Pawlicy Advisor / Pet Insurance Blog

Is Pet Insurance Worth It in 2022? Here’s A Vet’s Perspective

Is pet insurance is worth it - for you? Dr. Hodges, DVM, details EVERYTHING pet parents should consider in making the decision to enroll in coverage. This is a "must-read".

There’s no way to anticipate what will happen in the future — you can’t predict when or how your pets will get sick, or how much it will cost. Pet insurance protects against unexpected veterinary bills. As most Americans struggle to afford a $1,500 emergency vet bill, and one out of every three pets will require emergency treatment each year, the right pet insurance can be a lifesaver.

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Our pets’ lives come with uncertainties. No matter how careful or responsible we are, our puppies find and devour socks, our kittens climb and stumble off shelves, and we have a responsibility to mend them back to health. We love our pets, and pet insurance enables us to care for them without financial burden.

Table of Contents

The Case for Pet Insurance in 2022

The total number of insured cats and dogs in the U.S. has more than doubled in the last five years.

In this time of economic uncertainty (a potential recession looming ahead and the most drastic rise in inflation that we’ve seen in years), pet insurance is becoming more important than ever. As everyday costs are rising and the markets are trending down, you need to ask yourself: what would you do if your dog or cat had an unexpected $5,000 vet bill?

One fellow veterinarian said he has five to 10 difficult discussions per day with pet owners who cannot afford the cost of their animals’ care. If you would do anything to give your pet the medical care they need, please consider pet insurance.

Last year, the number of insured pets in the U.S increased by 28%, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA)1. Today, over 4 million dogs and cats have pet insurance in the US.

How Much Is Pet Insurance?

On average, the monthly cost of pet insurance is $47 for dogs and $29 for cats. Your actual costs may be higher or lower depending on:

  1. Where you live
  2. The age and breed of your pet
  3. How you customize your policy
  4. Which pet insurance discounts you may qualify for

For example:

Another example, here's a look at pet insurance costs in Florida:

average cost of pet insurance in florida

Related: Average Pet Insurance Cost by Breed, Age, and State

The best way to truly understand costs is to compare real quotes for your pet from each provider, side-by-side. Pawlicy Advisor is a free online service that makes comparing remarkably easy.


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What Does Pet Insurance Pay For?

Pet insurance pays you back for unexpected vet bills related to accidents, injuries, and illnesses. With the best insurance companies, you get reimbursed for 80%, 90%, or even 100% of the vet bill (after your deductible is met).

Like most insurance options, you'll pay a monthly premium to keep your coverage active. Once your deductible is met, you can expect your insurance provider to pay for your pet’s eligible expenses, based on your reimbursement rate, up to your policy’s limit.

What Most Plans Cover:

Many providers offer additional coverage benefits that can make caring for your furry friend more affordable. Depending on what features you want from a pet insurance plan, you could also get reimbursed for the cost of:

What Pet Insurance Doesn’t Cover:

No pet insurance will cover pre-existing conditions. However, some providers will cover curable conditions after a certain waiting period with no recurring symptoms. Also, pets with a pre-existing condition are still eligible for insurance, their coverage would only exclude the specific condition that already exists.

Other pet insurance coverage exclusions may include:

*If you're interested in plans that reimburse for routine and preventive care (checkups, vaccinations, spay/neuter, dental cleaning), consider a Wellness Plan add-on.

Related: Are Pet Wellness Plans Worth It?

It's a good idea to always read the fine print of your pet insurance policy so you know exactly what's covered and what's not. Pawlicy Advisor helps you avoid future surprises by quickly identifying these key details so you can compare providers and find the coverage that works best for you.

Types of Plans

Coverage Accident-Only Accident-Illness Accident-Illness + Wellness Add-on
Emergency care for accidents Yes Yes Yes
Treatment & tests for injuries Yes Yes Yes
Emergency care for illnesses No Yes Yes
Treatment & tests for illnesses No Yes Yes
Breed-specific conditions No Yes Yes
Routine care No No Yes
Wellness exams No No Yes
Vaccines No No Yes
Pre-existing conditions No No No

Accident-Only coverage will only provide reimbursement for emergency care related to accidents, like if your pet is hurt by a car or injures themselves by falling down the stairs. This type of coverage does not cover illnesses or breed-specific issues

Accident & Illness coverage provides reimbursement for both accidents and unexpected illnesses. It is the most common, representing about 98% of plans issued by the pet insurance industry.2 This type of plan won’t cover preventive care or pre-existing conditions, but you can expect reimbursement for almost everything else.

Finally, you can purchase an accident-illness plan with a wellness add-on. This is the most expensive type of plan on the market, but it provides the most comprehensive level of coverage. The only health issues that aren’t covered pre-existing conditions.

When comparing pet insurance providers you'll want to look for the right blend of comprehensive coverage and lifetime value.


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How Plans Work: Deductibles, Claims, and Policy Terms

It's important to understand a policy's deductible, reimbursement rate, maximum payout limit, waiting periods, and exclusions before enrolling.

Your deductible is what you need to pay before your provider will reimburse any eligible expenses.

For example, if you had a $200 deductible on a plan with a 90% reimbursement rate and your cat needed a $1,400 dental extraction... you'd ultimately save $1,080 (e.g. $1400 - $200 = $1200... and 90% of $1200 is $1,080).

Your maximum payout limit will either be "per-incident" or as an "annual limit".

The best plans are annual limits, and many offer unlimited payouts. This means you need to meet your deductible each year, but once you do the amount the payout is potentially unlimited.

Your waiting period determines when your coverage kicks in. Be aware that different plans/providers have different waiting periods, and they can even vary by condition - so it's important to read the fine print.

For example, two different plans might look almost identical until you look into the fine print and find that one has a 12-month waiting period for knee injuries whereas the other's is only 30 days. If you have a larger dog who is more prone to knee injuries, you most certainly would not want the plan whose knee injury coverage takes 12 months to kick in.

💡PRO TIP FROM DR. HODGES:

When comparing pet insurance options, you must dive into the fine print to understand any exclusions and distinct per-condition waiting periods - as well as have an understanding of what conditions your breed is most at risk for. This can be a lot of work, so I highly recommend trying Pawlicy Advisor to get a custom analysis of which plans best fit your breed, age, location, and budget.

Related: How Pet Insurance Works


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The Cost of Unexpected Vet Bills

Unforeseen (and expensive) emergency veterinary care is almost impossible to predict - and all too common. In fact, 1 in 3 pets will need emergency treatment within a given year.3

Every 1 in 3 pets need an emergency vet

Accidents like dog bites, fractures, and object ingestion can cost thousands of dollars to treat. A ligament repair in dogs can cost $3,000 to $7,000, not including X-rays, anesthesia, and follow-up care (yes, physical therapy exists for pets too).

dog dental surgery

(Image from Camino Veterinary Hospital 4)

Medical expenses quickly compile after the initial exam as the doctor on duty orders blood tests, x-ray imaging, pain medications, IV fluids, and whatever else the patient might need. As an example, feline urinary obstructions — a fairly common health issue in indoor cats — often require lab testing, antibiotics, and even surgery that can add up to $3,000.

At the very least, the average cost for unexpected veterinary care can easily cost anywhere from $800 to $1,500 or more.5

If your pet needs additional tests or ongoing treatment for their condition, you can expect to pay even more over time. All of these variables affect the vet bill you might face for taking your pet to the ER. But without insurance coverage, the cost to treat unexpected pet emergencies can present a financial burden for the majority of pet parents — in fact, 6 out of 10 Americans have less than $1,000 in savings to spend in an emergency.6

69% of Americans have less than $1000 savings

In the worst cases, a pet medical emergency can lead to long-term expenses.

When this happens, not only do you need to cover the cost of your visit to the emergency vet, but you also have to factor in long-term costs to your yearly budget.

If your pet is seriously injured or develops a chronic illness, they may need regular treatment and medications to maintain their quality of life.

💡 PRO TIP FROM DR. HODGES:

What injuries and illnesses are considered emergencies can vary by insurance provider. There are some standards, like blunt trauma (hit by a car) or kidney failure. But others can be more grey, like toxin exposure. If you need help understanding what a policy actually covers, please contact one of Pawlicy Advisor's licensed experts.


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Dr. Hodges Presents an Example of How Much Common Emergencies Can Cost You

It's important to note that emergency costs vary based on too many factors to ever predict an accurate total.

Depending on the problem, a pet health emergency can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over $7,000. For instance, the estimate to treat parvo disease in puppies — a life-threatening disease prevalent in young, unvaccinated dogs — is $1,000 at some hospitals versus $5,000 to $8,000 at others, and often results in fatality without immediate treatment.

For example, the exam fee at an emergency animal hospital can be $170 at some hospitals or $75 at others.

dog-and-cat-common-costs-for-treatment

These price ranges are dependent on the geographical area, hospital size, level of care facility, and other factors.

How Pet Emergencies Can Lead To Long-Term Expenses

If an emergency is not completely addressed (often due to limited funds of the pet owner), an issue may be overlooked or neglected which can lead to additional ongoing treatment costs.

Large expenses can also lead to debt, where interest charges will increase overall costs even further. You should avoid this if at all possible, and considering pet insurance is often the best first step.

For example, perhaps Fido suffers a hip dislocation that just won't stay in place (chronic subluxation).

If the pet parent does not have the funds to thoroughly investigate or address the issue, the ideal treatment may be put off to "see how it heals” - which can lead to chronic pain for the pet and recurring medication expenses for the pet parent.

Or, perhaps a pet has a urinary tract infection (UTI) and the pet owner didn’t want to pay to have a culture analyzed. Instead, they just start antibiotics… and create a UTI that is now resistant to antibiotic treatment… Now, much more expensive medications will be required, and potentially even hospitalization or worse (the CDC estimates 35,000 Americans die per year to antibiotic-resistant infections).

Sometimes you really need to do that extra test or that extra treatment.

It's difficult to know when, which is why pet insurance is worth the cost for many pet owners: the protection grants financial peace of mind so that treatment conversations can be about what’s the right thing to do, instead of how much it will cost.

Breed-Specific Health Risks

If you're uncertain whether pet insurance is worth the cost, you should be mindful of breed-specific health risks that can significantly increase the price of pet ownership throughout their lifespan.

For example, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals reports that Pugs have a nearly seven times higher likelihood of developing hip dysplasia than poodles, which often costs $1,700 to $5,000 to treat.7

Another example, French Bulldogs are more susceptible to hemivertebrae, a spinal deformity in which vertebrae develop wedge-shaped and cause an angle in the spine. Identifying this deformity will likely require imaging, and treating it may require surgery. Both can cost thousands of dollars.

Larger dog breeds are also more likely to develop health issues that smaller dogs aren’t. Arthritis and certain heart conditions are more common in larger dogs, and both may require ongoing treatment that could cost hundreds or thousands each year.

Your pet's breed-specific risks of developing certain illnesses or chronic conditions are an important factor you must consider when budgeting for the costs of keeping your pet healthy.

Related: Dog Health Issues: Common Conditions by Breed, Size, Age

Related: Common Cat Health Issues by Breed, Age, and Environment


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What Are The Alternatives?

As a pet owner, you only have a few alternatives to pet insurance for covering the cost of veterinary care if you are paying out-of-pocket.

  • You could set aside enough savings to pay when the time comes
  • You could borrow from friends and family
  • You could launch a crowdfunding campaign
  • You could apply for charitable grants
  • You could acquire veterinary financing

If you look online, you might find people touting the importance of financing your own pet care and setting aside money each month over a pet’s lifetime to pay for veterinary bills. However, this does not work if your pet needs expensive surgery or test before you've accumulated enough savings...nor does it work if you have more than one incident.

Something else to consider, Pawlicy Advisor surveyed more than 20,000 pet owners and only 19% said they could cover a $5,000 vet bill out-of-pocket without pet insurance.

Alternatives to pet insurance are not ideal options. Savings accounts offer only limited protection, and other options like crowdfunding or grant programs should really be reserved as backup plans. Only pet insurance gives you peace of mind and protection from multiple emergencies and the most costly expenses.

The Verdict: Is Pet Insurance Worth It Or Should I Just Save Money?

For many people, especially in 2022, pet insurance is worth the cost - and better than just setting aside a rainy-day fund. With the right coverage, you can provide your pet with diagnostics, treatments, and medications without serious financial risk.

Here's a look at the states across America trending with the most interest in pet insurance:

As a veterinarian, I will also say that over the last few years the most significant benefit of pet insurance I’ve seen is peace of mind.

trustpilotpetinsurance

^Image from Trustpilot8

Of course, financial protection is massively helpful and there are additional benefits such as promptness and ease of care. But all of these culminate in a sense of security and peace of mind - and that is huge.

A Shar Pei puppy named Wrigley came down with a genetic disease (Shar Pei Fever) that requires expensive medication to stabilize each month. This puppy belongs to Pawlicy Advisor's CEO, Woody Mawhinney, and his pet insurance saves him hundreds of dollars every month for Wrigley's prescription meds. He co-founded Pawlicy Advisor to help other pet parents find the right coverage for their pet's breed, age, and location.

What People Are Saying on Twitter

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What People Are Saying on Reddit

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What People Are Saying on Quora

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Ultimately, paying a small bill upfront makes it possible to afford treatment for your pet at any age, which is why, for many owners, pet insurance is well worth the cost.

How To Find The Pet Insurance Plan That’s Worth It For You

If you've come to agree that pet insurance is often worth the cost, there are resources that can help you find the best provider for your unique needs.

Pawlicy Advisor is a pet insurance marketplace recommended by the American Animal Hospital Association. It's built to educate pet owners about breed-specific coverage and bring transparency to lifetime pricing across top providers.

AAHA recommended logo

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As a team of pet parents and veterinarians, Pawlicy Advisor knows how overwhelming it can be to face challenging and urgent pet health issues. As pet insurance customers themselves, they also know how valuable insurance policies are to other pet parents and how simple the pet insurance enrollment process should be for everyone.

I want your pet to be as happy and healthy as possible. I believe removing financial barriers from important pet care decisions is a key step toward this goal.

Key Takeaways

  • 1 in 3 pets will need emergency veterinary treatment within a given year.
  • Pet insurance reimburses 70%, 80%, 90%, or even 100% of unexpected veterinary costs depending on your plan.
  • Pawlicy Advisor is a free service that will help you find the best pet insurance for you - with a personalized recommendation and side-by-side comparisons.

Questions & Answers

Is pet insurance worth it for indoor cats?

Pet insurance is worth it for indoor cats as 50% of cats over the age of four develop dental disease. Additionally, there are many toxic household plants and items that require a trip to the vet if your cat eats them.

Related: Do Indoor Cats Need Pet Insurance? Vets Say Yes, Here's Why

Is pet insurance worth it for older dogs?

Pet insurance is can be worth it for older dogs as 50% of dogs over the age of 10 develop cancer. But, it really depends on how old your dog is compared to his/her expected lifespan, and how many pre-existing conditions are already present.

Related: Pet Insurance for Older Pets: Is It Worth It?

What are the disadvantages of pet insurance?

There are no “disadvantages” to having pet health insurance coverage. The considerations to be aware of are mainly two-fold: (1) Pet insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions, and (2) Pet insurance premiums do increase as your pet ages.

What’s the best pet insurance?

The best pet insurance varies from person to person and pet to pet. There is no one-size-fits-all pet insurance, so you’ll want to compare top providers and find the option that covers your pet’s breed-specific health risks and has the best deal. Pawlicy Advisor can do this for you, for free.

Related: The Best Pet Insurance

Does every vet take pet insurance?

Yes, because pet insurance reimburses you instead of paying the doctor. This means your pet insurance will work at any licensed vet or animal hospital across the U.S. You don't have to worry about being “in-network”.

Who should consider pet insurance?

Every pet owner should consider pet insurance. Even if you believe you have enough money to cover veterinary costs, pet insurance could still save you thousands of dollars if your pet gets sick or injured.

Especially if you have multiple pets, your out-of-pocket costs could add up considerably without insurance.

Want to see if pet insurance is worth it - for you? Take the quiz.

References

  1. NAPHIA, "Total Pets Insured" Accessed July 19, 2022.
  2. TodaysVeterinaryBusiness, "Insured Pet Population Grows by 18" Accessed July 19, 2022.
  3. CNBC, "Most Americans Own a Pet but Can't Afford to Pay Their Medical Bills" Accessed July 19, 2022.
  4. Camino Vet Hospital, "Surgery Dentistry" Accessed July 19, 2022.
  5. CNBC, "Are You Prepared to Pay For a Pet Emergency? Most Americans Are Not" Accessed July 19, 2022.
  6. Bankrate, "Financial Security January 2022" Accessed July 19, 2022.
  7. OFA, "Disease Statistics" Accessed July 19, 2022.
  8. Trustpilot, "Hartville Pet Insurance" Accessed July 19, 2022.
William Hodges, DVM

William Hodges, DVM

Veterinarian - Hodges DVM

William Hodges, DVM, has focused on Emergency Medicine since 2014 and now runs his own locum business for veterinary hospitals, helping specialty hospital ER services across the U.S. Providing compassionate and collaborative care for animals, he guides pet owners to a more actionable understanding of their roles as pet parents.

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