Pet Insurance Basics

Americans love their pets. According to the American Pet Products Association, pet owners in the U.S. spent more than $58 billion on their cats, dogs, rabbits, horses and other critters in 2014. Of that expenditure, $15.25 billion was for veterinary care and $13.14 billion on related supplies and medications. We can all agree, that’s a lot of scratch! But while some pet moms and dads have to pay for routine wellness exams and unexpected vet visits and treatments out of their general household budget, others are thinking ahead. They bought pet insurance, and can rest assured their furry family member’s healthcare needs are covered.

What is Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance helps you pay veterinary bills if your pet suffers and injury or illness. Some plans even chip in on routine medical care, though it’s usually most helpful when unexpected accidents strike. Those are the ones that usually require expensive procedures—such as cancer treatments that cost tens of thousands, hip replacements in the neighborhood of $10,000, and ACL repairs that carry fees upwards of $2,500. Any of these would decimate the average American’s emergency savings account. However, pet insurance makes these treatments financially possible.

How Much Will it Cost?

Just like your own healthcare insurance, pet insurance is not free. However, it’s likely more affordable than you may think. According to, you may find basic policies for as little as $10 a month. Policies with broader coverage will carry a higher price tag, of course. According to, accident coverage—that would cover your pet’s care if it were hit by a car or fell out a window, for example—can be had for $15 a month. Accident and illness policies start around $20 a month. A premium policy, covering a broad range of services as well as reimbursement for various treatments and preventative care, will cost more. It’s even possible your employer may offer discounted pet insurance as a supplementary benefit. Ask your company’s human resources officer.

Can All Pets Get Health Insurance?

As was the case with human health insurance before the Affordable Care Act, not all pet insurers are going to cover all pets. Plans vary, but some will not apply if your pet is more than 10 years old, is a certain breed (like Great Dane) or species (like horse), or has serious pre-existing conditions. Purchasing pet insurance before your cat or dog needs it is the best way to ensure he or she will be eligible for coverage. Buying a plan while your pet is younger is also a good idea.

As is always the case in life, no two situations are identical. Ask your personal insurance agent to help you select a pet insurance plan that offers the solutions you need at a price you can afford. Your pets—and your wallet—will thank you.