Having a dog means you’re responsible for spending time playing with them, walking them, and letting them out. But being a dog owner also brings financial responsibilities. If your dog’s health declines, you could end up paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars for diagnostic tests and treatments. That’s where pet insurance plays a role.
“When you have coverage, choosing treatment for your pet is less stressful,” John Espenschied an insurance broker with Insurance Brokers Group said. Having coverage can, in some cases, make the difference between your pet getting the care that it needs and you having to decline that necessary care due to cost.
Here, we examine dog insurance so you can decide if it’s right for you.
Jump to a section:
- What Does Dog Insurance Cover?
- Compare Dog Insurance Providers
- Benefits of Dog Insurance
- Risks of Dog Insurance
- How to Find the Best Dog Insurance Policy for Your Pet
What Does Dog Insurance Cover?
Dog insurance covers a range of unexpected incidents, including accidents, illnesses, and in some cases even hereditary conditions. Coverage often includes things like major surgery or cancer, as well as more straightforward issues like a bite wound or a bout of gastrointestinal upset. Some policies even cover treatment for behavioral issues or routine wellness care.
“Exam fees, diagnostics, and treatment for one injury or illness can total hundreds to thousands of dollars,” said Espenschied. “It can be hard to save to that magnitude, and it may take a long time.”
Pet insurance for dogs can pay a significant percentage of these treatments in return for a small monthly payment. Most dog health insurance plans cost between $10 and $100 per month, but they do have co-pays and deductibles. The typical co-pay is between 10 percent and 40 percent, and the typical deductible ranges from $100 to $1,000. Most pet insurance companies have several different options for deductibles and co-pays, so you can customize your plan to your needs.
Having dog insurance can ease your worry about having to pay the full cost of your pet’s care. In addition, if you want coverage that will pay for your pet’s routine wellness care in addition to accidents and illnesses, you can often buy additional coverage. Wellness care coverage will cover annual exams and the costs of, for example, dental care or heartworm and flea medication. Some options even offer coverage for alternative treatments like physiotherapy and hydrotherapy.
Ask the Expert: Michael Newomer, Founding Principal of Novel Insurance
What does dog insurance typically cover?
Dog insurance (or pet insurance for dogs) is, at its core, simply health insurance for your dog. The coverage is comprehensive, oftentimes better insurance than what most dog-owners have. A plan typically covers every illness or injury your pet could experience, with the exclusion of pre-existing conditions, routine or preventative care, and office visit fees.
How much is pet insurance typically going to cost?
Premiums depend on when you enroll your dog into the insurance, it is typically cheapest for puppies. For example, a 2-month old Yorkshire Terrier is around $35 a month with most carriers, while a 6-year old Yorkshire Terrier would be around $55 a month. This is the price range for most breeds at most ages (between $30 and $60 a month). The structure of dog insurance is usually an 80/20 co-insurance with a set annual deductible, generally $200-$500.
Lets break this down. Your pet, Sparky, a rambunctious Jack Russell Terrier puppy, decides to sprint and skid towards a wall while playing in your home and breaks his hip or femur. Oftentimes a hip fracture will require surgical remediation.
You take Sparky to a veterinary surgeon and they inform you that the total cost of the surgery will be $6,500. With standard pet insurance, your out-of-pocket expense for this procedure would only be $1,460 ($6,500 - $200 deductible x 20% = $1,260 + $200 deductible = $1,460).
Compare Dog Insurance Providers
Finding the right provider can be difficult. Here are some dog insurance providers to consider.
Embrace Pet Insurance
Embrace Pet Insurance offers a variety of insurance plans that cost from $13 to $100 per month. Most plans require you to make co-pay of 10 percent to 30 percent after meeting your deductible, which can range from $100 to $1,000.
Embrace Pet Insurance’s annual limits range from $2,000 to $15,000, depending on the plan. To enroll in the plan, your pet must be at least 6 weeks old. Once your pet is enrolled, this coverage can be continued regardless of age. Pre-existing conditions are not covered, but hereditary and congenital conditions are covered if they are diagnosed after coverage is in place.
Embrace Pet Insurance is well-reviewed online, earning an average customer rating of 9.3 out of 10 on PetInsuranceReview.com. For the cost, Embrace Pet Insurance is a good bargain, but its annual coverage limits are low compared to other providers.
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance
The ASPCA plan covers accidents, injuries, and illnesses, and it reimburses a percentage of the treatment invoice. Coverage starts at just $10 per month for accident-only coverage, and complete coverage starts at $16 per month. Rates vary based on breed and age.
You can choose a payout amount of 70 percent, 80 percent, or 90 percent, with annual limits ranging from $2,500 to $20,000. These plans have no lifetime limits. The plans have a deductible of either $100, $250, or $500 per year. There is no upper age limit, but pets must be at least 8 weeks old to enroll in coverage.
ASPCA policies exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions, expenses associated with breeding, and cosmetic procedures. An optional preventive care plan can help pay for annual exams, tests, dental cleanings, flea and heartworm prevention, and vaccinations.
The company is rated 9 out of 10 on PetInsuranceReview.com. Generally, ASPCA offers great plans for a good price, though its primary downside is its annual limits.
Trupanion has one simple pet insurance plan that pays 90 percent of your veterinary costs after you have met your deductible. Trupanion can also pay your provider directly. The cost of a monthly plan will vary depending on many different factors, such as your dog’s breed, its age, your deductible, and where you live.
Trupanion covers hereditary and congenital conditions. Your policy may also cover alternative therapies like acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and physical therapy, if you get a Recovery and Complementary Care Rider. There are no lifetime coverage limits. Trupanion offers deductibles of up to $1,000 and you can change your deductible at any time. Your pet must be between the ages of 8 weeks and 14 years to enroll. Trupanion policies do not cover examination fees, wellness/preventative care, elective procedures, cosmetic surgeries, or pre-existing conditions.
The company is rated 9.5 out of 10 on PetInsuranceReview.com. Their plans are competitive, but keep their age limits in mind if you have an older pet.
Pets Best Pet Health Insurance
Founded by a veterinarian, Pets Best Pet Health Insurance offers plans for as low as $6 per month. Coverage includes accident and illness plans, with reimbursement levels of 70 percent, 80 percent, or 90 percent after your deductible.
Pets Best offers accident coverage for a flat rate of $9 per month. There are two optional Wellness plans that cover the cost of routine care and that include a 24/7 Pet Helpline. The annual payout limits vary between $5,000 and unlimited coverage. There is no lifetime limit.
The deductible is anywhere from $50 to $1,000 per year. To qualify, a dog needs to be at least 7 weeks old. There are no restrictions on older pets. Pre-existing conditions, elective, and preventive procedures are not covered.
The company is rated 8.9 out of 10 on PetInsuranceReview.com. This plan is a great low-cost option that allows you to get an unlimited plan and to customize your coverage.
PetFirst Pet Insurance
PetFirst prides itself on offering low-cost pet insurance plans in all 50 states. Cost varies from $16 and $100 per month, depending on the plan that you select. Co-pays range from 10 percent to 30 percent, after you pay your deductible of $50 to $500 per incident.
Annual payout limits range from $1,000 to $20,000, depending on your plan, and there are no lifetime limits. Pets must be at least 8 weeks old to enroll and there are no maximum age limits.
PetFirst’s plans exclude pre-existing conditions, but congenital and hereditary diseases are covered. They also have a routine care add-on rider that covers things like exams, flea and tick prevention, behavior training, microchipping, and vaccines.
The company is rated 7.1 out of 10 on PetInsuranceReview.com. They offer great insurance options that are available across the U.S., though they do have an annual limit on coverage.
What Are the Benefits of Having Dog Insurance?
For most dog owners, pet insurance that covers the costs of an illness or accident provides comfort in knowing your dog’s medical needs can be addressed, even if they are expensive, according to Espenschied.
Having certainty about caring for your pet if they fall ill is especially important if you adopt or rescue your pet. Since you might not know their breed or medical history, you won’t know if they are likely to develop chronic or hereditary conditions.
Dogs can also behave unpredictably. For example, your puppy might eat something that makes it sick or get injured. Having dog health insurance can help you manage your cash flow if something like that happens, so you won’t suddenly face a large bill for vet services.
Ask the Expert: Dr. Gary Richter, Veterinary Health Expert at Rover.com & Owner of Two Veterinary Practices
What are the benefits of having dog insurance?
Pet insurance is 100% worth the cost. I say this because having pet insurance allows pet owners to make medical decisions based on the health and welfare of their pet rather than what they can afford. No one should have to make life or death decisions based on the cost. I often tell pet owners that insurance is the one gamble in life you hope to lose. If a family member (human or animal) has a major medical issue however, there is no greater feeling than knowing you are "covered."
Any additional commentary or important things to know about dog insurance?
I would always recommend people get insurance for their pet as soon as possible because you never know when something might happen, and signing up early prevents a pre-existing condition from popping up and limiting coverage.
There is a lot of competition in the pet insurance marketplace these days and this is great news for pet owners. Insurance companies have expanded coverage and now frequently include "alternative" therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, etc. They will generally cover most treatment as long as it is recommended by a veterinarian.
What Are the Risks of Having Dog Insurance?
Unlike other types of insurance, pet insurance for dogs is relatively inexpensive, and so for many people it makes sense to buy it.
“There are very few if any drawbacks to having insurance for your dog,” said Espenschied. “The small monthly cost to insure your dog can be a fraction of the cost of a complicated medical condition that many breeds are susceptible to having.”
Despite this, you might find the monthly payment inconvenient or too high. For that reason, shop around to find a policy that fits your budget.
Another drawback is that some pet insurance policies are misleading. It’s critical that you read the fine print of your coverage so that you understand exactly what you will be getting. You’ll also want to compare your policy’s coverage to that offered by other similarly-priced policies. The last thing you want is to believe you’re fully covered and find out, after something happens, that you’re not.
Ask the Expert: Lazhar Ichir, Founder & CEO of Breeding Business
What are the risks of having dog insurance?
The cost is very high and a lot of fine print can actually counterbalance the pros of such insurance. Amongst common pet insurance fine prints are the high co-pay rates, waiting periods, payout limits (per incident, per year, per dog), and high deductibles. On top of these amounts, you must pay the total sum of your entire insurance policy over the dog's lifetime; you might as well put this amount in a savings account and pay vet bills from there.
Are there any breeds that probably require dog insurance more so than others?
Breeds known to have a lot of medical issues will generally be better off insured. Such breeds include English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, toy breeds, and large breeds who suffer from joint pains when becoming senior (Bernese Mountain Dogs, Great Danes).
Any advice on finding the best dog insurance policy?
First, you need to filter all insurance policies by which ones would accept your dog in your state: a lot of them do not accept breeding dogs or adults. Then, get a Google Spreadsheet open with the columns you care the most about, generally: payout limits, co-pays, deductibles, waiting period, exclusions, and monthly prices. Research your dog's breed and pedigree: what is the dog potentially going to be a victim of in the future, or as a senior dog?
Do not jump on the leaflet your vet hands you at the practice; these are short-term gains with a few months for free, but then an average policy for the rest of your dog's life. Do the homework for a few days and pick the winning policy.
Finding the Best Dog Insurance Policy
With all the different pet insurance options these days, determining the best pet insurance for your dog can be tricky. Espenschied suggests you consider how much you’re able to pay for the monthly payment compared to your ability to pay the deductible or the co-pay.
“You have the flexibility of choosing an annual deductible, which can help lower the cost if you are willing to take a higher deductible like $500. And the same with the reimbursement percentage,” he said. “Most plans are set up where you pay out-of-pocket first, then the insurance company reimburses at 70 percent, 80 percent, or 90 percent of the total amount.”
Make sure to compare several plans before signing up. You can ask your vet for recommendations on which plans they think might be best.
You may also want to look into whether you can save money by getting insurance through companies that provide your other insurance, like your car or home insurance provider. If those companies offer dog coverage, they might allow you to bundle your plans for savings. Finally, if you have more than one pet, you might qualify for a multiple-pet discount.
Dog insurance can help you feel secure that, whatever happens to your dog, you’ll be in a financial position to cover the cost of the treatment.
“If you’ve ever owned a pet and have been faced with spending thousands of dollars to give your pet the treatment they need to live or putting them down, can be a tremendously painful event,” said Espenschied. “With pet insurance, you get the peace of mind of knowing the next time your pet is sick or injured won’t be the last time they visit the vet.”