Should You Buy Pet Insurance?

Pet InsurancePets are a big responsibility. In addition to the time and care we invest, the cost of owning a pet can be significant, particularly when it comes to medical expenses. Medical care is of course 100% the responsibility of the owner, so deciding whether to carry pet insurance is not a decision to be taken lightly.  Is it worth your while to carry pet insurance?

If you’re in the market for pet insurance, you won’t find many providers.  Unlike medical and auto insurance, there are only a handful of pet insurance coverage providers.  Generally there are four categories of pets that can be covered; Dogs, Cats, Birds and Exotic Pets.  Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) continues to be the leader in pet medical coverage, providing over 70% of all pet insurance plans in action today, so let’s take a look at what an average plan costs and what those costs can save you if your pet is in need of medical care.

I’ve always wanted to own a Siberian Husky, so for the rest of this article, I’m going to.  The average lifespan of this beautiful animal is around 12 years.  Assuming I get him at a relatively young age, I would plan on having this pet as a loyal member of my family for over 10 years.  Knowing this, it’s time for me to find a pet insurance quote online.  Just as you would select the type of car you drive when buying auto insurance, I am asked what kind of dog I have, how old it is and where I live.  All are depending factors of how much my monthly premium will be, and you can bet the older and more problematic the species, the higher the premium.  Next, I am given six different coverage options to choose from. (Pre-existing conditions are not covered):

  • Common Problems (Vomiting, Skin Infections, Ear and Eye Infections)
  • Panic-Moment Problems (Hit By a Car, Attacked, Poisoned)
  • Expensive Problems (Back Problems, Cancers, etc.)
  • Routine Care (Vaccinations, Flea Control)
  • Additional Care (Neuters, Dental Cleanings)
  • Enhanced Care (Rare cancers, Leukemia)

Wanting to take good care of White Fang (pretty original huh), I’ve selected all available coverages.  The result is two available plans, both of which are under $50 a month, so pretty reasonable.

  1. VPI Standard Plan ($36.08/month) – While there’s a varying table of coverages and reimbursements, the average reimbursement amount on all veterinary visits is around 60%, so if my puppy had to have surgery that cost $4,000, I could expect to pay a $50 deductible, then have around $2,400 reimbursed.
  2. VPI Superior Plan ($47.84/month) – Still covering all procedures with a $50 deductible, you can expect to see a 75% – 80% reimbursement on all covered procedures.

With each year your pet gets older, you can expect to see your policy increase slightly.  If White Fang were 9 years old, the coverage amounts above would be $45.00 and $60.00 respectively, so not that big of a change.  Assuming I’ve insured him on the standard plan for 10 total years, I would have paid ~$4,800 for pet insurance.  Over the course of 10 years, it’s certainly not a hefty amount to provide your family pet excellent care and provide you the peace of mind knowing that you can afford any immediate emergency.  After the age of 10, it is rare that you can find an insurance provider and if you do, expect to pay quite a premium.

But how common are high-cost emergencies when pets are well groomed, properly cared for and relatively young?  Outside of vaccinations and an occasional broken bone, other procedures are extremely uncommon and all of the coverages I’ve purchased above will likely never be used.  Because my deductible is $50, the little things at the vet’s office will probably come completely out my pocket and I’m still shelling out $40 a month for coverage.   Not entirely happy with this option, I’ve decided to protect my husky with Plan B, opening a savings account!

Rather than pay a $40 monthly premium, an alternative option would be to tuck that money away in a high rate savings account, specifically to care for your pet.  Anytime you have your pet checked out or in need of medical attention, you can pull from that account which should house more than enough money for random visits and standard care. After a few years you will even have enough to be able to afford an expensive procedure if it’s needed.  If it’s not, you’ve just saved a few thousand dollars that can be put toward other things. Of course, there is always the risk that a major medical bill will bite you. So the question is, do you buy pet insurance and risk spending thousands in premiums you’ll never use, or put money in a savings account each month and risk that it won’t be enough to cover your pet’s medical needs?

Currently, of the 200+ million pets that are kept by US citizens, only 5% of them are covered with medical insurance so if you do decide to purchase pet insurance, you’d be in the minority. If you decide against the coverage, make sure to set aside money each month to cover those unexpected medical bills for your pet.

Published or Updated: December 8, 2011

Comments

  1. Ann Julie says:

    Pet Insurance !!! . What is next insect insurance. I personally don’t believe that pet insurance should even be a product. Blue chip insurance companies just simply find a way every now and then to snatch money from the people. Keeping pets is more of a hobby than necessity. Paying insurance premiums for hobbies is just simply not my thingy.

    • Howard says:

      thats your choice….you obviously do not care that much about your pet. That is fair. As long as you are honest with yourself. But; it doesn’t make someone else a fool if they choose to insure their pet. Its just a matter of what matters to you. I have insurance for my dog…but not me. Thats because I care a lot about my dog and couldn’t afford to pay for an injury or illness if it were to occur. And; her cost is a lot lower than mine would be. Plus; it is my obligation to take care of her….and it would probably be my fault if something happened to her.
      It is just about what matters to each person.

  2. Evan says:

    The Wife and I have VPI, and the reason we did it was simple…the $30/month was worth knowing the fact that the decision would never have to be made if the dog was too hurt or too sick to save her (vs putting her down) because of cost.

    Take a look at this dog:
    http://www.myjourneytomillions.com/articles/life-ignore-costs/

  3. DR says:

    We recently got a dog and are still deciding whether to get pet insurance. Medical expenses for a dog can be extremely expensive, so it’s a serious consideration.

  4. Maya says:

    I got pet insurance for my dog because the cost of vet care has gotten so high and if something should happen I would not want to put her to sleep. I found a good report and information at:
    http://smartpetinsurance.com/

  5. Matthew says:

    My wife and I decided to purchase insurance for both of our dogs. One is a Pekingese Poodle mix and the other is a Shepard Chow mix. For the last 7 years we have used Banfield Optimum Wellness Basic Plus plans.
    We have been very satisfied with the plans overall and make use of all the benefits including the teeth cleanings.

    However, we have not ALWAYS used it. Our Shepard Chow mix tore her ACL and it needed to be reconstructed. We live in the Chicago area and the typical quotes ran in the $3500-$4500 range plus any additional medicines. Wow! This is where looking around makes a BIG difference.

    We decided to have the surgery performed and it only cost us $1500 including medicines, plus we had a wonderful day trip to an interesting area.

    What happened is that we discovered that Veterinarians in more rural areas charge different fees. You could possibly apply a variant of Parkinsons law here: Fees will increase to encompass the maximum dollar amount the areas population may be able to afford. In rural areas of the U.S. the per capita income can be significantly lower. Therefore the people who live in those areas and provide services will typically charge what the population will support.

    Basically we drove 3 hours from Chicago to South Western Michigan. We had found a great doctor who had good references ( 2 hours of asking friends and research on the web). We left at 4:00 in the morning. Dropped off our loving pet. Drove 45 minutes to an Amish town and took photos, ate lunch, and visited small shoppes. Then in the afternoon we picked up our pretty little lady (highly drugged) and drove home.

    Total costs:
    $1500 Surgery and followup medicines
    $100 Gasoline
    $150 Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and some shopping.

    $1750 total for 6 hours of driving, 6 hours of wandering around holding hands with my wife and shopping in a cute little community, and a spare $1750 – $2750 in my wallet. I hope my experiences help others when it comes to a challenging and expensive procedure on a furry family member.

    • DR says:

      Matthew, thanks for sharing your experience and the informtion. We still haven’t decided whether to get insurance on our 6 month old Shee-tzu.

  6. Minilaan says:

    I think it’s really important to keep your pet insured. If your pet gets sick it can be very costly.

  7. Teddy's Mom says:

    I have insurance on my puppy and my cat. The puppy’s has already paid 75% of the cost of neutering and one emergency vet visit. After having to put down a cat last year whose vet bills over the years reached close to $10K, I decided that insurance is well worth the cost of premiums.

    The cat is older, so I only have coverage for major illness and accident on him, but my puppy has full coverage–everything from checkups and vaccinations to teeth cleaning to major surgery.

    I’ve learned my lesson.

  8. Oslobåden says:

    When my dog broke his leg this summer the vet bill was around USD 1000 so I was very happy that I actually had a pet insurance. Saved the day! :)

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