Many dog owners struggle with the decision to buy pet insurance. When your dog is young and healthy, you may not think you need to worry about expensive veterinary costs. A simple visit to the vet for a regular checkup may be an expense you can pay out-of-pocket for without too much problem.
Routine and annual veterinary care usually costs between $200 to $400 for dogs. On average, dog owners bring their pets to the vet about 1.5 times per year, or around once or twice per year. Most veterinarians suggest you bring your dog in for a checkup at least once a year.
But pet insurance doesn’t work the same way as human health insurance. Although some wellness plans cover the costs of routine care, pet insurance works more like car insurance — it helps you pay for unexpected veterinary costs, expensive treatments and operations like surgeries, and life-saving emergency care. Instead of paying the vet directly, your insurer pays you a reimbursement after you pay for veterinary costs.
The average cost of unexpected veterinary care for both dogs and cats is typically between $800 and $1,500.
However, some treatments, surgeries, and procedures can cost many thousands of dollars. Furthermore, 1 in 3 pets will need emergency veterinary care each year.
Let's walk through the top considerations in getting pet insurance for your dog.
- Average veterinary costs for a dog
- Reasons to get pet insurance for your dog
- Common canine illnesses covered by pet insurance
- Additional costs that pet insurance can help you pay for
- Vets agree - pet insurance is an important investment for pet parents
Average Veterinary Costs for a Dog
Dogs are members of the family, but they aren’t cheap. As we mentioned, the average cost for caring for one can reach $1,500 a year for basic pet wellness.
Your dog needs the recommended nutritional food for his or her breed, a leash and collar, toys, and grooming. One-time expenses such as puppy training can add another $500-$1,000. Unfortunately for pet owners, this figure does not include unanticipated health expenses, which are on the rise as the cost of veterinary care increases.
Due to their age, breed, and genetic makeup, some dogs are more prone to health conditions than others.
For example, if you have a miniature poodle or terrier, he or she might be more likely to develop knee problems or breathing problems. Meanwhile, a larger dog might be prone to hip dysplasia and arthritis, and periodontal disease is the most common ailment in both dogs and cats.
These are all treatable conditions, but they can hurt your pet’s quality of life if they are not addressed.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), below are the most common chronic health conditions that dogs may develop:
- Breathing difficulties, usually in small-breed dogs and dogs with short noses, can require emergency trips to the vet;
- Arthritis is common in older dogs, especially larger breeds. The drug Adequan can cost $70 per vial;
- Hypothyroidism, especially in large dogs, should be treated with medication in order to prevent more serious complications;
- Benign skin growths can require removal. Surgeries under local or general anesthesia can exceed $1,000;
- Cancer, unfortunately, strikes one in three dogs and is the leading reason for economic euthanasia. Therapies range from $2,000 to $6,000 on average, but can far exceed that cost.
Even otherwise healthy pets can unexpectedly get sick or injured. If your dog socializes with other dogs or plays at dog parks, he or she may also be prone to these communicable diseases. Though an issue may only occur once, treatments are costly.
Common Illnesses in Dogs
Let's what a few common issues might cost you:
|Kennel cough||Communicable||$300 for antibiotics|
|Canine parvovirus||Communicable||$500 to $2,000 per dose|
|Ringworm||Communicable||$100 for medication|
|Pancreatitis||Schnauzers, poodles, cocker spaniels are at higher risk||$200 to $1,000 per episode|
|Vomiting / diarrhea||May be communicable||$80-$300 for blood tests|
|Ear infections||Non-communicable||Up to $800 for diagnosis and meds|
|Periodontal disease||Non-communicable||Up to $850 or more for diagnosis and treatment*|
|Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)||Non-communicable||Up to $600 or more for diagnosis and treatment*|
|Orthopedic problems||Non-communicable||Up to $986 or more for diagnosis and treatment*|
|Skin disorders||May be communicable||Up to $500 or more for diagnosis and treatment*|
|(*Source: [CBS News](https://www.cbsnews.com/media/10-common-pet-health-problems-and-how-much-they-cost/ "10 common pet health problems -- and how much they cost||CBS News"))|
High-Cost Illnesses and Injuries in Dogs
Even if the costs of treatment for the illnesses listed above seem affordable, other illnesses and injuries can cost thousands of dollars to treat.
According to VPI, the first pet insurer, the following are some of the most expensive illnesses to treat in dogs:
|Torn knee ligaments or cartilage||Injury||$1,578 on average|
|Swallowing a foreign object||Injury||$1,502 to $1,967 on average|
|Intervertebral disc disease||Dachshunds, Poodles, Pekinese, German Shepherd Dogs, Dobermans, and Cocker Spaniels are at higher risk||$3,282 on average|
|Stomach tension and bloat||Large and deep-chested breeds are at higher risk||$2,509 on average|
|Laryngeal paralysis||Middle-aged and older dogs are at higher risk||$2,042 on average|
|Ruptured bile duct or gallbladder||Non-communicable, may be cuased by injury||$2,245 on average|
Although many of these illnesses and injuries are uncommon, it’s safest to assume your dog will need some type of major treatment or operation during their lifetime. These types of expenses are difficult for most people to pay for, as most Americans can't cover a $1,000 expense at any given moment.
With a pet insurance plan, you’ll end up paying a fraction of what you see above.
Reasons to Get Pet Insurance for Your Dog
As we mentioned, emergency veterinary care can get expensive. If you don’t think you can pay thousands of dollars’ worth of emergency care out-of-pocket, you should consider getting pet insurance.
But saving money isn’t the only benefit of enrolling in a pet insurance plan. There are several reasons to get pet insurance for your dog that you may not be aware of.
The Lifespan of Dogs is Increasing
You’ve likely seen reports that owning a dog can help you live longer — dog owners are 24% less likely to die from any cause according to the American Heart Association. But it isn’t just humans who are living longer than ever. Dogs are experiencing longer lifespans as well.
Much like humans, dogs are living longer because they now have much better access to healthcare and because their diets have improved dramatically over the past few decades. The days of feeding Fido with table scraps are over. Prescription and nutrient-rich dog foods ensure canines get everything their bodies need to grow and live longer.
Banfield Pet Health reports the average lifespan of a dog has increased by 2+ years over the past decade.
Of course, a long lifespan means more visits to the vet, and older dogs are more prone to illness and injury. Dogs are considered “senior” when they reach 8 to 11 years of age, depending on size. You may need to care for your senior dog for several years, and pet insurance can help you get them the care they need without breaking the bank.
Pet Insurance Can Cover Prescriptions (and you can add Wellness Care)
Although pet insurance is ideal for emergencies and unexpected costs, it can also cover routine costs, such as prescription medications and wellness care.
Pet prescriptions tend to be less expensive than human ones, but the costs can add up if your animal needs to take medications regularly. Prescription coverage will reimburse you for a part of the cost of those medications.
Most pet insurance plans don’t include wellness coverage unless you include it as an add-on feature. However, it can be a worthwhile investment if you're taking your puppy in for regular checkups at the vet (as you should). Regular checkups are equally important for senior dogs, or dogs that have a chronic illness and need regular veterinary attention.
Pet Insurance Gives You (and Your Veterinarian) Peace of Mind
When weighing whether to get pet insurance for your dog, you may be thinking about it in terms of dollars and cents. This isn’t a bad instinct. After all, the point of pet insurance is to ensure pet care is affordable.
But pet insurance also has the added benefit of giving you peace of mind. Even on normal vet visits, you can go in with confidence knowing you’ve got pet insurance coverage for anything unexpected. Your veterinarian will also like it because it means they won’t have to have difficult conversations with you about costs.
Pet Insurance Guarantees Your Dog Access to Emergency Care
If the worst comes to pass and your dog needs lifesaving care, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether you can afford treatment. Likewise, you shouldn’t have to make the impossible decision of whether or not you must euthanize your pet because you can’t afford their care.
With pet insurance, you don’t have to struggle with this scenario. You’ll pay the upfront cost of your pet’s emergency medical care, and then you’ll be reimbursed for a percentage (usually 80% to 90%) of it soon after by your pet insurance provider.
Common Canine Illnesses Covered by Pet Insurance
Most pet insurance plans are what are known as “accident/illness” plans. This means they cover accidental injuries like broken bones as well as common illnesses. You can also opt for an “accident-only” plan, which will only cover the exam fee and treatment costs of injuries.
What you may not realize is that many accident/illness plans also cover hereditary and congenital conditions. For example, some breeds are more susceptible to conditions like hip dysplasia and diabetes. If your pet is born with a congenital illness like heart disease or cataracts, you can shop for a pet insurance plan that covers them as well.
Keep in mind, however, that no pet insurance plans cover pre-existing conditions. That’s why it’s best to get pet insurance sooner rather than later, while your pet is young and healthy. This way, any conditions that do arise will be covered by your plan.
Here are just a few of the illnesses covered by most accident/illness pet insurance plans:
- Chronic conditions (conditions that require ongoing care)
- Communicable diseases (such as viruses)
- Deciduous teeth, cysts, enamel, and unerupted issues
- Dental cleanings (illness-related)
- Heart disease
- Knee injuries (some breeds are more susceptible)
- Liver disease (congenital)
- Nervous system issues (congenital)
- Periodontal disease
- Thyroid disease (hereditary)
- Upper respiratory infections (hereditary)
Be sure to check what is covered and what isn’t, before signing up for a pet insurance plan.
Palwicy Advisor makes this easier than any other website.
For example, to find what each plan covers, you just click on “Coverage Details” on any quote from any provider:
If you have a dog breed that is more susceptible to some illnesses, you’ll want to ensure you have coverage for those illnesses. Again, if using Pawlicy Advisor you can instantly create comparison charts on the fly to see genetic/hereditary condition coverage side-by-side:
Additional Costs That Pet Insurance Can Help You Pay For
You may not realize it, but you can get coverage for many other types of treatment with pet insurance. For example, you can add on a wellness plan to your pet insurance policy for a little bit extra each month. This will cover routine care like vaccinations, flea and tick prevention, and more.
Pet insurance can help you pay for other additional costs too.
Some pet insurance plans cover alternative therapies like acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and chiropractic care. You can even get coverage for physical therapy, which can be helpful to your dog’s recovery after an injury.
Dogs who are particularly aggressive or suffer from anxiety issues may need behavioral modification therapy, obedience training, or other expensive services (many rescue pups suffer from traumatic pasts and require more specialized therapy for anxiety and training). Some pet insurance plans cover these issues for an extra cost.
In some cases, you can even get coverage for third-party liability damage. That means you can make a claim if you need to pay for someone else’s treatment, such as if your dog bites them. You can even get coverage for property damage from some plans.
In addition to prescription medications, some pet insurance plans also cover prescribed foods. Your dog might need prescribed foods if they have a chronic condition or if they are allergic to an ingredient in store-bought dog foods.
Poison Control Consultation Fees
Some animal poison control hotlines come with fees. If this is covered by your insurance plan, you can submit a claim and get reimbursed for a poison control consultation.
If your veterinarian decides your dog needs nutritional supplements for a covered condition, you can submit a claim for them through some insurance plans.
Lost Pet Rewards and Advertising
Although it’s uncommon, some plans will even cover the costs associated with a lost pet. You may need to spend money to advertise that your pet is missing and offer a reward for their safe return. With the right plan, you can be reimbursed for some of these costs.
Emergency Visits and Hospital Stays
Emergency care is often one of the most expensive types of veterinary costs. Most accident/illness plans will cover these expenses, but they may not cover your pet’s boarding costs if you — the pet parent — need to board your pet during your hospital stay.
Pet boarding insurance is often sold separately, but it is available through some pet insurance companies.
When it’s time to finally say goodbye to your dog, the last thing you want to think about is how you’re going to pay the veterinarian.
Some pet insurance plans cover veterinarian-recommended and administered euthanasia. This means it covers the cost of putting your pet to sleep when your vet recommends it.
Other Covered Costs
Other items on your vet bill may be covered by some pet insurance plans. Treatments like laser therapy and stem cell therapy are uncommon, but some plans cover them. You can even find pet insurance plans that cover cremation, burial, and unrecoverable travel expenses if you must cancel travel plans due to a pet emergency.
Vets Agree — Pet Insurance is Important Investment for Pet Parents
Veterinarians agree that pet insurance is a good investment for pet parents. The American Veterinary Medical Association endorses pet health insurance “that provides coverage to help defray the cost of veterinary medical care.”
Veterinarians love it when pet parents have insurance because they know it means they can do whatever is necessary to ensure gold standard care for the animal.
Whether you’re a new dog parent or you’re just starting to explore your pet insurance options, you know you want the best for your furry friend. Getting the right pet health insurance will help ensure your dog always gets affordable care.