6 Things to Know About Insuring Your Pets

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

Americans spent $103.6 billion on veterinary care and product sales in 2020, according to the American Pet Products Association‘s latest figures. 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

This is especially true if you insure against illness as well as accidents. To get an idea, here are the average annual premiums in 2020, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association:

Dogs — average annual premiums

  • Accident only — $218.13
  • Accident and illness — $594.15

Cats — average annual premiums

  • Accident only — $133.61
  • Accident and illness — $341.81

Consumer Reports suggests you download sample policies from insurers’ websites; read them thoroughly and compare them for limitations, exceptions and copayment costs.

2. Cost varies according to breed

Among the most expensive breeds of dogs to insure are Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers and French and English bulldogs as well as “health challenged” breeds, which include Great Danes, Weimaraners and Newfoundlands, says Money.com. Cheaper breeds to insure include Yorkshire terriers and dachshunds.

Other factors in the cost of pet insurance can include a pet’s age, the breed’s genetic predisposition to disease and to risky behaviors — eating rocks, for example. A policy’s deductible amount also affects the premiums: as with other types of insurance, pet insurance premiums are lower when deductibles are higher, Money.com finds.

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

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 may apply to each condition 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.

Some insurers reimburse flat percentage of covered costs after the deductible is met. Others use different systems for reimbursement, Consumer Reports says.

4. Premiums can rise annually

Premiums and premium hikes vary from state to state, but NAPHIA’s data shows steady yearly increases in average pet insurance premiums.

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

According to Consumer Reports, pet insurers typically exclude pre-existing health conditions.

Insurers also may impose a limit on the treatment for individual conditions, or on the yearly or lifetime reimbursement for those conditions.

6. Preventive care insurance is overpriced

The premiums on policies that cover “wellness” (preventative) 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.

CR advises skipping wellness coverage if possible and just paying for that kind of care out of pocket.

For more help on caring for pets, check out:

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