6 Things to Know About Insuring Your Pets

It's increasingly common to get insurance coverage for our furry and feathered friends, but it can be costly. So, learn the ropes before you pick a policy.

We all love our pets and want the best for them. But that caring can come at a steep price.

Americans spent $17.07 billion on veterinary care in 2017, according to the American Pet Products Association. As any owner knows, pet care costs can add up fast.

If you’re looking to trim the bill, pet insurance might be one option to consider. Here is what you need to know about pricing — and a few tips for saving some cash:

1. Pet insurance isn’t cheap

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This is especially true if you insure against illness as well as accidents. To get an idea, here are the 2017 pet insurance averages provided by the North American Pet Health Insurance Association:

Dogs – average annual premiums

Accident only – $190.08

Accident and illness – $535.95

Cats – average annual premiums

Accident only – $152.66

Accident and illness – $335.19

Consumer Reports advises that you download sample policies from insurance websites and read them thoroughly for limitations, exceptions and co-payments.

2. Cost varies according to breed

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Among the most expensive breeds of dogs to insure are Rottweilers, Great Danes and Bernese mountain dogs — larger breeds that are genetically predisposed to costly conditions like cancer and hip dysplasia. Among the cheapest breeds to insure are Shih Tzus and poodles.

Factors other than breed that go into the cost of insuring your dog include:

  • Your dog’s age at enrollment
  • Gender
  • Where your dog lives
  • Whether your dog has been spayed/neutered

3. You may pay a deductible every time you see the vet

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Deductibles for human insurance policies are typically annual. Whether it requires one trip to the ER or 10 trips to the doctor, once your annual deductible is met, you’re no longer responsible for the cost of subsequent visits.

With some pet policies, however, the deductible applies to each condition being treated. For example, if your policy has a $250 deductible, you’ll pay the first $250 of the bill when your dog eats a sock, then another $250 weeks later when your cat scratches the dog in the eye. Be sure to ask the details before buying a policy.

Of course, as with other types of insurance, premiums are lower when deductibles are higher. Some insurers also reimburse flat amounts rather than a percentage.

4. Premiums can rise annually

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The practice of hiking premiums annually is legal for pet insurers and might be tied to the increasing likelihood of a pet developing an illness as the pet ages. Premiums and premium hikes vary from state to state.

5. Don’t expect pre-existing conditions to be covered

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According to Consumer Reports, pet insurers typically exclude pre-existing health conditions. They might also impose a maximum limit on treatment for individual conditions or on the yearly or lifetime reimbursement for those conditions. That’s something else human health insurance companies can no longer do.

6. Preventive care insurance is overpriced

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The premiums on policies that cover “wellness” care such as annual vaccines, checkups and heartworm tests are typically much more expensive than the cost of premiums on policies limited to accidents and illness.

So, you might want to skip wellness coverage and just pay for such procedures out of pocket.

For more on help getting care for your favorite pet, check out:

Do you insure your pet? Do you think pet insurance is worth it? Share your thoughts in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Kari Huus contributed to this post.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More

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