Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Just another bill? 🧾

dog on vet table

If you have a young puppy or kitten, you might think you don’t need pet health insurance.

But pet health insurance is actually important — especially when your pet is already healthy.

The Dodo spoke to some experts to find out why it’s worth it for you to get pet insurance.

Is it worth it to get pet insurance?

Getting pet insurance is almost always a good idea. Even if your pet is young and healthy, you never know when an unexpected injury or illness might come up.

“Ask any vet, and they will advise that owners get pet insurance from day one of taking their pet home,” Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinary surgeon and a veterinary consultant for FiveBarks, told The Dodo. “All too often, we see owners whose pets are seriously injured or unwell and are unable to afford their vet bills and are facing a difficult decision.”

Without pet insurance, some pet owners aren’t able to pay for a potentially lifesaving treatment, which can obviously be devastating.

“Pet insurance can save a pet’s life if an owner is faced with an unexpected veterinary expense that they can’t cover,” Dr. Jennifer Coates, part of the advisory board for Pet News Daily, told The Dodo. “Accidents and illnesses can occur at any point in a pet’s life, so it’s important to either have enough savings on hand or to purchase pet insurance as soon as a pet enters your life.”

And your pet can get hurt or sick at any time, even if you think your puppy or kitten is too young to get seriously ill. “Young animals are at relatively high risk for accidents and infectious diseases, so waiting until your dog or cat is older to purchase pet insurance doesn’t always make sense,” Dr. Coates said.

If you get pet insurance, you’ll also have the confidence of knowing that you’ll be ready to take care of your pet regardless of what illnesses may come up.

“Pet insurance provides peace of mind,” Dr. Coates said. “Knowing that you're prepared in case of an emergency is priceless.”

How much does pet insurance cost?

According to Dr. Aliya McCullough, a veterinarian for Fetch by The Dodo, the average cost of pet insurance for a dog is about $50 per month ($600 per year), and the average cost of pet insurance for a cat is about $28 per month ($336 per year).

“Pet insurance premiums are based on the pet’s species (cat vs. dog), breed, age and location,” Dr. McCullough said. “The amount of coverage a pet parent chooses is also a factor in the cost of the pet insurance premium.”

Here are some things to think about when selecting a pet insurance plan, as they can affect your insurance cost:

  • The type of pet you have (dog vs. cat, for example)
  • Your pet’s breed
  • Your pet’s size
  • Where you live
  • Your pet’s age
  • The type of insurance plan and provider you select

Types of pet insurance

There are three kinds of pet insurance coverage policies:

  • Accident — “Accident policies cover injuries caused by accidents, including everything from being hit by a car to ingesting toxic chemicals or pesticides,” Dr. Megan Conrad, a veterinarian with Hello Ralphie, told The Dodo. “This policy does not include injuries caused by diseases, such as a leg fracture resulting from bone cancer.”
  • Accident and illness — “Accident and illness policies cover everything but routine care and pre-existing conditions,” Dr. Conrad said.
  • Wellness — “Wellness coverage is typically an add-on that isn’t purchased on its own,” Dr. Conrad said. “A wellness add-on to your accident and illness policy will cover routine checkups, vaccines and even dental care.”

What does pet insurance cover?

Pet insurance is a great way to be prepared for emergency procedures.

“It is there to pay for unexpected bills,” Dr. Simon said. “If your dog breaks their leg, eats a bone that becomes lodged in their intestine or develops diabetes, pet insurance should pay the bulk of the cost.”

Pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, though, so it won’t retroactively cover your pet if he’s already hurt or sick when you purchase the insurance plan. “Pet insurance generally doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, and you have to purchase a policy before your pet becomes sick or injured,” Dr. Coates said.

“Some pet health insurance policies may contain limitations for pre-existing, genetic, congenital or breeding-related illnesses, as well as restrictions on your coverage when you submit a claim,” Imani Francies, a pet insurance expert with US Insurance Agents, told The Dodo. “When enrolling, make sure you know and appreciate what criteria, such as your pet's breed and any pre-existing illnesses, may influence coverage.”

(However, some plans, like Fetch by The Dodo, do cover certain breed-specific or hereditary issues — so if you have a pet who’s prone to those sorts of problems, it’s a good idea to make sure any future issues will be covered before buying a plan.)

Pet insurance also doesn’t cover routine care, like vaccinations and regular checkups, but you can buy a wellness plan that’ll cover those types of vet visits as an add-on.

“[Wellness] coverage pays for wellness checks and testing, flea and heartworm prevention and vaccines,” Francies said. “Some pet insurance providers will not sell wellness coverage as a standalone plan and will instead ask you to purchase a pet medical plan as well.”

Is pet insurance ever not worth it?

While it’s generally a good idea to have pet insurance, there are some cases when it might not be worth it, like if your pet is already injured or has a pre-existing condition.

“If your dog is already unwell or injured, or you’ve adopted an elderly pooch from the pound, insurance may not be a financially sound investment,” Dr. Simon said. “Insurers charge a premium for covering these dogs, and it may not be worth the initial outlay. However, double check this with your vet, who can discuss things with you on an individual basis.”

But most of the time, it’s worth it to have pet insurance, and it can even save your pet’s life.

“In most cases, pet insurance is worth the cost, especially with high-risk breeds for certain conditions (e.g., dachshunds with back issues),” Dr. Conrad said. “For most pet owners, having insurance can be lifesaving.”

(If you're looking for pet insurance, you’ll want to check out Fetch by The Dodo because it's made by and for adoring pet parents, and because it's the most comprehensive coverage in the US and Canada, covering things that other providers don't or charge extra for.)