Pet insurance: Is it worth the cost?

Pet insurance is an investment in the well-being of your beloved companion. While it may entail a significant financial commitment, its value becomes apparent when faced with unforeseen circumstances such as serious illness or injury.

Consider the scenario where you arrive home to find your dog in distress, exhibiting symptoms of illness. Upon prompt veterinary evaluation, it is revealed that your pet has ingested a foreign object necessitating immediate surgical intervention, incurring substantial costs. In such instances, the financial strain of covering these expenses out-of-pocket can be overwhelming. This is where pet insurance proves invaluable.

Comprehensive pet insurance policies mitigate the financial burden associated with veterinary care. Coverage extends to a range of medical necessities including but not limited to cancer treatment, emergency interventions, prescription medications, and surgical procedures.

Beyond mere financial implications, pet insurance has the potential to preserve the lives of animals facing critical medical conditions. Without adequate resources for treatment, some pets may face euthanasia, highlighting the crucial role of insurance in ensuring access to life-saving interventions.

However, the decision to invest in pet insurance necessitates careful consideration of individual circumstances. While it offers peace of mind in times of crisis, those with pets seldom requiring extensive medical attention may question its cost-effectiveness. Assessing the likelihood of veterinary expenses against the premiums payable is imperative in determining the feasibility of pet insurance for your situation.


The rise of pet insurance

The prevalence of pet insurance is steadily rising, indicative of a growing trend among pet owners to safeguard the health and well-being of their animal companions. According to data provided by the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), the coverage extended to domestic dogs and cats in the United States witnessed a notable surge in 2023, encompassing over 5.6 million pets—an uptick of 17% compared to the preceding year. Remarkably, this figure represents more than a twofold increase since 2019, underscoring the escalating adoption of pet insurance policies.

Despite this pronounced growth trajectory, it is important to note that the proportion of pets covered by insurance remains a minority within the broader population of American households. As indicated by the 2023-2024 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, the United States is home to an estimated 65 million households with dogs and nearly 47 million households with cats. In light of these figures, while the expansion of pet insurance is notable, it still serves only a fraction of the total pet-owning demographic in the country.


What pet insurance costs?

According to data compiled by NAPHIA in 2023, the average annual premiums for comprehensive accident and illness coverage stand at approximately $676 for dogs and $383 for cats. This translates to an approximate monthly expenditure of $56 for dogs and $32 for cats.

Alternatively, opting for an accident-only policy reduces the annual premium to $204 for dogs and $116 for cats. While such plans offer coverage for injuries resulting from accidents such as vehicular collisions or ingestion of harmful substances, they do not extend coverage to illnesses.

It is important to note that premium rates are subject to variability influenced by several factors including the age and breed of your pet, the prevailing costs of veterinary care in your locality, and the specific terms and conditions of the insurance policy selected.

As pets age and become more susceptible to health issues, premium rates typically increase accordingly. Consequently, there is a risk of affordability constraints leading to potential discontinuation of coverage precisely when the need for veterinary care intensifies.

To gauge the trajectory of premium escalation over time, we analyzed sample quotes provided by Pets Best, a prominent pet insurance provider, for a medium-sized, mixed-breed dog domiciled in Katy, Texas. The following monthly premiums were observed for a policy featuring a $5,000 annual coverage limit, $500 deductible, and 80% reimbursement rate:


Monthly rate

3 months


2 years


4 years


6 years


8 years


10 years


12 years


While the monthly increases may appear modest at first glance, it’s essential to consider the cumulative impact over the entirety of your dog’s lifespan, typically spanning 12 years.

The cost of pet insurance for a dog over time

Additionally, we obtained quotations from Pets Best for a domestic shorthair cat residing within the same ZIP code. The premium rates provided extend up to age 14, accounting for the longer anticipated lifespan of feline companions.

Cat’s age

Monthly rate

3 months


2 years


4 years


6 years


8 years


10 years


12 years


14 years


While the aggregate premiums for cats may be lower in comparison, a notable escalation in premium rates with advancing age is observed, mirroring the trend observed with dogs.

The cost of pet insurance for a cat over time

Ultimately, maintaining pet insurance throughout your pet’s lifespan is projected to entail a substantial financial commitment, potentially amounting to thousands of dollars in premiums. It is important to bear in mind that the figures provided are illustrative and represent a single pet insurance provider within a specific geographic area. Therefore, it is advisable to conduct thorough research and explore multiple insurance options to ensure the best fit for your individual circumstances.

What pet insurance pays for

The value proposition of pet insurance lies in its potential to provide financial relief in the face of costly veterinary diagnoses. However, it’s crucial to manage expectations, as most insurance plans typically do not offer full reimbursement for every veterinary expense incurred.


Deductibles, limits and payouts

Most pet insurance policies feature an annual deductible, representing the initial amount for which you are responsible before the insurer begins coverage. Following the fulfillment of your deductible, the majority of plans reimburse a predetermined percentage of your veterinary expenses, typically ranging from 70% to 90%. Additionally, policies may impose an annual maximum payout limit.

However, it is imperative to recognize that insurance providers may employ varying approaches concerning deductibles and reimbursement rates. While some insurers apply the deductible first before calculating the reimbursement percentage, others may apply the reimbursement rate even before the deductible is met, necessitating a higher out-of-pocket expenditure before eligibility for reimbursement.

For instance, suppose you have selected a plan with a $500 deductible, offering coverage up to $10,000 annually with an 80% reimbursement rate. If your dog requires a $2,000 surgical procedure and you have yet to contribute towards the deductible, the reimbursement amount would either be $1,100 or $1,200, depending on the methodology applied. The calculation unfolds as follows:

When the deductible is applied initially: $2,000 – $500 deductible = $1,500. 80% of $1,500 = $1,200.

When the reimbursement rate is applied first: $2,000 x 0.8 = $1,600. $1,600 – $500 = $1,100.

Customization options are often available, allowing for adjustments to the deductible or reimbursement rate to align with individual preferences. However, it is important to note that such modifications typically result in corresponding adjustments to the premium cost.

What’s covered and what’s not

Even in instances where a pet insurance plan boasts no annual limit and offers 100% reimbursement, it is essential to recognize that not all veterinary expenses may be eligible for coverage.

For instance, routine procedures such as spaying or neutering, vaccinations, annual checkups, and dental cleanings typically require the purchase of additional add-ons for wellness and preventive care. This delineates a fundamental aspect of pet insurance: it primarily serves to mitigate the financial impact of unexpected and unforeseen veterinary expenses rather than routine costs associated with pet ownership.

However, one of the most critical exclusions across virtually all pet insurance plans pertains to pre-existing conditions. Generally, pet insurance policies extend coverage solely to new injuries or illnesses that occur after the policy’s inception, excluding conditions that the animal had before the policy came into effect. Consequently, attempting to procure pet insurance to offset the costs of pre-existing conditions, such as chemotherapy for a cat diagnosed with cancer, is unlikely to yield coverage.

Thus, the inherent value of pet insurance often lies in its utility for young and healthy pets rather than those already afflicted with chronic conditions.

Furthermore, lapses in policy coverage can exacerbate issues related to pre-existing conditions. For instance, if a policyholder experiences a period of unemployment leading to the inability to pay premiums for their pet’s coverage, subsequent reinstatement of the policy may result in all prior ailments being deemed pre-existing conditions, including those previously covered under the initial plan.

For comprehensive information regarding coverage inclusions and exclusions, we recommend consulting our guide to pet insurance coverage.

The cost of veterinary care

Based on survey data compiled by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) in 2022, dog owners incur an average annual expenditure of $472 on surgical veterinary visits and $250 on routine veterinary visits. Conversely, cat owners exhibit lower annual costs, with average expenses totaling $232 for surgical veterinary visits and $198 for routine veterinary visits. It is noteworthy to mention that routine care expenses are typically excluded from standard pet insurance coverage unless additional premiums are paid for supplemental coverage.

Outlined below are the predominant categories of pet insurance claims for dogs and cats, as delineated by the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) based on 2021 statistics, the most recent available.



1. Urinary tract infection.

1. Urinary tract infection.

2. Otitis/ear infection.

2. Diabetes.

3. Gastroenteritis.

3. Vomiting/emesis.

4. Diarrhea.

4. Kidney disease.

5. Dermatology/skin conditions (allergies, irritation, infections, mass).

5. Hyperthyroidism.

6. Arthritis.

6. Gastroenteritis.

7. Allergies.

7. Diarrhea.

8. Lameness.

8. Upper respiratory infection.

9. Vomiting.

9. Respiratory.

10. Seizure.

10. Cancer/growth/oncology.

11. Ophthalmology/eye conditions.

11. Inflammatory bowel disease.

Source: NAPHIA 2021 State of the Industry Report

While certain conditions listed may necessitate relatively minor and cost-effective treatments, such as the resolution of a urinary tract infection through a course of antibiotics, others may entail significantly higher expenses.

For instance, a prevalent affliction among dogs is mast cell tumors, which, if diagnosed, often require surgical intervention for removal, with associated costs ranging from $500 to over $1,000. In instances where tumors prove to be aggressive or surgically challenging, additional treatment modalities such as radiation or chemotherapy may be recommended by veterinarians, incurring expenses amounting to thousands of dollars.

The financial viability of pet insurance hinges on the likelihood and severity of health conditions encountered by your pet over its lifetime. While those with pets primarily experiencing minor health issues may find themselves paying more in premiums than they receive in reimbursements, the potential financial relief provided by insurance in the event of a serious medical crisis underscores its value.

What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

The primary distinction between human health insurance and pet insurance lies in the reimbursement structure. Unlike human health insurance, which often operates on a direct payment system to healthcare providers, pet insurance plans typically operate on a reimbursement basis. Under this model, pet owners initially pay for veterinary services out-of-pocket and subsequently submit a claim to the insurance company for reimbursement. Additionally, unlike human health insurance, pet insurance lacks provider networks, allowing policyholders to seek veterinary care from any licensed practitioner, with subsequent bill submissions to the insurance provider.

Comprehensive accident and illness pet insurance plans typically encompass a range of conditions and treatments, including but not limited to:

– Treatment for broken bones
– Management of toxic ingestion incidents
– Dental care for conditions such as gingivitis
– Chronic ailment management, such as diabetes
– Coverage for breed-specific conditions like hip dysplasia
– Emergency veterinary care
– Surgical interventions
– Diagnostic procedures
– Hospitalization and associated surgical procedures
– Prescription medication coverage

In contrast, accident-only pet insurance plans exclusively cover veterinary expenses arising from accidental injuries, such as torn ligaments or accidental ingestion of harmful substances. These plans do not extend coverage to veterinary expenses associated with illnesses, such as ear infections or cancer.

Furthermore, certain pet insurance plans offer optional wellness or routine care coverage as an add-on feature. This supplementary coverage encompasses expenses related to routine preventive care, including routine check-ups, microchipping, vaccinations, and flea/tick prevention treatments.


What Does Pet Insurance Not Cover?

Common exclusions in pet insurance policies encompass the following:

1. Experimental Treatment: This category encompasses treatments deemed experimental, investigational, or not aligned with the standard of care endorsed by the veterinary medical board in your respective state.

2. Food, Dietary, and Nutritional Supplements: Typically, expenses related to your pet’s diet are not covered by pet insurance; however, certain plans may extend coverage to prescription food and supplements.

3. Grooming: Services such as baths, dips, nail trims, and shampoos are commonly excluded from coverage under pet insurance policies.

4. Non-Veterinary Expenses: This includes miscellaneous expenses such as licensing or certification fees, compliance with government regulations (e.g., dog licensing), record access or copying charges, and waste disposal services.

5. Pre-existing Conditions: Pet insurance policies often exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions, comprising illnesses and injuries that your pet experienced before the commencement of coverage. While some plans permanently exclude pre-existing conditions, others may offer coverage under specific circumstances. For instance, ASPCA pet insurance provides coverage for “curable” pre-existing conditions if the pet has been symptom-free for a specified duration, typically 180 days. If the condition recurs after this period, it is considered a new problem and may be covered accordingly.


Pet Insurance Deductibles, Reimbursement and Coverage Caps

When selecting a pet insurance policy, one of the key decisions to make is determining the deductible amount, which represents the initial out-of-pocket expense you must cover before the insurance coverage commences. Deductible amounts typically range from $50 to $1,000 in pet insurance policies. Generally, there are two main types of pet insurance deductibles:

1. Annual Deductible: Under this arrangement, you are required to meet the deductible once per policy term. Once the deductible is fulfilled during the policy period, you are not obligated to pay it again until the commencement of the subsequent policy term.

2. Per-Condition Deductible: This deductible structure entails paying a deductible for each distinct condition or incident that necessitates veterinary care. For instance, if your pet suffers from chronic allergies, you would pay a deductible for medical expenses associated with the treatment of that condition. Once the deductible is satisfied for a particular condition, subsequent veterinary expenses related to that condition are exempt from further deductible payments. However, if your pet develops a new condition or incident, a new deductible would apply.

In addition to selecting a deductible amount, policyholders must also choose a reimbursement level, representing the percentage of veterinary expenses that the insurer will cover after the deductible is met. Common reimbursement levels include 70%, 80%, or 90%, although certain insurers, such as Figo, offer 100% reimbursement of veterinary expenses.

Furthermore, pet insurance companies may offer the option to set an annual coverage cap, such as $5,000. While some companies, such as Pets Best, TrustedPals, and Spot, provide policies with unlimited annual coverage.


Are Pet Owners Buying Pet Insurance?

The adoption of pet insurance has witnessed a significant surge in popularity, as evidenced by a 28% increase in the total number of insured pets in the United States from 2020 to 2021, according to data compiled by the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA). Notably, dogs constitute the predominant portion of insured pets, comprising 82% of the total, with cats representing the remaining 18%.

This upward trajectory in pet insurance adoption may be attributed, at least in part, to the impact of the pandemic. Findings from a survey conducted by Forbes Advisor revealed that over three-quarters (78%) of pet owners reported acquiring a pet during the pandemic, underscoring the heightened demand for pet ownership during this period.

Alternatives to pet insurance

Should the option of purchasing pet insurance not align with your preferences, there are alternative methods available to finance the medical care of your beloved companion.



An alternative approach to financing veterinary expenses involves directing monthly contributions towards a high-yield savings account designated for such purposes.

This strategy offers the benefit of flexibility, as funds remain accessible for other uses in the event that your pet remains in good health. However, it is important to acknowledge the potential downside, wherein the accumulated savings may prove insufficient to cover unexpected and costly veterinary emergencies, particularly if they arise shortly after acquiring your pet.

Financial assistance

In the event of financial constraints hindering access to veterinary care for your pet, several avenues remain available for assistance. Your veterinarian may offer the option of establishing a payment plan, accommodating the costs over a period of time. Alternatively, exploring alternative clinics that offer more affordable treatment options for your pet’s needs could be considered.

Additionally, initiating a crowdfunding campaign presents an opportunity to harness the support of friends and family, pooling resources to cover veterinary expenses. Charitable organizations may also extend assistance through grants or other forms of support. Resources compiled by reputable organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States can provide valuable guidance and assistance in navigating available avenues of support.

So, is pet insurance worth it?

Consider buying pet insurance if:

Consider the following scenarios when evaluating the necessity of pet insurance:

1. Your pet is young and in good health.
2. You lack sufficient savings to offset substantial veterinary expenses.
3. Insurance coverage offers peace of mind and financial security.

Conversely, pet insurance may not be deemed worthwhile under the following circumstances:

1. Your pet is a senior or has pre-existing health conditions.
2. Should a sizable veterinary bill not pose a financial burden for you.
3. You prefer assuming the risk of potentially expensive medical diagnoses over investing in insurance that may remain unused.

If you have determined that pet insurance aligns with your needs, refer to NerdWallet’s comprehensive guide outlining The Best Pet Insurance Companies for informed decision-making.


Example of Pet Insurance Being Worth It

Let’s examine the financial implications of pet insurance through a hypothetical scenario:

Premiums: Over the course of three years, you have been consistently paying $684 annually for your dog’s insurance, totaling $2,052 in premiums thus far.

Incurred Vet Bill: Suddenly, your dog ingests a small toy, necessitating veterinary treatment that incurs a total cost of $4,000. Assuming a $500 deductible and a 90% reimbursement level, your out-of-pocket expenses for this incident amount to $850 ($500 deductible + 10% of $3,500 = $850).

Financial Outcome: When aggregating the premiums paid over three years and the cost of the toy incident, your total expenditure amounts to $2,902. Without the coverage provided by pet insurance, you would have incurred the full $4,000 expense for veterinary treatment. Consequently, having pet insurance has enabled you to mitigate your expenses by approximately $1,100.

Walter Haugland, Vice President of Marketing at Pets Best, emphasizes the significance of pet insurance in preparing for unforeseen emergencies: “It’s essential to recognize that four out of five pets will encounter an unexpected emergency. The timing of such events is unpredictable, occurring within months or even years after acquiring your pet. Planning for the unexpected can be challenging, making pet insurance an invaluable resource in mitigating financial risks associated with unforeseen circumstances.”

Should I Get Pet Insurance?

When evaluating the necessity of pet insurance, it is prudent to consider the following:

1. What level of out-of-pocket expenses are you comfortable assuming for veterinary bills?
2. How would you manage significant veterinary expenses in the event of an unforeseen emergency, such as an accident or a serious illness like cancer?

While you may have a predetermined threshold for veterinary expenditures during ordinary circumstances, the reality of facing a life-threatening situation with your pet may prompt a willingness to extend your budget beyond initial expectations, as noted by Haugland.

In summary, the decision to purchase pet insurance offers pet owners peace of mind and affords them the flexibility to make informed and optimal care decisions for their pets without shouldering excessive financial risk, as emphasized by Haugland.


Does my dog really need insurance?

If the prospect of covering a substantial veterinary expense does not present a concern for you, pet insurance may not be necessary for your dog.

However, it is imperative to acknowledge that the expenses associated with veterinary visits can accrue rapidly, and pet insurance serves as a proactive measure to mitigate the financial burden of such costs. By alleviating the financial strain of veterinary bills, pet insurance offers peace of mind to pet owners.

What is a disadvantage of pet insurance?

While forgoing claims on pet insurance might initially seem like an expenditure without immediate returns, maintaining coverage ensures financial preparedness in the event that your pet requires costly medical treatment. Thus, the ongoing payment of premiums can prove invaluable when confronted with the need for expensive veterinary care.

Is it worth making a pet insurance claim?

Determining when to initiate a claim on your pet insurance policy typically involves straightforward assessment, facilitated by referring to your policy documents or consulting with your insurance provider for clarification. However, it is essential to note that the viability of a claim may be compromised if the deductible amount, commonly referred to as the policy excess, exceeds the total cost of the treatment.

Is it okay to not have pet insurance?

Absence of insurance coverage can render the expenses associated with unforeseen pet emergencies financially burdensome for a significant proportion of pet owners. Shockingly, statistics reveal that six out of 10 Americans possess savings amounting to less than $1,000, underscoring the precarious financial position of many individuals in the face of emergencies. In extreme scenarios, a pet medical emergency has the potential to escalate into enduring financial obligations.


Is it worth shopping around for pet insurance?

When seeking pet insurance, it is advisable to conduct thorough market research to identify cost-effective options. Given the upward trend in pet insurance premiums, it is imperative to compare quotes from various providers, including those not featured on comparison sites. Notably, certain major providers, such as Direct Line and Petplan, may necessitate direct engagement to access their offerings.

Is lifetime pet insurance worth it?

Lifetime pet insurance coverage is highly recommended in scenarios where your pet encounters chronic conditions like diabetes or arthritis, necessitating long-term care. While Lifetime policies offer extensive coverage, encompassing a wide range of conditions, it’s worth noting that their comprehensive nature often translates to higher premiums compared to Time-limited policies. Time-limited policies, on the other hand, provide coverage for short-term illnesses and injuries.

Should I use my pet insurance?

Pet insurance serves to offset the expenses associated with treating your pet in the event of illness or injury, requiring veterinary intervention. This proactive measure not only safeguards against unexpected and potentially exorbitant bills but also ensures comprehensive coverage tailored to your pet’s needs. Depending on the specific policy, pet insurance may also extend to cover dental care expenses.

Is it bad to cancel pet insurance?

Terminating a pet insurance policy is a significant decision that warrants careful consideration. It is advisable to proceed with cancellation only if you are confident in your ability to financially manage any unforeseen veterinary expenses that may arise for your pet.

Why do people take out pet insurance?

Pet insurance serves as a valuable resource in mitigating the financial implications associated with veterinary treatment in cases of injury or illness affecting your pet. Additionally, it can facilitate the retrieval of your pet in the event of loss or theft. Furthermore, certain policies may provide reimbursement for incurred losses or expenses, such as the necessity to curtail a vacation prematurely to attend to your pet’s needs.

What is the cheapest and best pet insurance?

After conducting a comprehensive assessment of numerous pet insurance providers, Lemonade and ManyPets emerge as the most cost-effective options. ManyPets, in particular, stands out as the most budget-friendly choice, boasting an average monthly premium of $23 and offering the most economical coverage for cats, priced at $16 per month.


Should you get pet insurance for an indoor cat?

Pet insurance remains essential for indoor cats despite their confinement indoors. While they may not venture outside, indoor cats are still susceptible to various hazards within the home environment, ranging from toxic substances like houseplants to ingestion of foreign objects such as hair ties. Furthermore, indoor cats are prone to health issues related to sedentary lifestyles, including weight gain and the development of associated medical conditions like arthritis and diabetes.

Is Petplan worth it?

Feedback from Petplan’s clientele indicates overall satisfaction with the efficiency and promptness of their claims processing and payout procedures. However, a subset of customers has expressed concerns regarding the perceived high cost of the insurance and occasional instances of unsatisfactory experiences, particularly related to delays in the settlement of bills.

Why do vets recommend PetPlan?

Our commitment to comprehensive coverage is reflected in our high claim approval rate, with 97% of all claims being successfully processed. This track record of reliability is underscored by the trust placed in us by thousands of veterinary professionals who choose to partner with our services. Additionally, we offer the convenience of direct payment to veterinarians, further streamlining the claims process for our policyholders.

Do you get money from pet insurance?

Vet-direct pay is a service offered by only a limited number of pet insurance companies. Unlike most providers that necessitate submission of vet expenses for reimbursement subsequent to payment, this option enables direct payment to the veterinarian. In the event of coverage for the accident or illness, reimbursement of 50% to 100% of the bill is typically contingent upon the policy selections made by the insured.

What age is best to get pet insurance?

In essence, it is optimal to acquire pet insurance for dogs during their youthful stages, ideally as puppies. With advancing age, their health is prone to deterioration, rendering them increasingly risky to insure. Consequently, such elevated risk is reflected in higher monthly and annual insurance premiums, ultimately borne by the owner.

Amy Danise

Amy Danise is the managing editor for and Forbes Advisor's insurance section, covering auto, home, renters, life, pet, travel, health, and small business insurance. With over 30 years in the insurance sector, she specializes in simplifying complex insurance topics into actionable information. Amy collaborates with her team to translate insurance jargon into clear language for consumers, helping them understand insurance costs and find top-rated companies. Leveraging her extensive industry contacts, she develops Forbes Advisor's insurance content and analyzes state regulatory filings for insights. Amy's expertise has earned her features in major news outlets like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She holds a Bachelor's degree in American Studies from Wesleyan University.

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