Pet Insurance Can Be Surprisingly Expensive — Is It Worth the Cost?

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Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Apr 7, 2022

Can you believe pet insurance wasn’t even a thing until the 1980s? Thanks, Lassie. (The famous canine was literally the first insured pet.) Furry-friend illnesses can quickly rack up thousands in vet bills. And if you don’t have that extra cash just lying around, insurance could save your pet’s life. But it’ll cost you. Maybe more than you expect.

What does pet insurance cost?

Your monthly payment depends on the coverage you choose. Pretty much the same way health insurance premiums can vary. Your location and your pet’s age, breed, health history, and current health can change the price with premiums ranging from $6 to $155 monthly. Hint: The lower the premium, the more you’ll pay in out-of-pocket costs. 

You can also expect to pay $0 to $1,000 deductibles. And 10% to 30% copays. Oh, and unlike human coverage, pet insurance offers reimbursements, not direct doc payments.

No discounts?

Some companies give you a break if you insure more than one of your furry besties. And paying it forward can pay off: You might be able to cut coverage costs if you own a service animal. Or if you're a veteran or active military member. Shop around. It might save you a little.

Got it. So what does pet insurance cover?

Pet insurance comes in three tiers. When it comes to choosing one, let your top pet priorities guide you.

Accident Only Coverage

For a bare-bones policy that covers unexpected mishaps like broken bones.

Accident and Illness Coverage

The most popular choice, this type of policy can help when your pet gets hurt or sick.

Pet Wellness

Often available as an add-on to one of the above options, this extra coverage offers reimbursements for preventive care. Think: vaccinations.

Anything not covered?

Many policies won't cover pre-existing conditions. So they may require a vet visit before your coverage begins. And a waiting period for coverage.

What’s the waiting period for a pet insurance policy?

Waiting periods vary based on the company and policy you choose. For illnesses, it can range from 14 days to one year, depending on the condition. It can be much shorter for coverage for accidents — just a couple of days with some policies. Still, that's why you need to consider an insurance policy before your pet needs it.

What if my pet has a preexisting condition? Am I out of luck?

The simple answer: no. But coverage may be limited for incurable illnesses like cancer or diabetes. For preexisting conditions that can be resolved, companies may allow coverage once your pet has shown no symptoms for a specified period of time. The next step for either: shop around for the best possible coverage.

Ok, should I get pet insurance? Is it worth the cost?

Maybe not for wellness visits. Those costs are around the same price you’d pay for a monthly premium. So you can probably just add them to your regular spending plan. (Need help? Here are 10 ways to make more room in your budget.) When it comes to policies that cover accidents and injuries, the peace of mind they'll give you can be worth it.  


Vet bills can add up to thousands of dollars. Pet insurance can be a good way to cover those costs. But it’s best to get a policy before your pet gets sick.

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