Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com.

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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Anyone who has ever had to rush a pet to an emergency clinic in the early morning hours knows how fiendishly expensive pet health care can be. One little incident can end up costing one thousands of dollars. According to the USA Today, consumers average $651 of yearly veterinarian bills!

Instances like this are drawing more and more people to consider purchasing pet health insurance. Scraping the cash together for health care is stressful enough, but the prospect of not being able to afford it at all– and its potentially mortal consequences– is even worse. Just the cost of basic health care for a pet climbs every year.

Most insurance plans only offer coverage for certain types of pets. This is another consideration when purchasing insurance, especially if you have different kinds of pets and are hoping for multi-pet discounts.

According to American Veterinary Medical Association research statistics, the pets which require the most frequent veterinary visits and thus should be insured most are as follows:

1. Dogs

With proper care, dogs can lead long, healthy lives. Purebred dogs, which are more prone to genetic conditions according to PETA, are especially good candidates for insurance. Dog health insurance tends to be the most expensive because of what comprehensive care is required for man’s best friend. The Humane Society states, “There are approximately 78.2 million owned dogs in the United States.”

Most Insured Pets: #1 Dogs

The ASPCA ballparks the average yearly medical cost for a medium size dog to be about $235 a year. This is a conservative estimate; the figure can easily range anywhere from $300 to $800 a year or more!

These figures include:

  • Office visits
  • Labs
  • Vaccinations
  • Basic parasite preventatives
  • A small allowance for miscellaneous expenses

Where you live, where you get your pet’s medical care, and your pet’s breed can significantly change the number. The addition of dental cleanings, surgeries and especially emergency services can also push this cost significantly higher.

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2. Cats

Cats have a unique array of illnesses they are prone to and vaccines they must get, but their ASPCA-estimated annual medical costs only come to $160. Dental cleanings and accident protection are also important for your feline friend. Many companies that insure dogs will also insure cats, giving you plenty of options to choose from.

Most Insured Pets: #2 Cats

3. Exotic Pets

Insurance for exotic pets such as reptiles, rodents and tropical birds can be difficult to find, but it is available. Your plan choices will be limited, but exotic pet insurance rarely costs more than $20 a month. Almost all exotic pets are lumped into one insurance category instead of having special plans for snakes, birds, and so forth.

Most Insured Pets: #3 Exotic Pets

The average cost of pet health insurance is between $250 and $1000 a year, not considering any deductibles. The plainest plan covers accident-related charges only for a very low price, while more comprehensive plans cover neutering, heartworm prevention, dental cleanings and illness-related care costs.

Choosing the Right Pet Insurance Options

Most basic pet health insurance plans cover:

  • A portion of office visits & labs
  • Common vaccines
  • Between 60% and 80% of basic care costs
  • A decent portion of emergency service costs

If you live in an area where the cost of pet care is very low, insurance is paying for peace of mind. If you live in an area where the cost of pet care is high, pet insurance may save you a lot of money.

You should also consider your pet. If you have a breed with a genetic predisposition to certain illnesses– especially chronic infections or diseases of internal organs– an extra cost now may save you thousands of dollars later on. A low-maintenance pet means low health care costs, and the extra cost for insurance every month may not be worth it if you can afford the occasional emergency visit.

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Where to Find the Best Pet Insurance

If you decide to shop for pet insurance, you will be faced with a plethora of options. Many chain veterinary clinics offer their own health insurance plans, and more & more independent pet insurance companies are starting up business. If you have multiple pets, make sure you pick an insurance plan that offers discounts for multiples.

Chain clinic plans limit you to one chain or even a single clinic within a chain. There are rarely deductibles and a good deal of services are offered either for free or at massively discounted prices.

Unfortunately it can be difficult to tell whether the clinics are inflating their base prices to talk you into their insurance plans, so it is definitely worth it to compare the costs of a clinic-based plan with a comparable independent policy applied to a private clinic’s costs.

Independent insurance companies come in all sorts. The ASPCA has their own insurance, some chain pet food stores offer their own, and several private companies exist. Much like insurance for us humans, these pet insurance plans are usually based on deductibles, maximum benefits and large discounts off base services.

Turn to the Pet Professionals

If you’re stuck on whether or not to invest in insurance, talk to a veterinarian. A private veterinarian not affiliated with any insurance companies may be able to tell you about the various company reputations and give you a professional perspective on insurance options.

The number of households with at least one pet was recently surveyed to be at an all time high! Before you buy any insurance, get an idea of how much you are paying a year for your pet’s care. Always shop around, and if you already have a vet that your pet is used to and you are happy with, pick a plan that is going to work with that vet.

The stress of a change-over and vet shopping is probably not worth the $20 a year you could save with a different plan. The choice should be right for both you and your pet, keeping your pet happy and giving you peace of mind.