Pet insurance can help keep costs for your furbaby in check

Dec 9, 2021, 5:00 AM | Updated: 7:40 am

You might be thinking of adding a furry friend to the family during the holidays. And you’ll be in good company: 70% of U.S. households have a pet, according to the 2021-2022 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey.

As cute as pets are, they’re a financial commitment. Americans spent $103.6 billion on their pets in 2020 alone, APPA says.

Some expenses, like food and shelter, are predictable. But if your new puppy or kitten gets sick or injured, an unexpected medical bill can derail your budget. For a growing number of Americans, pet insurance provides peace of mind.


Medical issues are almost inevitable for pets, and costs are likely to rise, says Kristen Lynch, executive director of the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, or NAPHIA.

“The fact that there’s continued innovation in the medical care of pets — just like there is for humans — means that the cost of those innovations will continue to go up.”

Dog owners spend an average of $242 on routine visits and $458 on surgical visits each year, according to APPA. The cost for cat owners is slightly lower, at $178 for routine visits and $201 for surgical visits.

“I’d say at least half of the clients I come in contact with have money concerns,” Dr. TB Thompson, a Phoenix-based veterinarian at Natural Pets HQ, said in an email. “When pets get into complicated, life-threatening medical trouble, costs add up fast.”


Pet insurance won’t reimburse you for every penny you spend at the vet, but it can help prevent you from being slapped with an expensive bill.

A policy will typically pay 70% to 90% of your costs after you pay a deductible, which can range from $0 to $1,000 or more.

“Consider buying pet insurance unless you can easily fund treating a pet emergency that costs $2,500 and up,” Thompson says.

There are a few types of pet insurance plans. Comprehensive plans, the most robust, help cover the cost of care due to accidents, illnesses and surgeries, as well as vaccinations and diagnostic tests. Accident and illness coverage helps pay for emergency care, surgeries, hospitalizations and prescription medications, while accident-only policies help cover expenses after an accident. Some insurers also offer wellness plans, which take care of certain tests, exams, vaccinations and preventive treatments.


While pet insurance can stop you from dipping into your savings to pay a vet bill, it is an added cost.

The average cost of an accident and illness policy is $594 per year for dogs and $342 for cats, according to NAPHIA. For an accident-only policy, you could pay $218 for dogs and $134 for cats.

Premiums are based on a range of factors, including:

— Where you live. The cost of veterinary care varies by region.

— Species. Dogs are more expensive to insure than cats, for example. Coverage for other types of animals is rare.

— Breed. Some breeds are predisposed to medical conditions, which can increase the cost of coverage.

— Age. As pets age, they’re more likely to be ill or become injured, Lynch says. Keep this in mind if you plan to adopt an older pet from a shelter this holiday season.

As a new pet owner, many of these factors are out of your control. But there are a few things you can do to score a lower premium.

LOOK AT THE FINE PRINT. Consider choosing a higher deductible and lower reimbursement level.

CHECK FOR DISCOUNTS. Some companies offer discounts for insuring multiple pets or for military service.

SHOP AROUND. There are around 20 pet insurers in the U.S. competing for your business, so let them. Compare quotes from three insurers for the same amount of coverage, and go with the best pet insurance company for your budget.

In Lynch’s view, some pet insurance is better than none.

“People avoid taking their pets to the vet because they’re afraid of what those costs will be,” she says. “I like to think pet insurance gives us the ability to say ‘yes’ to those decisions at a time when we’re emotional, stressed and financially strapped about other things.”


This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Katia Iervasi is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected]


NerdWallet: How to Find the Best Pet Insurance

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Los Angeles man sentenced to life for 5 random killings

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles man who opened fire on people at random in 2014, killing five people and wounding seven others, was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Alexander Hernandez, 42, from the city’s Sylmar neighborhood, was sentenced to multiple consecutive life terms for the rampage. The […]
18 hours ago
Associated Press

North Dakota school board reinstates Pledge of Allegiance

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The school board in North Dakota’s most populous city reversed course Thursday on its decision to stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at its monthly meetings, following complaints from the state’s conservative governor and lawmakers along with widespread bashing from citizens around the country.. Seven of the nine members of the […]
18 hours ago
FILE - Louise Billiot, left, a member of the United Houma Nation Indian tribe, walks around the hom...
Associated Press

FEMA declares new strategy to engage Native American tribes

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has developed a new strategy to better engage with hundreds of Native American tribes as they face climate change-related disasters, the agency announced Thursday. FEMA will include the 574 federally recognized tribal nations in discussions about possible future dangers from climate change. It has earmarked $50 million in grants for […]
18 hours ago
FILE - This photo provided on Aug. 14, 2022, by the North Korean government, Kim Yo Jong, sister of...
Associated Press

North Korea dismisses Seoul’s aid-for-disarmament offer

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says her country will never accept South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s “foolish” offer of economic benefits in exchange for denuclearization steps, accusing Seoul of recycling past proposals Pyongyang already rejected. In a commentary published on Friday’s edition of North Korea’s […]
18 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: Suspect in I-85 shootings had 2,000 rounds of ammo

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — A man arrested in connection with three interstate shootings in Alabama and Georgia had more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition and an alarming number of firearms in his car, police said Thursday. The Auburn Police Department also said they so far have not found a motive for the “seemingly random shootings.” […]
18 hours ago
FILE - Carl Paladino listens during a media briefing, Oct. 31, 2010, in Old Bethpage, N.Y. Paladino...
Associated Press

GOP candidate says call for Garland’s death was ‘facetious’

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A Republican candidate for Congress in western New York said in a radio interview that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland “should be executed” for authorizing a search former President Donald Trump’s home, before clarifying later in the show that he wasn’t being serious. Buffalo-area businessman Carl Paladino made the comment in […]
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
Pet insurance can help keep costs for your furbaby in check