deductible is met.  

The level of each of these depends on the type of policy, your budget, and your pet’s needs. The right choice, however, isn’t purely a financial decision. Older pets may benefit from more comprehensive coverage, as they are more likely to require treatment for a disease. Younger pets may be healthier but also prone to more accidents.

Monthly / Yearly Cost of Pet Insurance (Premiums)

Here are the average premiums for accident-only and accident and illness plans, according to NAPHIA:

2020 Average Premiums (U.S.)

Dog

A&I – Accident & Illness

  • Annual: $594.15

  • Monthly: $49.51

AO – Accident Only

  • Annual: $218.13

  • Monthly: $18.17

Cat

A&I – Accident & Illness

  • Annual: $341.81

  • Monthly: $28.48

AO – Accident Only

  • Annual: $133.61

  • Monthly: $11.13

As an example of premium costs over a pet’s lifetime, here’s the average monthly premium of a Labrador Retriever enrolled at various ages with a $500 deductible and no known medical conditions*:

  • 8 weeks of age  =  $57/month

  • 1 year of age = $ 66/month

  • 5 years of age = $89/month

  • 10 years of age = $160/month

*Average of premiums quoted from several pet insurance companies.

In terms of pet wellness plans, there are usually two options, a basic and a premium, but some offer three options. Here are the average monthly price points:

  • Standard: $15

  • Mid-Range: $28

  • Advanced Care: $31

Chewy CarePlus pet insurance

 

Factors That Affect the Cost of Pet Insurance Premiums

The monthly out-of-pocket cost to keep your pet insurance policy active is called a premium. Premiums can range in cost for a variety of factors, including: 

  • Pet’s age—The younger the pet, the less likely they will be diagnosed with a chronic medical condition. Older pets that are at higher risk of diseases, like diabetes, kidney disease, joint disease, or heart disease, may have higher premiums.

  • Breed—Certain breeds are prone to certain medical conditions. For example, French Bulldogs and English Bulldogs tend to suffer from chronic skin and eye conditions, which can become costly to treat over time. Some policies will exclude certain breed issues or charge more to cover your pet.

  • Being spayed or neutered—Your pet’s neuter or spay status may affect the premium.

  • Pre-existing medical conditions—Most insurance policies will not cover any issues related to diagnosed medical conditions. The premium will also likely be higher to cover the pet.

  • Choice of deductible—Depending on the plan, you can select the level of deductible. In general, a higher deductible means a lower monthly premium.

  • Add-ons—Your cost can go up if you add wellness or dental plans.

  • Location—Pets that live in more populated cities may have higher premiums due to access to advanced medical care.

  • Type of Plan—Accident-only plans generally have lower premiums than plans that cover accidents and illness and/or wellness.

Cost of Pet Insurance Deductibles

A deductible is the amount you have to pay to the vet before the insurance company will start reimbursing you for eligible veterinary expenses. There are two types of deductibles:

  • Annual deductibles are applied yearly before any veterinary treatment costs are reimbursed. Usually, any covered issues can be applied to your deductible.

  • Per-incident deductibles are applied to each new diagnosed condition. For example, if your pet breaks a leg, becomes sick, or ingests a foreign object in one calendar year, each incident will have its own deductible. This type of policy is often recommended for older pets that need coverage over many years to treat a chronic condition.

Most policies allow you to choose the deductible level, usually between $0 and $1,000. In general, the higher your deductible, the lower your premium. While it is important to choose a deductible that fits within your budget, choosing a lower deductible may save you money over the lifetime of your pet.

Copays (Reimbursement Percentage)

This is the amount you will be responsible for paying even after the deductible is met. Copays are usually given as a percentage of the bill. They often range between 10% – 20%. So that means the “reimbursement percentage” paid by the insurance company would be 80% – 90%.

For example, let’s say your dog needed a $3,000 surgery, and your deductible is $200. You pay the bill at the vet (usually) and send the receipt (claim) to your insurance company. They will subtract the $200 deductible, so remaining amount is now $2800. If your copay was 10%, that’s another $280. That leaves $2520 for the insurance company to pay. If everything on the bill was a covered item, then that’s the amount you would be reimbursed. Your total out-of-pocket expenses in this scenario would be $480. You would have also met your deductible, so any additional eligible expenses would be covered at 90% for the rest of the year.  

If your insurance company is set up to pay the vet directly (only a few currently do this), then you would pay your vet $480, and the insurance would pay the vet the rest. You would not need to submit a claim then.

Depending on the policy, you might be able to select a higher or lower copay to help lower or raise your premium and/or deductible.

Tips for Saving Money on Pet Insurance Costs

We are all looking for a good bargain, and finding a good deal on pet insurance should be no different.

  • First, ask your insurance provider if they offer discounts for things like signing up multiple pets, military discounts, or even bundling with your homeowner’s insurance.

  • You can also save money by signing your pet up for insurance as early as possible. Younger pets tend to have much lower vet bills, so getting a plan in place early will help keep the costs down later.

  • You may also save by signing your pet up for multiple policies, like adding a wellness plan to your accident and illness plan.

  • Most insurance companies allow pet owners to customize their plans to fit their pet’s specific needs. Selecting a higher deductible or lower reimbursement percentage can lower your monthly premium.

Chewy CarePlus pet insurance

References

Insurance Information Institute. Facts + Statistics: Pet Ownership and Insurance

Jones, S. Canine Journal. Pet Wellness Plans: Manage Your Preventative Vet Bills. July 8, 2016.

North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA). Find Pet Insurance.

North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA). Section #3: Average Premiums.

Featured Image: iStock.com/didesign021


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