The New Year is an excellent opportunity to take better care of your loved ones, including your furry friends. With inflation further raising costs for vet services, many may wonder — is pet insurance worth it?
The joy and love we receive from our pets is priceless, but it is easy to put a price tag on vet services. In the United States, the average annual pet healthcare costs, including emergency visits, range from $374 to $965 for cats and $534 to $1,285 for dogs.
Should you get pet insurance in 2024?
While most pet owners can pay a few hundred dollars a year for vet visits, major incidents or severe diseases can double or even triple the cost. This can put pet owners in a difficult situation where they need to decide if they can afford veterinary care.
Nearly one in three (32.7%) non-insured pet owners avoided taking their pet to the vet to prevent an expensive bill, compared to 22% of pet insurance holders, according to a 2023 MarketWatch survey.
Moreover, a tragic 16% of both insurance and non-insurance holders lost their pets because they couldn’t afford vet care.
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Is pet insurance worth it in 2024?
Over 80% of pet owners with pet insurance believe it was worth it, the survey reveals. However, some pet owners may benefit more than others.
Pros of pet insurance:
- Reasonable price, as the average cost for accident and illness coverage is $48 per month for dogs and $28 for cats.
- Most insurers will cover the services of the vet of your choice, contrary to human health insurance requiring the use of in-network services.
- High reimbursement rates. The percentage of vets’ bills that get reimbursed ranges between 70 to 90%.
Cons of pet insurance:
- Pet insurance does not cover incurable pre-existing conditions, such as allergies, diabetes, and cancer.
- As most insurers require paying the bill upfront and then filing the claim with the provider, the process may be slow and tedious.
- If a pet has low healthcare needs in their lifetime, what owners pay in premiums may exceed what they get in benefits.
What is included in pet insurance?
Pet owners may choose the three types of pet insurance according to their pets’ needs.
- Comprehensive insurance covers accidents, such as swallowed objects or broken bones; common illnesses like urinary tract infections; chronic conditions, such as cancer and diabetes; dental care; and prescription medications. Before buying, check with the provider what are considered pre-existing conditions.
- Accident insurance usually covers emergency care due to an accident, including diagnostic tests, treatment, surgery, and prescription medication. Some examples of accidents covered by this type of insurance include swallowing something toxic, heat stroke, breaking a bone, bee sting, and getting hit by a car. Accident-only plans do not cover the treatment of illnesses.
- Wellness coverage is sold as an add-on product to either comprehensive or accident insurance. It typically includes wellness exams, vaccinations and titers, microchipping, and dental cleanings. Keep in mind that spaying and neutering are typically not covered by wellness plans.
How much does pet insurance cost in 2024?
The average monthly pet insurance covering both accidents and illnesses for a dog costs $48 ($576 a year) and $28 per month for a cat ($336 a year), according to a Forbes analysis. That’s for a policy with $5,000 annual coverage, a $250 deductible, and an 80% reimbursement level.
The insurance cost depends on a pet’s age and breed because some breeds are predisposed to illnesses, leading to more frequent vet visits. For example, the average monthly cost for unlimited annual coverage for a rottweiler puppy is $124, compared to $43 for a small mixed-breed puppy.
Meanwhile, owners of a mixed-breed cat pay $31 a month for unlimited annual coverage compared to $42 for a British shorthair.
The insurance price may also depend on the location, as vet services in urban areas are usually higher.
How much does a vet visit cost without insurance?
Even if a pet doesn’t show any signs of disease, vets recommend regular checkups every six or 12 months, while certain vaccines are required by law in some states. Besides preventative care, pets may develop more severe illnesses that drive vet bills up. According to Care Credit data, this is the average price for vet services in the U.S.
|Routine vet visit
|Rabies vaccine for cats and dogs
|Lyme vaccine for dogs
|Urinary tract condition
Do vets recommend getting pet insurance?
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) endorses the concept of pet health insurance and encourages veterinary teams to educate clients about it proactively. However, the AVMA says there are some basic considerations when choosing pet insurance:
- An insurance provider should clearly spell out to you the details, including the limitations and exclusions.
- Find out how the provider defines and handles pre-existing conditions, including any diseases your pet has now or had in the past.
- Insurance providers may not insure a specific pet or breed of pet if it is considered "high risk."
Should I get pet insurance for an indoor cat?
Although it sometimes may seem that Fluffy or Munch spend most of their day comfortably sleeping on the sofa, they are still prone to accidents and diseases. For instance, an indoor cat may swallow a foreign object, the treatment of which may cost over $2,000.
Spending all day at home, indoor cats can develop obesity, increasing the risk of diabetes four-fold. The complex condition is managed with insulin, the monthly cost of which ranges from $30 to $300.
Moreover, studies show indoor cats are at a higher risk of asthma, dental disease, idiopathic cystitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Comparing pet insurance with other alternatives
To determine whether pet insurance is worth it, think of other alternatives you have in case of emergency.
Savings can help when facing unexpected vet bills and expenses not covered by an insurance plan. However, one in three American adults have no more than $100 in their savings account, according to a survey, up to six times less than an ultrasound test costs.
Financing vet bills on a credit card
While it provides an immediate solution, interest charges and late fees can increase the overall bill and your credit card debt.
Charity organizations such as The Pet Fund or The American Veterinary Medical Foundation, provide financial assistance to pets in need of veterinary care. However, they may only finance non-basic, non-urgent care, meaning that they cannot help in case of a broken leg or life-threatening injuries.
Low-cost vet clinics
These clinics can provide affordable vaccines, microchipping, spaying and neutering surgeries, and basic treatment for illnesses. However, these clinics may be unable to treat more complex illnesses and hospitalize pets.
Vet schools offer more affordable treatments than vet clinics. Although services in vet schools are provided by students, they are supervised by a veterinarian.
What to consider before buying pet insurance in 2024?
- Assess your pet's needs, such as pre-existing conditions and what illnesses they had in the past. Learn more about your pet's breed, what illnesses it is predisposed to, and whether your furry friend is "high risk." Owners of pets with low medical needs may not benefit from insurance as much; however, some medical conditions are impossible to predict. Insurance may be more helpful for younger pets.
- Choose the right insurance company. Learn the details about the policy's limitations and exclusions, as well as how the company handles pre-existing conditions. Ask the insurance provider how claims are processed and the reimbursement timeframe. Make sure the insurance covers services provided by the vet of your choice. Find out how your premiums will increase as your pet ages or if you make any claims.
- Choose the right policy. If you're planning to microchip your pet or move to a state where certain vaccines are required by law, consider choosing more extensive insurance, including wellness coverage. Discuss insurance options with a vet who knows your pet's medical history.
- Consider finances. Do I have enough savings to cover an unexpected vet bill? What is my credit card debt? What medical procedures my pet may need to undergo this year? Asking yourself these questions may help you decide if pet insurance is worth it.
Should I get pet insurance?
Veterinarians endorse the concept of pet insurance, but whether to get it depends on the individual pet. Owners of younger animals without pre-existing conditions may benefit from pet insurance more than those who own older pets with a more extended medical history.
How much does pet insurance cost a month?
The average monthly cost of pet insurance that covers accidents and illnesses is $48 for dogs and $28 for cats. The insurance price may go up with increasing pet age or for specific breeds that are more predisposed to illnesses.
What is the biggest disadvantage of pet insurance?
Pet insurance does not offer 100% coverage. This means that despite paying $576 a year for a dog and $336 for a cat, you will still have to cover about 20% of a vet bill. Out-of-pocket expenses may be much higher for the treatment of pre-existing conditions.
- MarketWatch. 2024 Pet Insurance Survey: Fearing Costs, 30% of Pet Owners Have Avoided the Vet.
- MarketWatch. 81% of Pet Owners with Pet Insurance Report It’s Worth It.
- North American Pet Health Insurance. Section #3: Average Premiums.
- Care Credit. How Much Does a Vet Visit Cost?
- The American Veterinary Medical Association. Pet health insurance.
- Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine. Feline Diabetes.
- Consumers’ Checkbook. Why Pet Insurance Usually Is a Bad Buy.