Wondering If You Should Invest in Pet Insurance? Experts Weigh In

Jennifer Torkelson
Yellow Labrador retriever and Maine coon cat cuddling together on a blue couch.
Yellow Labrador retriever and Maine coon cat cuddling together on a blue couch.

My two pets are incredibly important to me, my children, and my husband, and I will do whatever it takes to keep them healthy and happy. My 14-year-old Maine Coon cat had a sudden and frightening bacterial infection a few weeks ago, while my 10-year-old miniature pinscher dog was recently diagnosed with a collapsed trachea. The vet bills for both of my fur babies were quite high, so this got me to wondering about pet insurance and whether or not it is worth the costs. I talked to several pet trainers who gave POPSUGAR their take on pet insurance, both professionally and as pet owners.

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How does pet insurance work?

Pet insurance works a little differently from human health insurance, so it is worthwhile to take some time to read through the details of your policy and policy options. Though it sounds weird, pet insurance functions more like property insurance than health insurance. This means that you have a range of simple plan options that cover illnesses, illnesses and injuries, treatment beyond routine care, or additional conditions depending on your monthly premium and deductibles. These plans typically do not cover routine exams, emergency exams, dental care, preexisting conditions, or vaccinations.

You can also choose to use any vet you like, as long as they are licensed. You may have to wait for 1 to 14 days for your insurance to pay out for accidents and illnesses. A major difference between health insurance and pet insurance is that while some veterinarians may allow you to wait to pay for services until your insurance company pays, many will not. Certified pet trainer Nancy Abplanalp, CPDT-KA CNWI told POPSUGAR that "[e]ven if veterinarians don't accept insurance, you can still have it for your pets. I pay out of pocket and get reimbursed." Abplanalp has pet insurance through Trupanion, who "does their due diligence before paying out, but they will only pay the veterinarian if I have not."

How much does pet insurance cost and what animals are covered?

Given the differences between pet insurance and health insurance, pet insurance has relatively low premiums that range anywhere from $15-$100 per month, depending on the insurance company, the type, size, and age of the animal covered, and the services covered. Abplanalp, for example, told POPSUGAR that cost "is really variable by species, age, and breed type. My indoor cats are about $24 per month. My dogs range from $51 to $74 per month. I have a $500 deductible and 90 percent coverage. I request that veterinarians turn in all billing because I have sometimes been surprised and Trupanion has paid something that I wasn't sure of."

Since dogs and cats are the most widely owned type of pet in the US, they are covered by a number of companies, including Trupanion, Figo, Geico, Nationwide, Farmers, and the ASPCA, to name a few. You can purchase pet insurance for more exotic pets through Nationwide's Veterinary Pet Insurance.

Is pet insurance worth it?

There is quite a bit of debate as to whether or not pet insurance is worth the costs, particularly if your pets are generally healthy and kept safe. Two pet trainers I spoke with didn't think pet insurance was really worth the cost. Sacramento-based pet trainer Jaimie Scott says that "it is generally a waste of money." Texas-based dog trainer Richard Kelley says he doesn't know any of his clients who have or have used pet insurance for their dogs. The staff at the Ocean Avenue Veterinary Hospital in San Francisco told POPSUGAR that "based on what we have seen in the past, we do recommend pet insurance for all pets to be safer than sorry in the long run. Most veterinarians accept all insurance."

Abplanalp says that she enjoys having the peace of mind that pet insurance provides along with avoiding large out-of-pocket expenses, should they arise. "I once spent $14,000 to save my critically ill dog. That's when I got pet insurance for everyone else. I had the money, but it got me wondering what I would do if I did not have thousands of dollars to cover a large bill for an otherwise healthy animal. It gives me peace of mind and that's useful. My animals are family. Some of my friends set up accounts for their pets rather than use insurance. I think that this is also a valid option. I prefer a monthly payment to worrying about having enough money to cover a large bill in a time of crisis." If you have a pet with chronic illnesses, pet insurance may be worth the costs in the long run. Overall, it seems like pet insurance can provide much-needed peace of mind for pet owners and their fur babies, but it is also a gamble as to whether or not your pet insurance will yield a positive payout over time.

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